As we grow these little tiny beings in our bodies, we are always thinking about the big day when he/she will come out. “How will I be able to handle the pain?” we ask ourselves. “What can I do to prepare?” The truth of the matter is, there is a lot of pain, suffering and “uncomfortableness” around pregnancy, and leading up to the big day. If we condition ourselves to be “comfortable” with what we go through during pregnancy, we will have a solid foundation going into birth.
Here are eight ways you can prepare yourself and your body for a smooth labor and easier birth.
1. Educate Yourself
There’s a lot of fear around the unknown of what happens to our bodies during pregnancy and labor. The more fear that we have, the more we become anxious and the more stress hormones are released, thus making labor, in itself, more painful. As you ease your mind–empowering it with information about what to expect throughout pregnancy and labor–the intensity of pain lessens.
2. Tap the Power of Pregnancy Yoga
In a pregnancy yoga practice, there’s a lot of emphasis on breathing, especially through the difficult poses. Through working with our breath, we are able to relax more in uncomfortable moments. Our breath will allow us to remain present and ground us during these times, as well as give us a break in between tough times.
By practicing the poses common to most pregnancy yoga classes, you will learn how to release lower back tension, and open up your chest and shoulders and hips. All of these muscles can hold onto tension during pregnancy and labor, so learning how to release this tension during your pregnancy is very helpful.
3. Make TIme for Meditation
A meditation practice puts your body and mind into training that enables you to sit with times of discomfort. The deeper we are able to go into a practice, the more objectively we are able to observe everything around and within ourselves, rather than reacting to it. It will allow us to remain present with everything.
4. GIve Yourself Regular Exercise
Through consistent activity, you allow your body to be conditioned, to become stronger, and to be able to withstand added stress on your joints and muscles. As baby grows within our bodies, our load increases. Our bodies become more used to the “uncomfortableness” of pregnancy and labor.
Walking is one of the best activities to do when you are pregnant. It teaches you patience and induces a state of relaxation.
5. Utilize Visualizations and Mantras
Our mind is a very powerful tool in pain management. Through specific mantras and sayings, we can decrease our pain. A favorite saying I like to use is, “Strong mama breath. Breathe in for baby.” Or with each contraction, visualize your cervix as a flower that is opening, as you chant, “Open, open, open.”
6. Call in Your Support System
Having a stable, peaceful support team is very helpful during childbirth. Don’t hesitate to stand up for yourself (or have your partner do so) and tactfully ask a non-peaceful person to leave the room. Hiring a doula is another great way to help support you and your partner during this time.
A doula is trained in the birth process and in how to help alleviate extra stress of the unknown. Every doula is different in their gifts that they bring to a birth. An increase in peacefulness during the birth process equals a decrease in pain.
7. Harness Your Mental Strengths
Trust in the whole process of pregnancy and labor. Visualize that each contraction is a wave that slowly peaks in intensity, then comes down.
Having this sense of courage, as you face a contraction, knowing that it will pass, will decrease the anxiety and stress around it. Trust that this too shall pass. In between each contraction, focus on the breath, to allow yourself to rest and become present to this time.
8. Be Present
Whatever “uncomfortable” situation you are in, breathe it fully in. There is no running, no escaping, just being with it. If it is a contraction, let it wash over you, like a wave, then soften and surrender into it, as if you were a jellyfish. Allow it to pass through you. It is our very breath that will allow us to be present with it all.
It often feels like life is moving faster and faster all the time, but in the delivery room, things are actually slowing down. A National Institutes of Health study found that childbirth for first-time moms now takes 2.6 hours longer than it did 50 years ago. To make that extra time in the delivery room less painful and more joyful, it helps to know how to make the hard work of having a baby more manageable. Starting today, here are 10 things you can do to make your birth experience that much easier.
1. Join the head of the class
Take a childbirth course and enroll as early as possible: Not only do classes fill up fast, but some, such as The Bradley Method courses, run 12 weeks, which means you need to start them in your second trimester.
