Giving birth can be an intense, but rewarding experience. You may wonder how you can make your labor less strenuous so you can enjoy it. Do exercises that will strengthen your legs, pelvis, and hips early in your pregnancy so you have the stamina for labor. You can also get support and information on labor from your doctor, midwife, or doula so you know what to expect. Then, when the time comes, focus on staying comfortable and relaxed during labor so your birthing experience goes smoothly.
EditExercising and Staying Active
- Perform Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor. Kegel exercises can be done at home when you are sitting in a chair or lying down in bed. Make sure you go to the bathroom and empty your bladder before you do them. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds. Pretend you are holding in your urine to activate these muscles. Then, release them for 10 seconds.
- Repeat the kegel exercise 10 times.
- Try to do this exercise at least once a day to keep your pelvic floor and vaginal area strong.
- Do this exercise in every trimester of your pregnancy.
- Do pelvic tilt stretches to help position your baby in a good spot for labor. Position yourself on your hands and knees, with your shoulders and hips in line with each other. Inhale as you press your stomach towards the floor, curving your lower back and raising your chin to the ceiling. Then, exhale as you press your back upward, pressing your stomach towards the ceiling and your chin towards the floor. Do these stretches 10 times, once a day.
- Pelvic tilt stretches are good to do during your third trimester, as this is when your baby is the most active. The stretches can help to move your baby into an ideal position for labor.
- Try butterfly stretches to release your lower back and pelvis. These stretches will help to keep your lower back and pelvis relaxed, which can then make labor a bit easier. Sit on your bum and bend your knees to bring your feet together, with your toes touching. Your legs should form a diamond shape. Gently press down on your knees with your elbows or shift side to side.
- You can also do this exercise lying down on your back. Make sure your lower back is flat on the ground as you bring your feet together to form a diamond shape.
- Try to do this exercise in every trimester of your pregnancy.
- Do forward leaning inversions to keep your uterus open and relaxed. This exercise helps to create more room in your uterus, allowing your baby to move around more easily. Kneel on the edge of your bed or your couch. Lower yourself onto your forearms, with your elbows splayed out and your hands flat on the floor. Let your head hang freely. Keep your bottom and hips up in the air. Move your hips side to side and keep your lower back flat.
- Hold this exercise for 3-4 deep breaths and then lower back down onto your hands. Do this exercise 2-4 times, once a day.
- Do not perform this exercise if you are experiencing stomach cramps or have any pain in your stomach or back.
- Be careful when doing this exercise in your third trimester. You may need a spotter to ensure you can do it safely.
- Do supported squats to strengthen your legs. Keep your leg muscles strong with supported squats so you can stay upright during labor, as being upright can make your labor less difficult. Stand with your back to a wall. Place an exercise ball between your lower back and the wall. Move your feet out until you are comfortable and point your toes outward. Inhale as you squat down as low as you can, keeping the exercise ball in place. Exhale as you come back to the starting position.
- Do 3 sets of 15 squats once a day to keep your legs strong.
- When you do this exercise in your third trimester, place a chair behind you for support. You can also ask a partner or friend or act as a spotter.
- Go for daily walks to improve your blood circulation. Walking can help you stay active and balanced. It can also ensure you get your blood circulating and be good practice for when you have to walk or move around during the early stages of labor. Walk in a nearby park or in your neighborhood. Try to walk for at least 20-30 minutes a day.
- Take a weekly prenatal exercise class to stay fit and relaxed. Look for a prenatal yoga class or a prenatal aerobics class at your local gym. Sign up for the class and attend it regularly so you can stay fit.
- Check with your doctor before you take any strenuous prenatal fitness classes, as you do not want to overdo it or put your baby at risk.
EditGetting Support and Information on Labor
- Discuss your birth plan with your doctor several weeks before your due date. Your birth plan should outline who you want with you during your labor, such as your partner or your children. It should also discuss if you want to be mobile and walk around, especially during the early stages of your labor. Decide how you want to manage pain during labor and if you want to take medication. Your doctor should help you determine the key points in your birth plan.
- You can also decide how you want the environment to be set up for the birth, such as lighting, music, or calming scents.
- If you decide to do a home birth or use a birthing pool, note this in your birth plan.
- Share the birth plan with your partner so you both know what to expect. Let your partner know the details of your birth plan, especially if you want them to be in the room with you during your labor. Allow them to add things to the birth plan and get their feedback so they feel they are part of the process. They can then support your wishes and make sure the labor goes as you’d like it to.
- You can also share your birth plan with any family members or close friends who are involved in your pregnancy or labor.
