As crazy and horrifying as it sounds, it’s real — once upon a time, there was nothing one could do to ease the pain of labor. Yikes!
Fortunately, thanks to science, now you not only have epidurals and other pain-relieving drugs to deal with the labor experience, but also a plethora of muscle – stretching and relaxing pregnancy exercises for a normal delivery.
So let’s explore what science has to say about pregnancy exercises effect on mother and fetus.
What are the benefits of pregnancy exercises?
A study conducted in 2017 and published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, states numerous ways how exercises during pregnancy make labor easier.
The researchers focused on the outcomes among women who were more than 13 weeks pregnant and were performing cycling exercises for 30 minutes, three times every week. The observation continued until they reached 37th week of pregnancy.
For example, they found:
- Decreased risk of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: A daily cycling routine reduced the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). This condition can sometimes lead to increased fetus weight.
- Reduced the chances of cesarean: Aerobic exercises help eliminate preterm births, which is among the leading causes of prenatal death in the US. Your vagina muscles get strengthened due to these exercises and thus, increases the chances of an uncomplicated vaginal delivery.
- Diminished hypersensitivity disorders in pregnant women: Hypersensitive disorders, including gestational hypersensitivity, affects around 2-3% of the pregnancy cases and may lead to the development of chronic hypertension, eclampsia or preeclampsia. Pregnancy exercises diminish this risk greatly.
Now I know, you might be wondering, “That’s all cool, but is it safe for my baby?”
Good news, it is!
Pregnancy exercises are safe for mother and fetus
Although to date there is limited data available, but from what the researchers have deduced from experiments and pregnancy outcomes among women who are physically active, pregnancy exercises are safe for both the fetus and mother.
The soon-to-be-moms experience new found confidence and reduced anxiety, and can also avoid gaining weight by performing aerobic exercises. The more you move, the more you prepare your body for a successful delivery without any complications.
Fortunately, American women are gradually getting motivated to be physically active during pregnancy.
Now let’s take a look at the top 7 pregnancy exercises to induce easy labor.
7 Pregnancy Exercises for a Normal Delivery
1. A walk a day, keeps complications away.
Walking is the easiest and the best pregnancy exercise to prepare your body for an easy labor process. It is especially important if you have an otherwise sedentary lifestyle to incorporate walk into your weekly routine as frequently as you can.
When I was pregnant, I loved taking a morning walk down by the beach. It was so strengthening, spiritually fulfilling (I know, weird, right?), and gave me a whole boost of energy to start my day.
Walking is open to you for the entire day. If you are busy during the morning you can have the evening all to yourself. You may even find a group of fellow pregnant women to join you and discuss all your baby prepping stuff (if you feel like it…)!
Want to buy something from a nearby shop? Craving your favorite Oreo cupcake from a nearby bakery? Take a walk down to the shops instead of driving. Give your legs a chance to stretch and get active.
2. Go for a dip in the pool.
During summers, walking may get a little out of season, particularly for pregnant women who live in a hot climate region.
So what’s a better alternative than going for a swim?
Don your favorite swimsuit and go for a dip in your pool! But beware of the chemicals used in the water — make sure there are no hazardous chemicals used in the water that may cause harm to you or your unborn baby.
According to a 2010 research published in Epidemiology, swimming is one of the most effective forms of pregnancy exercise that ensures normal and healthy delivery.
The researchers observed how a swimming routine helped more than 74,400 pregnant women in the childbirth process. The results showed an incredibly low risk of preterm birth and a birth of an infant with congenital malformations.
Additionally, another epidemiological study conducted in the US shows that swimming slightly increases the birth weight. This is specially beneficial for skinny pregnant women who want their newborn to have at least normal birth weight.
All in all, for those women who have quite a sedentary lifestyle with minimum to no activity, swimming is a great way to get the muscles going.
3. Butterflies stretch pose.
If you want to incorporate pregnancy exercises for easy delivery in your routine, the Butterfly pose is the perfect stretching movement to start with.
Butterfly is a form of a yoga exercise, essentially. It has incredible benefits for the pregnant women, besides ensuring a hassle-free labor. Butterfly pose helps to regulate your bowel movements and prevents constipation. It also aids in proper digestion of food.
Here’s how you can do the Butterfly exercise:
- Sit on a soft yet firm surface with both knees bent, and bring your feet toward the groin.
- Move the knees upward toward your chest.