Also, find out what your doctor’s philosophy is on Cesarean sections and epidurals versus drug-free ways of managing pain. Ask tough questions—and “stupid” ones, too— to learn about the different stages of labor so you know what to expect. “The better prepared you are, the more choices you have during labor,” says nurse practitioner Lynette Miya, M.N., R.N.P., of Torrance, Calif. “You don’t want to arrive at the hospital without any idea of what’s going to happen.” Once labor starts, no surprise is a good surprise.
2. Find strength and focus
“The most important thing women learn through yoga is how to focus,” says Carmela Cattuti, L.P.N., a Boston-based Kripalu certified instructor specializing in prenatal yoga certification training. “It also strengthens the entire body, increases flexibility and gives you stamina. But what is possibly even more helpful is that it helps your mind relax.” This, in turn, leaves your body free to go about the business of birthing.
3. Nix negativity
Some childbirth educators believe graphic images, catastrophic tales and words of discouragement (“You’ll never be able to get that monster out without a C-section!”) can affect your subconscious and create a mental block during labor.
At best, negative thoughts make labor stressful; at worst, they’ll actually intensify pain. Change the channel on the TV, tune out or walk away when the subject matter makes you uncomfortable; also, shield yourself from scary labor Facebook threads by logging off.
Bonus: Learning to do this now will help you avoid being affected by all the unwanted advice you’ll get after the baby is born.
4. Study up
When you’re in the grip of labor, it’s too late to crack open that self-hypnosis book or locate a birthing ball. Preparation counts.
Case in point: Squatting increases the size of the pelvic opening by about 28 percent. But if you wait until you’re in labor to try it for the first time, your squatting stamina won’t add up to, well, squat.
5. Secure support
Doulas are nonmedical professionals trained to provide emotional and physical support as well as information to women during pregnancy and labor. Studies have found that with a trained doula’s continuous support, labor times are shorter and the need for epidurals, C-sections, oxytocin for induction and forceps were decreased by about half. Another study concluded that women who received support through a hospital- based doula program were more likely to attempt breastfeeding. Check out DONA International (dona.org) to help you locate a certified doula in your area.
6. Have a trick up your sleeve
Learn several effective techniques to manage pain during childbirth, such as self-hypnosis, position changes, heat pack application and different breathing methods. “If you don’t know what your options are, you don’t have any,” says Tracy Hartley, a certified doula and owner of B*E*S*T Doula Service in Los Angeles.
7. Get on up
Upright positions, such as standing, walking, kneeling, slow dancing, sitting and squatting, allow gravity to help move the baby down and out. “Sometimes, getting the baby into the pelvis is like fitting a key into a lock,” Hartley says. “You need to do a little jiggling. Rocking back and forth on your hands and knees may help to get the baby into position.”
For most women, a dark and quiet environment is ideal during labor, so ask your nurse or partner to dim the lights and minimize noise. Little touches make a difference: a favorite pillow, pair of socks or soothing scent. “Aromatherapy, especially the scent of lavender, is very calming in labor,” says Miya.
9. Be a water baby
The warmth and weightlessness of a bath can be soothing throughout your labor, so if you have access to a warm tub, take the plunge. (Be sure to get your doctor or midwife’s green light before doing so; there’s a risk of infection if your water has broken.)
If a soak isn’t possible, try taking a shower.
10. Stay true to yourself
Labor transforms you, but it won’t make you suddenly love lime Jell-O, New Age music or the sight of your in-laws as you breathe through a contraction. People may push all kinds of suggestions on you during labor; listen but don’t feel you have to go along with them.
It’s your body, your baby and your labor, so stick to your guns. Consider it practice for when your baby is a teenager.
It’s been a while since I have posted my workouts. I have either failed to fit them in or had substituted with walks, outdoor building/gardening or a workout I simply never got posted. My sincerest apologies to those who are using them for your own workouts.