- Hire a doula as part of your birth plan. A doula is trained to support you during your pregnancy and your labor. They often act as labor coaches and can show you how to make your labor easier. Doulas can be expensive, charging per service or a flat-fee. But they have been shown to help make labor less difficult.
- Your insurance provider may not cover the cost of a doula. Find out if your doula offers a payment plan or a sliding scale of costs. You can also ask for donations towards hiring a doula at your baby shower.
- Take a birthing class to learn more about labor and what to expect. Look for birthing classes at your local hospital or community center. Many family health clinics and centers will also offer birthing classes. Bring your partner with you to the class so they can get a sense of what to expect during your labor.
- Birthing classes that focus on breathing techniques, pushing techniques, and relaxation strategies during labor are good options.
- Look for birthing classes that discuss the Lamaze technique, the Bradley method, or the Alexander technique, as they focus on how to make labor easier.
- If you cannot find a birthing class in your area, look for online tutorial and guides.
EditStaying Comfortable and Relaxed during Early Labor
- Stay home until your contractions are 3-5 minutes apart. Avoid rushing to the hospital once you start to feel contractions. Going to the hospital too early can make you more stressed out. Instead, stay home and time your contractions.
- Download an App on your phone that times contractions for you so you do not have to do this yourself.
- If you feel any sharp pains or you start to bleed from your vagina, go to the hospital right away.
- If your water breaks even through your contractions are still far apart, go to the hospital so you are not at risk of infection.
- Use a hot compress on your lower back or belly. Applying heat to sensitive areas can help make your labor less painful, especially in the early stages. Put a hot compress on your lower back or your stomach for 10 minutes at a time to reduce any pain or irritation in these areas.
- If these areas are particularly sensitive, ask your partner to give you a massage. Massage can be a great way for you to stay calm and relaxed during labor.
- Stay mobile and upright. Walking and pacing around can help the baby get into position for the birth. Move around in your home or go for a walk in your neighborhood. Go to the grocery store and walk around to distract yourself and stay mobile.
- You can also sit on a large exercise ball and bounce around to stay active.
- Drink lots of water and snack on pasta, crackers, or dry toast. Stay hydrated by sipping water often during early labor. You can also have a light snack high in carbohydrates so you have enough energy when your labor really gets going.
- Avoid eating heavy or greasy food, as this can cause stomach upset and make your labor more difficult.
- Take a bath or shower to stay relaxed. Soak in a bath of warm water to ease any soreness or pain. If the tub has jets, turn them on so you can get a relaxing massage while you soak. A warm shower, where you stand upright and lean against the shower wall, can also be good for easing pain and discomfort.
EditHaving a Positive Late Labor Experience
- Bring an overnight bag with you. Once your contractions are 3-5 minutes apart, or once your water breaks, head to the hospital or to your birthing center. Bring a bag with light, loose clothing, a robe, thick socks, maternity bras, non-perishable snacks, and a full water bottle. You should also pack photo identification and your healthcare information so you have it on hand.
- Pack the bag a few weeks before your due date so it is ready to go. Let your partner know where it is so they can bring it for you to the hospital or birthing center, as needed.
- Check in with your doctor or midwife. Let your doctor or midwife know you are at the hospital or birthing center. The staff at the hospital or center will give you a hospital gown to put on and set you up in a room or area. The doctor or midwife will then check in on your regularly to see how your labor is progressing.
- If you have a doula, let them know you are in full labor so they can be there to support you.
- Do breathing exercises to reduce pain and stress. Start with slow breathing when your contractions become close together and more intense. Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth, letting air out with a sigh. Keep your body limp and release any tension as you exhale.
- Do light accelerated breathing as your labor becomes more active. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, breathing in and out rapidly. Keep your breathing shallow and follow a breath pattern of one breath per second.
- When you start to feel overwhelmed or exhausted during labor, do “pant-pant-blow” or “hee-hee-who” breathing. Inhale quickly through your nose or mouth and let out a longer exhalation through your mouth. Make a “who” or “puh” sound as you exhale to release stress and tension.
- Communicate with your doctor or midwife once it comes time to push. Change positions to find a comfortable one for you as you push during late-stage labor. Lean on your doctor, midwife, doula, or partner to support you as you push.
- Consider taking medication to help reduce the pain and keep you relaxed. Your doctor or midwife can discuss this option with you and offer it to you as you push during the final stages of labor.
- Make sure you get at least 8 hours of quality sleep a night during your pregnancy to ensure you have the energy and stamina for labor.