Woman in labor.
Why is it that some women experience a labor that lasts two hours when others are in labor for 14 hours? How do some women go natural despite the potential intense pain involved? Why do some women tear when others do not?
Is there a way to ease the delivery process? Research says YES - through exercise, especially routines involving the pelvic floor.
In a recent study cited in the British Medical Journal, researchers noted that of the 300 women studied, those who did intensive pelvic floor/kegel exercises in the last few months of pregnancy had an easier time giving birth. Most affected was the second stage of labor-- the pushing stage-- where the study found that women who had done the exercises were less likely to spend prolonged time. Having a shorter pushing stage is extremely beneficial, since a longer pushing phase can lead to a tear or episiotomy, as well as increased chances for bleeding or requiring Cesarean delivery.
It's been known for a long time that kegel exercises also decrease urinary incontinence, a problem in late pregnancy and postpartum.
And there is no excuse to not do them, since they can be done anywhere without anyone knowing you are doing them! You can do kegel exercises in all positions: sitting standing, lying down. Just tighten the muscles of the pelvic floor (the ones that start and stop the urine flow). Do sets of ten, holding for 5 seconds, 10 times per day.
Exercise in general is a good way to prepare for labor, since it will strengthen the body, increase circulation and flexibility, and improve endurance - all needed during labor. A few other exercises that can assist in the labor process:
- Squats help strengthen the legs and pelvic floor, opening up the pelvis. Many natural birth advocates believe this is the optimal position for giving birth, since it opens the birth canal and allows gravity to assist with delivery. Try Wall Squats with a Ball, Squats with an Overhead Press, or Pile Squats with a Baby Carrier.
Tailor sitting and Stretching involves sitting on the floor like the stereotypical tailor, with legs crossed. It is one of the most beneficial positions to sit in during pregnancy for many reasons: circulation to the pelvic muscles is increased, and the weight of the baby is supported on the pelvic bones, relieving the pelvic muscles of strain. Stretches the groin and hips, which helps in the second stage of labor (the pushing stage), and alleviates backaches, especially when done with your back against a wall.
- Sit and stretch with legs outstretched until you feel a stretch in the groin and hamstrings, then hold for a minute. With each breath, relax and release further into the stretch.
- Pelvic tilts will assist in strengthening the abdominals and stretching the area of the back that's usually sore in later pregnancy. The "all fours" position is also a good position during the first stage of labor to ease pain. No one can predict what your labor will be like, but if your body is physically prepared for it, the anxiety of a long and painful labor can be lessened. Keep the exercises above in mind and hopefully you'll have an easier labor-one that will allow you to enjoy the ride!
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