I am now nine days from my due date and the contractions are starting to pick up. Nothing crazy but definitely more frequent and occasionally keeping me up at night. Take last night for instance, finally at 1:00am I realized the contractions we fairly close together and quiet frequent. Per my experience the first time around I began to drink water, just to ensure I wasn’t having contractions due to dehydration. By 2:30am I woke my husband up and informed him and we started timing more closely. One glass of water down. By 2:45am I called the doctor who told me to come on in, but take my time. So take my time I did and immediately after calling contractions started to slow down. Needless to say we decided to stay home and wait it out. End result – still pregnant!
However, on a fitness note yesterday we did take a mini hike and today the little guy and I took a stroll around the neighborhood. When we got back I incorporated a small amount of strength work:
Keeping moving is helping me to stay sane and feel like I am not losing total control of my body! It has also helped to keep the swelling down this time. Comparing pictures from my last pregnancy and talking with friends/family, we have all realized I was a whole lot more swollen last time around. Below are a few of my most embarrassing pictures – enjoy!
The benefits of moving more during pregnancy begin immediately and last your whole life. Your baby will start reaping the benefits in utero, too. Here’s a laundry list of reasons to start exercising today, along withexcuse-busting ways to overcome some common obstacles.
1. You’re likely to gain less weight. Research shows you might put on 7 pounds less than pregnant women who don’t work out, while still staying within the healthy weight-gain range.
2. Labor and delivery may be easier. No guarantees, of course, but strong abs and a fit cardiovascular system can give you more oomph and stamina for the pushing stage. One study found that prenatal water aerobics regulars were 58 percent less likely to request pain medication during labor than non-exercisers.
3. You lower your gestational diabetes risk by as much as 27 percent.High blood sugar during pregnancy puts you at extremely high risk for developing type II diabetes in the decade after delivering and raises the odds of preterm delivery or having an overweight baby. If you do develop it—and many fit women do because genetics and age play a significant role—exercise may help prevent or delay your need for insulin or other medications.
4. You get that “prenatal-spin-class high.” Active moms- to-be report better moods than their sedentary peers, both immediately following a workout and in general throughout their pregnancies.
5. You’re less likely to cry, “Oh, my aching back.” Some two-thirds of pregnant women experience back pain, but water workouts, yoga and pelvic tilts can offer relief. Exercise during the second half of pregnancy seems to be especially helpful.
6. You’re less likely to get constipated. Pregnant women’s intestinal tracts often get backed up due to high progesterone levels and a growing uterus, but exercise, along with a high-fiber diet, keeps your digestive system humming.
7. You have more energy. On days when lifting your remote control seems like a tall order, even a 10-minute walk can revive you.
8. Odds are, you’ll deliver a svelter baby. Babies born with excess fat are significantly more likely to become overweight kindergarteners, and overweight newborns of moms with gestational diabetes are more prone to develop diabetes later in life.
9. You can enjoy the greatest flexibility of your life. Relaxin, a pregnancy hormone that loosens your pelvic joints in preparation for delivery, also relaxes the rest of your joints. With careful stretches, like those done in prenatal yoga workouts, you can capitalize on this window of opportunity.
10. You’re more likely to avoid a forceps delivery, C-section or other intervention. Regular exercisers are 75 percent less likely to need a forceps delivery, 55 percent less likely to have an episiotomy and up to four times less likely to have a Cesarean section, research has found.
11. You’re likely to be fitter in middle age. In a study that followed women for 20 years after delivery, those who’d exercised throughout pregnancy could run two miles 2 ½ minutes faster than those who’d taken a workout break while pregnant. The continuous exercisers were also working out a lot more.
12. You’ll get positive attention. Everyone smiles when they see a pregnant woman on a power walk. No one is more popular at the gym than the pregnant woman on the biceps machine!
13. You feel less like a beached whale and more like a hot mama. Women who exercise throughout pregnancy have abetter body image than those who sit out the nine months.
