Preparing for Childbirth
It’s called “labour” for a reason!Childbirth is a physically and emotionally demanding process for the body and is not dissimilar to a sporting event in terms of what a woman’s body experiences. I explain to my patients that you wouldn’t attempt to run a marathon without first training and stretching, so birth should be no different. We need to mentally and physically prepare for the exercise which is childbirth!
Pelvic Floor Relaxation Exercises
From 36-37 weeks of pregnancy, the focus of your pelvic floor muscle exercises change to start to work on relaxation and learning how to release the muscle. Spend double the time on the “relaxation” part of the exercise instead of the contraction phase.
15-20 reps 1-2xday.
The pelvic floor muscles and perineum which surround the opening of the vagina undergo a very large stretch during a vaginal delivery. We want to make sure that these muscles have as much stretch and elasticity as possible to prevent the risk of tearing. There is good quality evidence showing that woman who do perineal stretching decrease their risk of perineal trauma (1).
To do a perineal stretch, place your thumb into the vaginal opening and stretch straight down towards your anus, hold for 10-15 seconds and repeat 5 times. Do the stretches daily from 37 weeks.
Try and re conceptualise this feeling of discomfort as a “muscle stretch” just like the feeling of a strong hamstring stretch. This makes the discomfort less threatening for your brain and allows your muscles to relax more.
Pelvic Stretches and Release
As well as stretching and releasing your internal pelvic floor muscles, it’s also beneficial to stretch your whole pelvic and lower back area to decrease tightness and create as much space as possible.
Hold each stretch for at least 30 secondsand breathe to allow a deeper release.
If you would like more advice on how best to prepare your body for childbirth as well as learn positions for labour and breathing techniques book in for a Women’s Health Physiotherapy appointment.
1. Beckmann MM, Garrett AJ. Antenatal Perineal Massage for Reducing Perineal Trauma. Birth. 2006;33(2):159-159.