Birthing a baby is a major athletic event. Just like we would spend months training for a marathon, the body and mind would benefit for "training" for delivery of a newborn. This is where groups such as Lamaze can be very helpful. With COVID-19 restrictions, many of the information sessions for birth preparation have been indefinitely postponed. This has left many soon-to-be parents on their own, or even without awareness that there are ways that you can (and should) prepare the body for and mind for birth.
This information is crucial not only to help empower the mom, but also helps to prevent postpartum issues. Birth and pregnancy prep should also include a postpartum plan, so not only are we preparing ourselves for a 24-48 hour athletic event, we are also preparing for the first several weeks and months postpartum such as how to communicate with our S.O. and ways to support our healing bodies.
Embody Wellness Physical Therapy has a passion for educating and empowering women during their pregnancy on ways to help prepare for birth, as well as care during the fourth trimester. If you would like to know more about our birth prep program, click here.
Stretches for Birth Prep
Pelvic floor and hip openers are excellent ways to prepare the pelvic outlet for birth. By at least 34 weeks and with clearance from your doctor, start these 5 stretches.
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and work your way to 2 minutes as tolerated.
Once in the position, practice your deep diaphragmatic breathing. You can practice these stretches everyday, but stop the stretches if they cause any discomfort.
If you do not have a yoga ball, you can use a chair, couch or counter.
Perineal massage can be performed:
1) at 34-42 weeks of pregnancy
2) during the first and second stage of labor
The goal of the perineal massage at weeks 34-42 is to assist with getting the perineal tissues used to pressure in the form of gentle stretching.
This type of massage can be performed 1-2 x per week, for 10-15 minutes of time
Perineal massage during the first and second stage of pregnancy was found to:
1) decrease the frequency of 2nd degree tears
2) decreasing the amount of time in the second stage (pushing stage) of labor.
Your pelvic health physical therapist, doula, of midwife can help teach your how to perform this time of massage. If you are interested in learning more about perineal massage, contact us at Embody Wellness Physical Therapy.
A popular image that has been circulating around social media recently is this one below. This is an image of a labor & delivery nurse playing "tug of war" with a mom during the second/pushing stage of labor. I have black out their faces as to protect their privacy. The purpose is absolutely not to shame this mom or nurse, but to bring awareness to a common technique that may be provided for you during your birth. And after you learn more about this, I hope that you feel comfortable with saying NO THANK YOU.
Because I have blacked out their faces, you will not be able to see this but believe me -- this mom is holding her breath, and clenching her jaw while performing this tug-of-war technique. This is a problem because when we are holding our breath and tensing our jaw, the rest of our body is holding tension. THAT INCLUDES OUR PELVIC FLOOR! And our pelvic floor has circular/sphincteric muscles that we must open and expand to birth a baby. When we clench and tension our body in an attempt to "push the baby out", we are directly making it more challenging to birth our baby.
Do this for me right now. Hold your breath, clench your teeth, and push down like you are going to pass gas or attempt a bowel movement. Do this as hard as you possibly can. Pay attention to what your pelvic floor does. Can you feel it?
Playing around with different breath patterns to see how it feels at your pelvic floor is an excellent way to bring more awareness and ultimately control over your body during birth.
I have put together this video on PUSH PREP tips:
(another full blog post for another day...)
We recommend having a postpartum plan for:
Communication with significant others and family
Check in with a pelvic floor physical therapist within 6 weeks!
Here are two books I highly recommend
The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality by Kimberly Ann Johnson
The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Partners, Doulas, and Other Labor Companions by Penny Simkin
Any questions on how Embody Wellness can support you during your pregnancy and postpartum journey? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org