14. Your labor may be shorter. A landmark study found that among well-conditioned women who delivered vaginally, those who had continued training throughout their pregnancy experienced active labor for 4 hours and 24 minutes compared with 6 hours and 22 minutes for those who’d quit training early on. Two hours less of hard labor is nothing to sneer at!
15. You learn to chill out. With its emphasis on breathing, meditation and joyful movement, prenatal yoga helps stressed-out moms-to-be stay calm. Plus, a regular prenatal yoga practice can teach you to relax rather than tense up when you feel discomfort, a helpful skill during labor.
16. If you work out in water, you enjoy a wonderful sense of weightlessness. For some women, swimming or water aerobics may provide their only relief from painful foot and ankle swelling.
17. You’ll likely experience less leg swelling. Your body retains more fluid during pregnancy, and your growing uterus puts pressure on your veins, impairing the return of blood to your heart. Exercise can limit swelling by improving blood flow.
18. You may be less prone to morning sickness. Though nausea stops many women from exercising, many moms-to-be report that they feel less queasy after a workout or that the exercise takes their minds off the nausea for a short time.
19. You may boost your child’s athletic potential. One study found that 20-year-olds who were exposed to exercise in utero performed better at sports than same age peers whose mothers did not exercise during pregnancy.
20. You’ll bounce back faster after delivery. Compared with new moms who were inactive during pregnancy, those who exercised are more likely to socialize and enjoy hobbies and entertainment post-baby. They just seem to cope better with the demands of new motherhood.
21. You’re likely to be healthier and leaner when your kids head off to college. Twenty years later, fit women who’d exercised throughout pregnancy had gained 7 ½ pounds, compared with 22 pounds for women who had taken a break while pregnant and resumed exercising afterward. The continuous exercisers also had lower cholesterol levels and resting heart rates.
22. The sense of accomplishment and confidence spills over to the rest of your life. Finishing a prenatal power walk makes you feel like you can conquer the world!
23. Your child may have a healthier heart. The developing babies of prenatal exercisers have more efficient hearts than those of non-exercisers, and this higher cardio fitness level seems to last into the childhood years.
24. If you smoke, exercise may help you kick the habit. In a small study, pregnant smokers reported that exercise gave them confidence to quit, decreased their cigarette cravings, boosted their energy and “helped them feel more like a non-smoker.”
25. You might sleep better. Some pregnant women who work out say they fall asleep faster, slumber more soundly and snooze longer than inactive moms-to-be.
26. You’ll meet other expectant moms in a prenatal exercise class. Get their phone numbers; you may be meeting up for playdates or babysitting co-ops soon!
27. You may be at lower risk for the No. 1 cause of premature birth. That’s preeclampsia, a complication that involves high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. About 5 percent to 8 percent of pregnant women develop it, and the numbers are growing.
28. You’re more likely to avoid prenatal depression. This is especially true if you exercise outdoors because bright light has antidepressant effects. Some 12 percent to 20 percent of pregnant women experience depression, which is linked to poor sleep and marital problems after delivery.
29. You feel more in control. When your body is changing in all kinds of wacky ways and your entire life is about to be transformed in huge, unknown ways, a regular exercise routine offers consistency and the knowledge that you’re doing something great for both yourself and your baby.
30. You look better. Exercise increases blood flow to your skin, enhancing that pregnancy glow. Plus, when you’re calmer and fitter, it shows.
31. Your children may grow up to be smarter. Some research indicates that kids of moms who work out during pregnancy have better memories, in addition to higher scores on intelligence and language tests.
32. You bust out of your exercise rut. Pregnancy often forces you to try something new— to swim when you used to run, to try Wii Fit Ski instead of snowboarding, to give Pilates a whirl.
33. You keep your immune system humming. Moderate exercise such as walking lowers your risk of catching a cold by as much as half. Researchers believe the data applies to exercising moms-to-be as well.
