Stretches to prepare for labor and pregnancy
Doing stretches to prepare for labor is beneficial for your body during pregnancy. It also helps improve blood flow! Stretching keeps your muscles in good condition, especially those related to your posture. These include your back and abdominal muscles. Stretching can also help reduce lower back pain, neck stiffness, and leg cramps. Stretching for pregnancy and labor can also improve your circulation, flexibility, and range of motion. Some of the most recommended stretches to prepare for labor include:
- Cat-cow stretches
- Child’s pose
- Hip circles
- Downward facing dog
- Deep squat
- Deep squat alternatives
Other stretches include knee-to-chest, pelvic tilt, standing quadriceps and a butterfly stretch. All of these stretches are great for loosening tight muscles and reducing discomfort. They are great for improving mobility. They are also great vaginal stretches!
When should you start doing stretches to prepare for labor?
You can start preparing as soon as the end of your second trimester. It is a great idea to exercise to prepare for labor and delivery. This is when the ligaments and muscles in your body are most flexible. This is when your muscles will have the most significant potential for growth. It is also when the baby has grown to a size where you can start preparing your body for labor and delivery.
Stretching for labor can help create more space in the pelvis and increase your range of motion. It also helps to prepare your body for the physical demands of labor and delivery. Regular stretching can help reduce stress and tension in the hips, lower back, and other parts of the body.
The third trimester stretch
During the third trimester as your due date approaches, it’s important to really focus on childbirth preparation if you haven’t yet. Comfort is important, too! Below are some stretches preggo mamas can do as they are able. Relaxation and stretching help to decrease discomfort. They also help prepare your pelvis and vagina for delivery.
I love these yoga poses for stretching the back and hips and to prepare your pelvis for birth. Child’s pose is a great modification for a deep squat. This helps stretch the perineum to prepare for a vaginal birth.
Cat-Cow stretches help to loosen the spine and improve posture. This stretches the back muscles, abdomen and chest. You’ll want a neutral spine posture to do this stretch. Sit on the floor and then get on your hands and knees. On an inhale, arch your back, look up and draw your shoulder blades together. On an exhale, round your back, drawing your belly button towards the floor and tucking your chin in.
For child’s pose, relax your booty back toward your heels. Keep your knees wide and feet are together. Perform each stretch for five big deep breaths and repeat three times.Child’s pose is an excellent stretch for pregnant women due to its gentle, low-impact nature. This pose helps maintain flexibility in the hips, back, and shoulders, which are vital areas to stretch during pregnancy. It also helps reduce lower back pain and ease tension in the abdomen. It also promotes deeper breathing, which is essential for relaxation and overall well-being.
The benefits of hip circles during labor
Hip circles are a great way to help ease the tightness. This tightness can be from increased pregnancy hormones, weight gain and posture changes. During labor, the extra stretching can help to open the pelvis, making it easier for the baby to pass through. Hip circles increase flexibility in the hips and lower back. This can help reduce pain during pregnancy due to the extra strain on these areas.
Hip circles encourage baby to get into an optimal position for delivery. Do them anywhere and at any stage of pregnancy. Hip circles are one of the best stretches for pregnancy and labor!
Downward facing dog modification
This modification of downward-facing dog is excellent for opening up your chest. It is great if you have low back pain and want to decrease hip tightness. Place your feet shoulder width apart. Next, keeping your legs straight, walk your hands down the wall until you feel a gentle stretch on the back of your thighs and shoulder. Then hold this position for several breaths. This stretch is perfect first thing in the morning or after sitting for a long time. It’s also helpful during labor contractions (I had back labor).
The deep squat
This is my favorite! I usually recommend a deep squat in pregnancy during the third trimester. Doing deep squats for labor are recommended stretches. A deep squat will stretch the hips, relax the pelvic floor muscles and prepare the perineum for birth. This stretch also helps lengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This helps the baby drop down. It also helps open up your hip joints to decrease discomfort. It also helps stretch the vaginal opening tissues to prepare for a vaginal delivery. You should feel the stretch in your inner thighs.
How to do it
Use a yoga block to settle into this stretch in a squatting position with your feet hip width apart. Keep the bottoms of your feet flat on the floor. Release your hips and pelvis. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths (or around one minute each) and perform several times daily. Breathe, inhale and exhale as you squat. If you can’t get your heels flat, an alternative is to support them with a bolster, rolled yoga mat, or pillows. Again, a deep squat helps stretch the vaginal opening. This may decrease the risk of vaginal tearing. Holding a deep squat can help with pelvic pain, tailbone pain and constipation. It can also help with tense or overactive pelvic floor muscles.
Deep squat alternatives
If you have pubic bone pain or pubic symphysis pain (SPD) deep squats are NOT recommended. Some women have pubic bone pain (SPD), sacroiliac joint dysfunction or have tight hips. For these women, a deep squat is likely too deep. These alternatives are great options to lengthen and relax your pelvic floor muscles. They are great to stretch the perineum for childbirth preparation. If you aren’t preggo, pay attention if you have tight, tense, or overactive pelvic floor muscles. If you have pain, peeing or pooping issues, consider alternatives to the deep squat stretch. Sit on your hands and knees to relax before starting.
Stretches are great, but remember, doing exercises and massage during pregnancy is recommended, too! And because we know you’ve heard of them, here’s our take on kegel exercises. Always check with your doctor or midwife before starting any exercise routine.
Are you currently pregnant or planning to conceive? If so, make sure to download my FREE resource — How to Prepare Your Pelvic Floor & Core for Childbirth + 8 Must-Dos for C-Section and Vaginal Deliveries.
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