Exercise during your pregnancy
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Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

Exercise during your pregnancy

Tailor Sitting and/or Kegel : Tailor sitting is a great position in which to practice the "secret" exercise - the contraction of the pelvic floor.
Tailor Sitting and/or Kegel
Tailor sitting is a great position in which to practice the "secret" exercise - the contraction of the pelvic floor.
Squatting : A great position for labor and birth.
A great position for labor and birth.
Pelvic Rock - Start : Relieves lower back pressure, among other benefits.
Pelvic Rock - Start
Relieves lower back pressure, among other benefits.
Pelvic Rock - Engaged : This feels so good at the end of a long day!
Pelvic Rock - Engaged
This feels so good at the end of a long day!
The Butterfly : Coaches can help by adding resistance only as mom stretches her legs open.
The Butterfly
Coaches can help by adding resistance only as mom stretches her legs open.
Side-lying position : Usually practiced on the left side to reduce pressure on the vena cava.  Moms need to be comfortable in this position so that they can practice relaxation and use it for labor.
Side-lying position
Usually practiced on the left side to reduce pressure on the vena cava. Moms need to be comfortable in this position so that they can practice relaxation and use it for labor.
Walking  : A safe way for mom to build up her stamina while being careful of her balance.
A safe way for mom to build up her stamina while being careful of her balance.
Yoga : Pre-natal yoga practice is a great option for both stamina and strength.
Pre-natal yoga practice is a great option for both stamina and strength.
One the reasons I believe in The Bradley Method® is that it a holistic approach to pregnancy and labor, recognizing that two people were involved in wanting and/or making this new life, and together, two people prepare to welcome this new life into the world.  To truly educate pregnant couples desirous of a natural birth you must teach beyond the basics of pregnancy and labor education and I think The Bradley Method® does this.

I had to come up with a way to remember what the aspects of our series were about when I was a new teacher, so I came up with a way to remember by using my hand.  The palm of the hand is Relaxation – the key to the Bradley Method.  Then there are five fingers – Exercise, Nutrition, Communication, Consumerism and Education.

By focusing on relaxation every day, the couple is setting themselves up for success during labor – they will have a full toolbox of techniques encompassing physical, mental and emotional relaxation to navigate their labor.  The rest of the components also count – by practicing them, a healthy foundation is built that lets a couple fully relax and enjoy their labor as they work to welcome their child into this world.

The one thing we don’t know when our students walk through the door is how long or what kind of labor they are going to have.  What any of us childbirth educators wouldn’t pay for a light-up sign that we could hang over our door that would display that information when a mom walked under it for the first time:

“Eight hours – easy” 
“Five hours – sprint”
“Three hours – mental”
“48 hours – emotional”

That would certainly help us tailor our classes just for them!

Since that little light-up device doesn’t exist, we must do our best to prepare all our students to build strong healthy mommas and babies.  The mom-coach team needs to be prepared as well.  If mom and baby are strong, and the coach is well prepared, they will be able to manage the variations in labor using their strength and their ability to relax.

Today I am going to write about the Exercise component of our classes.  It’s actually one of the reasons The Bradley Method® class series are designed to be a full twelve-week series.  An athlete would not participate in a competitive event with less than three months of training.  The Bradley Method® teaches that since birth is an athletic event, a mom needs the same kind of preparation for their event: three months – one trimester – to prepare for the ultimate athletic event in my book: birth.

Why is being physically ready so important?  As I mentioned above, a mom doesn’t know until it is over how long her event is going to last.  The accepted “average length” of labor for a first-time mom is 12-14 hours, measuring from the early active phase to the birth of the child.  This is not always the case, nor does it take into account pre-labor, the time when the body is having contractions that don’t stop with a change of activity, but they continue without establishing a regular pattern.

In the event that a first time mom has a sprint for her first labor – as in 3-5 hours of active labor – she needs to be ready for a full-out sprint. It sounds like welcoming your baby within a few hours would be a dream; however most moms who have had this kind of labor will say it is a lot of hard work.

In this type of labor, the contractions could start to establish a pattern as close together as 5-8 minutes apart within half an hour of realizing that mom is in labor.  From that point, there is no “break” for mom to rest physically or emotionally.  The contractions get closer quickly, and there is less rest between contractions.  In order for the body to accomplish this, strong regular contractions are part of the deal.  This mom won’t have time to ease into her labor – she is literally thrown into it and the words “brace yourself” come to mind.

A strong physical body is an advantage to this type of birth.  The muscles needed for birth will be conditioned for the work they are gong to do.  They will be okay being pushed to exhaustion like a sprinter needs to do: a burst of speed to finish without injury and then the ability to recover afterwards.

Some of us have marathons – long, winding affairs that can last more than 14 hours, and sometimes they last a few days.  Again, this requires a body that has the stamina and the strength to endure the labor. 

The stamina will help mom see her baby through to the finish line.  Her body needs to be able to work for an extended period of time without giving into exhaustion.  She also needs the strength to get into the physical positions like various squat positions, all fours, dangling – whatever she needs to do to help baby get into the right position, work with gravity, and be able to comfortably stay in a position as long as needed.  All these things can only be done well over an extended period of time if the mom is already in good shape.

The day you go into labor is not the day to realize, “Oh, wow – I guess I should have been exercising!”  This preparation starts at least three months in advance.  Most Bradley Method® students begin to take classes between weeks 20-26 of their pregnancy.

The goal is to give moms at least twelve good weeks of preparation and motivation to follow through on their daily exercise plan. The good news is that it does build up incrementally.  Whether this is the first time a mom has done regular exercise or an addition to her regular exercise plan, for at least twelve weeks before baby is born, the muscles needed for childbirth are strengthened and toned for the very specific job they are going to do.

I personally noticed a great difference between our first pregnancy when I barely exercised at all because everything I did seemed to cause spotting, and our third pregnancy when I exercised everyday.  I felt stronger for our 46-hour marathon than I did for our 24-hour puttering-around birth.
By then, I had learned to rest early in labor so that I could conserve energy for the pushing phase, and I had also been able to strengthen all the muscles I needed to help Bryan along when labor finally got to the last stages.

Realistically, we all know that the course of labor takes deviations, and sometimes these deviations land the parents in the operating room.
How will exercise and a prepared body going to benefit these moms?
Why exercise "if you might” have a cesarean section?

Exercise serves these moms because it will help them withstand the physical traumas that a body suffers when it is cut open.  Have you heard that a person can’t have an operation unless they pass certain criteria and their doctor signs off on their physical condition?  When most moms end up in the operating room, they are their for complications or life-saving measures for her and/or her baby, so their isn’t time to evaluate “if” they can withstand the operation.  They “must” withstand the operation for them to have a good outcome.

A Bradley Method® mom who has been exercising will have a strong heart, good circulation, and muscles that are toned and will recover more quickly from an operation than a mom who has had little or no preparation.  As a matter of fact, one of our c-section moms was back to her pre-pregnancy size by the time she went to the doctor for her six-week follow-up exam.  She had been athletic before she got pregnant, continued on with regular exercise and added the pregnancy exercises after she started our classes, and despite her very difficult recovery, she had gotten back into a routine after baby their baby was born.  Exercise!

Although we can’t force our students to do anything, we can hope and pray that the narratives we share in class will encourage them and motivate them to exercise every day.  It’s a great chance to spend precious time together that they will treasure after they have welcomed their baby.  The team will have a sense of accomplishment they can share when they have a birth experience that was enhanced by an athlete performing at the peak of “her game” – their baby’s birthday.

The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.

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