This morning’s workout came much earlier than usual – 6am! While getting up with my alarm was painful as always, it felt great to have my workout done before 7am.
I have many clients who struggle with getting their workouts in during the day or even at night. By end of day we have a million and one reasons why we shouldn’t go to the gym or even get a quick workout in at home. From being tired, to cooking dinner, to family activities – the excuses just keep adding up. That’s why morning workouts (while sometimes painful to wake up for) tend to be more effective. Other than your alarm, there aren’t as many things standing in your way! Plus, if you workout in the morning you are starting your day off right, boosting your metabolism, and you don’t have to worry about fitting it in later.
Warm-Up – 5 minutes walking on treadmill
Foam Rolling – legs/IT bands and Psoas
Squats – 10 (increasing weight each time)
Repeat 4 times
Thrusters – 6 reps
Repeat 4 times
Deadlifts – 5
Bulgarian Split Squats – 10
Jump Rope – 50
Repeat 2 times
I didn’t wake up this morning thinking I was going to train with another group today! In fact I was looking forward to a lighter Olympic lift workout, but sometimes what we plan isn’t always the best.
As I finished with my client this morning and was preparing to start my own workout, another trainer at the gym asked me to jump in with his boot camp class. It’s been a while since I tried someone else’s workout so I thought why not! The workout itself was great and incorporated the entire body. Several of the exercises weren’t great for someone pregnant so I swapped them out for “pregnant friendly” ones. What I struggled with most in the group atmosphere was the ability to “slow down”. I have a competitive side that likes to push myself as hard as possible. With my friends and my own personal workouts I don’t feel the need to push myself, but with a new group of people it was a bit harder to slow down. I like being able to “beat” the person next to me – it’s the mental game I play to challenge myself. Luckily for me my fear of overdoing it and ending up with contractions helped, but I definitely felt outside of my comfort zone. The workout felt great, but I am getting ready to have my body back to push as hard as I’d like. We are about six weeks out and I am excited to meet our little girl!!
It’s okay to push yourself to your limits, but remember that everyone is different. One person may be able to lift twice as much weight as you, but you are both doing your babies good. Strong mom = strong baby!
Workout of the Day:
Round 1 (each exercise for 1minute and 30 seconds, with 30 second rest)
Walk outs with push up
Single Leg Squats with Kettlebell – (right side)
Box Jumps – I modified to step ups with dumbbells
Russian Twists – I modified with Planks/Mountain Climbers
Single Leg Squats with Kettlebell – (left side)
Lateral lunges with Kettlebell (alternating)
Round 2 – (each exercise for 1minute and 30 seconds, with 30 second rest)
Yoga Push Ups
Single leg box jumps (Step Up with a hop at the top) (right)
Standing overhead press with dumbbells
Single leg box jumps (Step Up with a hop at the top) (left)
Lateral jump with burpee
Wall Sit with Hammer Curl
Some days there is no way to fit in your traditional workout, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done! This is where the “Kitchen workout” comes into play. Yesterday I literally was going all day and couldn’t get my desperately needed workout in by it’s self, but here is what I did. There are always a few minutes/seconds in between cooking and prepping dinner so I fit in a couple squats, lunges, tricep dips and stand ups. I didn’t have to leave the kitchen, food was perfectly cooked and I got my workout in! Life is fully of excuses, it’s finding ways around your excuses that end in positive results!
Squats – 20
Reverse lunges – 10 each side
Tricep dips – 10 (with or without doggy kisses!)
Single leg stand ups – 10 each side
Lateral lunges – 10 each side
Repeat 3 times or until dinner is ready!
Today’s workout was quick, but effective! Focus was on the rear end seeing as summer is coming. Even though I don’t foresee myself wearing a bikini, the more I do now the easier it will be to get in shape post baby.
Single leg stand ups – 10 each leg holding kettlebell
Single arm snatch with kettlebell – 10 each arm
Single leg RDLs – 10 each leg
Kettlebell Swings – 20