With so many women having decisions made for them and the fear of having to undergo labour, they forget that this is what their bodies are made to do, they forget how powerful women actually are and how women can be empowered to choose the birth that they desire. And while sometimes labour and birth doesn’t always go as envisioned, but making the journey easier and enjoyable is always possible.
One of the most fascinating wonders of a woman is her body and how her body modifies to accommodate the pregnancy and then adapts once more to bring that child into the world – it is nothing short of a miracle.
From the very first moment of finding out that there’s a little human growing inside, we take all the prenatal supplements, think about what we are consuming and start preparing ourselves for the arrival. But we often forget that exercise and activity is just as important in taking care of ourselves and our precious cargo. There are multiple advantages of exercising during pregnancy, such as the improvement of overall health. A long walk and deep inhalation of fresh air can decrease fatigue and elevate your mood. Exercise can minimize the chances of gestational diabetes and assist in weight control during pregnancy.
Please Note: This advice will only apply if there are no health issues where the increased activity will negatively impact the pregnancy, for example, preterm labour, a low placenta, IVF, a multiple pregnancy, spotting or bleeding during pregnancy, or any health issues where you were advised to maintain bed rest.
Exercise can start quite early during the pregnancy and this will assist in increasing blood flow to the extremities, and in turn, reduce many of the early pregnancy discomforts. Many women who have a regular training schedule are unsure as to whether they can continue their regular exercise programs, however, your body will let you know when it’s time to ease off. I’ve seen kickboxers work out even on the day of labour, and runners going for a run at 40 weeks of their pregnancy. The key is to remember is to listen to your body and take it at your own pace
Labour and birth is the greatest marathon that you will ever run, so why not train for ‘The Amazing Race’.
My ultimate favourite is recommending squatting from the end of 34 weeks. This not only assists in reducing the increased pressure experienced at 37 weeks but softens the ligaments that assist with the baby descending in the pelvis at 37-38weeks by widening the pelvic area.
It also the strengthens muscles in the pelvis and thighs which helps phenomenally during the second stage of pushing baby during a typical vaginal birth. Squatting is a fantastic exercise to build stamina for labour and birth. Deep squats help the baby engage into the pelvis and should be done only if the baby is in a head-down position. I generally recommend spending five minutes at a time and aim to increase the number of squats daily from 37 weeks of the pregnancy.
Kegel exercises in combination with the stability ball exercises assist in toning the perineum. This not only assists during the birth of the baby but the advantages can be seen long after. Internal examinations are dreaded by many, but strengthening the perineum can decrease the discomfort of internal examinations. After birth, the perineum is more likely to heal faster in case of a cut or tear, and long after it promotes bladder control when laughing, coughing and sneezing.
Aqua aerobics, yoga and swimming are excellent ways of exercising and these are easily enjoyable during pregnancy especially when on maternity leave and you may have some free time whilst anxiously awaiting the “new arrival”. Or if your pregnancy has been a breeze and you feel more energetic than ever before, then even dancing is a great way to stay in shape, the endorphins pumping and keep your muscles supple.
Keeping active during the labour, especially by swaying and rocking the hips itself is a huge advantage in pain control and allowing descend of your little one. What better way to enjoy your labour, rocking the hips to the sounds of your favourite tunes.
Ruwaida Moola has been practising midwifery since 1999, working in various hospitals and clinics. She currently practices midwifery with Genesis as her main birthing clinic. She has practising rights at Garden City Clinic, Oxford Rd Day Clinic, Brenthurst Clinic and Parklane Hospital and utilizes these hospitals as the emergency back-up hospitals.
She works closely with Obstetricians, Doulas, Chiropractors, Homeopaths, Herbalists, Reflexologists, Acupuncturists, Psychologists, and Paediatricians and believes in a multi-disciplinary approach. I also practice as a senior fertility sister at the BioART Fertility Clinic. She is a Registered Nurse and Fertility Nursing Sister, Nurse Educator and Advanced Midwife.
Find Ruwaida at www.miraclebirths.co.za.