- Gradually move them downward to the floor.
But be careful while performing these groin-centered exercises that utilize your joints as overexertion or overstretching might cause other complications.
Want a visual help to learn how to perform the Butterfly exercise? Check out this video for help.
4. Lie on your back like a bridge.
This is another exercise that promotes an easy labor and delivery. Bridge pose is beneficial for strengthening your hip, back, and abdominal muscles. After a long tiring day, you can experience enhanced back pain relief from this stretching pose.
Although most of the yoga practitioners suggest performing this exercise while bending your back, during pregnancy this position might be difficult to maintain. And it may eventually cause overstretching, leading to aches.
However, if it is within your comfort level, do try bending your back just a wee bit when performing Bridge. It can help alleviate the backache issue, which is quite common during pregnancy.
Here’s how you do the Bridge exercise:
- Lie down on your back with your back straight, knees bent and feet placed flat on the floor.
- Keep some space between your feet, approximately hip-width apart. The heels of your feet should touch our outstretched fingers on the sides, but only if it’s in your comfort zone.
- Inhale deeply, while pressing your lower back on the floor, and gently pushing the hips and legs upward.
- Maintain this position for at least a few seconds.
- Then slowly reach back to the original state.
Here you can watch an expert show you how you can do the Bridge pose for pregnancy.
5. Squat your way into an easy delivery.
Now this one is a no-brainer. If you are familiar with this type of exercise, you’ll know you assume a position which helps open up your pelvic area and prepares your pregnant body for a normal delivery.
Experts believe that squats are beneficial for lower back pain. This exercise strengthens the glutes and leg joints which become painful during pregnancy because of the release of progesterone.
Additionally, squats promote endurance for contractions during labor. You learn how to hold your pain and manage your balance during delivery process by assuming a somewhat tricky position. Squats also help to re position the baby and bring the fetus closer to the delivery area.
Although there are various types of squats that you can easily perform squats during pregnancy, here I will explain the most common type of squat to induce easy labor:
- Stand straight with your arms outstretched in front of you. Have something at arm’s length in case you need to hold for balance.
- Squat as far down as you can. Be careful to not overstretch!
- Stay in this position for a few seconds. You might need to hold something for balance.
- Get back to the original position. Perform this exercise at least 5 times every day.
Prefer a video? Here you go!
6. Angry cat pose
Research shows that stretching exercises, when done carefully, show decreased risk of preeclampsia. After analyzing data gained from 124 pregnant women who were subjected to walking and stretching, researchers revealed that the women who performed stretching exercises had a lower risk of cardiovascular complications than the ones who only walked.
So we can’t deny the significance of stretching exercises during pregnancy! Angry Cat pose is a widely known stretching pose for pregnant women to guarantee easy delivery. Also known as pelvic rocks, this exercise helps position the fetus properly inside your womb to facilitate normal delivery.
Here’s how you can perform Angry Cat exercise:
- Start by assuming the position of a cat. Bend down on your knees, toes touching the floor and your palms flat on the surface.
- Arch your back so that your spine looks curved. Bow down your head in between your shoulders.
- Maintain this position for a few seconds then slowly reach to the original form.
- This exercise should be repeated at least three times every day for 20 minutes to guarantee results.
Expert explains how to do the Angry Cat pose during pregnancy in this video.
7. Yoga regime for pregnancy.
According to a 2012 study published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yoga showed a positive effect on labor and birth outcomes in pregnant women.
It comes as no news though. For centuries, yoga has been used as a sure-fire, natural way to improve the psychological and physical health. In fact, it helps boost your immune and neuromuscular systems!
Prenatal yoga is one of the most effective alternative therapies for new moms, especially the ones dealing with anxiety, obesity, lower back pain, inflammation in joints, or run the risk of labor complications.
These are just some of the yoga pregnancy exercises to ease labor procedure:
- To relieve back aches: Agnistambhasana
- To relieve lower back pain: Sukhasana variation
- To reduce abdominal weight: Upavistha Konasana, Balasana
- To tighten pelvis: Parivrtta Sanchalasana, Eka Pada Kapotasana
Watch this video by a professional explaining how to perform yoga during the third trimester.
So if you want a hassle-free and easy delivery, try out these pregnancy exercises for normal labor. But remember to not go overboard with them and start little by little. Only perform the exercises you feel comfortable with and ease your way up to the tricky ones.