Get your body ready for labor and childbirth with the following exercises from the Mayo Clinic. All of the exercises can yield great benefits with minimal effort, and they don’t require special equipment. Check with your doctor to make sure you don't have any limitations before you attempt any of these exercises.
What is it? This is an exercise that strengthens and stretches muscles in your back, thighs, and pelvis, and improves your posture. It also keeps your pelvic joints flexible, improves blood flow to your lower body, and eases delivery.
How do I do it? Sit on the floor with your back straight in the "butterfly position" (the bottoms of your feet together and your knees dropped comfortably). As you press both knees gently toward the floor using your elbows, you should feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Don't bounce your knees up and down rapidly. If you find it difficult at first to keep your back straight, use a wall to support your back. Hold the position for 10 or 15 seconds and repeat the stretch five or 10 times.
You'll find this exercise is not difficult to do, and it feels great. Your body is more flexible during pregnancy, and this exercise capitalizes on your newfound flexibility.
What is it? The pelvic floor muscles help support the pelvic organs: the uterus, bladder, and bowels. If you tone them you'll ease many discomforts of late pregnancy such as hemorrhoids and leakage of urine.
How do I do it? Try to stop the flow of urine when you are sitting on the toilet without tightening your abdominal, buttock, or thigh muscles. When you're able to successfully start and stop urinating, or you feel the vaginal muscle contract, you are using your pelvic floor muscle, the muscle you should be contracting during Kegel exercises.
You can do Kegel exercises two ways: either by holding or quickly contracting the pelvic floor muscle. To do slow Kegels, contract the pelvic floor muscle and hold for three to 10 seconds. Then relax and repeat up to 10 times. To do fast Kegels, quickly contract and relax your pelvic floor muscle 25 to 50 times. Relax for 5 seconds and repeat the set up to four times.
What is it? Pelvic tilts strengthen abdominal muscles, help relieve backache during pregnancy and labor, and ease delivery. This exercise can also improve the flexibility of your back, and ward off back pain.
How do I do it? You can do pelvic tilts in various positions, but down on your hands and knees is the easiest way to learn it. Get comfortably on your hands and knees, keeping your head in line with your back. Pull in your stomach and arch your back upward. Hold this position for several seconds. Then relax your stomach and back, keeping your back flat and not allowing your stomach to sag. Repeat this exercise three to five times. Gradually work your way up to 10 repetitions.
What is it? Squatting is helpful during labor because it opens the pelvic outlet an extra quarter to half inch, allowing more room for the baby to descend. But squatting is tiring, so you should practice it frequently during pregnancy to strengthen the muscles needed.
How do I do it? An exercise called a wall slide is especially helpful. Stand with your back straight against a wall, place your feet shoulder width apart and about six inches from the wall, and keep your arms relaxed at your sides. Slowly and gently slide down the wall to a squatting position (keeping your back straight) until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold the position for five to 10 seconds, slowly slide back to a standing position. Repeat five or 10 times.