Congratulations on your pregnancy! For most woman, from the moment they see the plus sign on the pregnancy test, they are thinking about two things: the health of their baby and their childbirth plan. Their own health often takes second fiddle (which continues once the baby has come out, in many cases). It’s important to remember that the mother’s and baby’s health are intimately linked, and the better job a mom does of caring for herself in pregnancy, the better job she is doing caring for her developing baby.
Throughout your pregnancy, there are things you can do not only for your health but also to prepare your body for that day roughly 36 weeks from now when you’ll deliver your baby. These tips won’t ensure an easy labor, but they may help to make the labor and postpartum recovery process go more smoothly. This is not meant to be medical advice, so please consult with your physician.
5 Steps to Prepare Your Body for Childbirth
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- Get plenty of exercise. If you didn’t exercise much before becoming pregnant, definitely talk with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen. If you were very active before pregnancy, it is usually safe to remain so throughout your pregnancy. Yoga is a wonderful exercise program while pregnant – it is low-impact, stretches your muscles, and helps you learn to focus on your breathing (which will be very helpful during contractions!). Even walking has great health benefits during pregnancy.
- Take prenatal vitamins. Your body is smart, and it will give your baby the vitamins he needs to develop. You get the leftovers. Prenatal vitamins are important because it ensures your body has what it needs for the baby, but you also have the vitamins you require to stay healthy.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods and don’t overdo the sweets. It’s easy to get sucked into the “I’m pregnant, I can eat anything I want” trap (been there!), but that’s not what is best for your body and your baby. It’s important to gain enough weight, but you also don’t want to gain too much. If you focus on eating plenty of healthy foods, the proper weight gain will work itself out.
- Sit on an exercise ball whenever possible. Sitting on an exercise ball helps improve posture, cushions your bones, and allows you to stretch your hip flexors. When in labor, an exercise ball (which suddenly becomes a birthing ball at the hospital) is helpful for pain management, as well. Practice different positions of laying over the ball, rolling the ball between your back and the wall, and rotating your hips while sitting on the ball. These are great stretches when you’re pregnant, but some of those positions might also feel good while you’re laboring.
- Eat dates. A study published in 2011 concluded that eating 6 dates a day for the last 4 weeks of pregnancy “significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour, and produced a more favourable, but non-significant, delivery outcome.” I don’t know about you, but I could not have stomached a plain date when I was pregnant. Try blending them into a smoothie made with yogurt and other fruit – a delicious way to get extra nutrients, too!
If you research this topic online, you may find suggestions to add in evening primrose oil or red raspberry leaf tea in late-term pregnancy to induce labor, but there is not enough research about either for me to feel comfortable recommending them. If you do want to consider using them, please consult with your doctor.
Preparing your body for childbirth is the very best thing you can do, in my opinion. Not only will the stretching and exercises aid in an easier labor, but they will also help you recover more quickly once the baby has arrived. Make sure to listen to your body – it will be your guide!