Let’s face it you are about to go through the marathon of your life! It’s no easy task but there are a few things you can do to help yourself get prepared and ease your stress.
There are many things you can do to prepare your mind, body and home for pregnancy, labour and a new born. Here are just a few practical tips.
1. Pelvic Floor muscle strength and endurance prior to delivery. You may only think you need to do this after birth when you have symptoms eg urinary leakage or to get your body back after birth. However the pelvic floor muscles also have this amazing ability to help guide your baby down into your birth canal Win Win! anything to help that process go more smoothly is a key!
You can also learn how to activate, strengthen, switch off and control these muscles to prevent said leakage from occurring. Your muscles have a memory pattern, so starting earlier makes it easier for the muscles to remember how to work after giving birth and can help improve your recovery. Helping you get back to your strength and coping with life as a new mum quicker and easier. Again winning!
2. Muscle Strength - Maintaining your body's strength during pregnancy is vital to help with your labour and your recovery. Most important for labour will be your leg strength. Being able to move into different positions during labour and be able to sustain those positions will be very helpful for you. So having muscle endurance is the key. Another exercise I love for women who are pregnant without any pelvic pain is the wide leg squat - you can do it against the wall with a swiss ball for greater stability but it helps to open your hips and prepare for labour. You can also sit on the swiss ball and gently stretch your hips and inner thigh too. Upper body strength will serve you well when you are feeding and carrying around your little one and everything that goes with them. Our pregnancy pelvic floor exercise program incorporates both lower body and upper strength with a pelvic floor focus, along with stretching too.
3. Mental Health - music, breathing techniques, relaxation and meditation are all great to practice prior to giving birth for your well being while pregnant and so you can feel calmer when things that you can't control pop up. You can also use these techniques if you want to during labour to feel as calm as you can and stay focused on something positive.
4. Food and Hydration - Depending on what restrictions are in place by your hospital or doctor this is something to consider. I don't know about you but i'm hungry all the time so don't think you won't be during labour, because it could go for awhile. If you’re hungry and your hospital allows it you should eat, especially in early labour as you need to keep your energy levels up. Choose small snack portions of foods that are easily digested e.g. plain crackers, yoghurt, easy to eat fruits like sultanas, a wrap, a protein bar or veggies sticks. Recent data has suggested inadequate hydration can lead to a longer labour with your contractions slowing down, taking small sips of water during labour can help maintain your hydration and energy levels. Also keep in mind that your hydration stores need to be kept up, so maintaining hydration in the days leading up to labour is a must! Note: If you have a high risk pregnancy and may need a caesarian ask your OBGYN first.
5. Be mentally and emotionally prepared - This is probably the most important part of labour. Being prepared for what might happen, will happen and what choices you can make can help you feel slightly in control of a situation that is hard to comprehend. Talk to your friends, talk to your health professionals and talk to your partner. And at the end of all that research, take the time to think and feel for yourself and make decisions based on what you need and what’s best for you and your family. Then visualise that happening and work with positive thoughts.
I'm Melanie, a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist.
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