31 Weeks: Preparing For Childbirth

July 6, 2012

As I go into labor, I want to know I did everything possible to prime my body for this experience. While many women probably do nothing to prepare and still have normal, healthy labors, I still want to cover my bases. My goals are to keep my body in complete balance so that when it’s time for the baby to descend, he has the best chance possible to make that journey smoothly. [Read more about that here.]

Below are five physical things I’ve done to get my body in shape for birthin’.

Pre-natal Yoga

I talk about this class a lot, but it’s really been SO helpful for me. Not only for all the reasons I mentioned in this post, but also because my squat is now deeper, my pelvis more rockable and my understanding of the childbirth poses stronger. It also has been great to have my yoga teacher and doula be one in the same since I have gotten to know her both personally and professionally. I have friends who went to her yoga class for months and said laboring with her was wonderful and familiar because they used many of the same positions from class. I’ve made every effort to get to my Tuesday night class and try not to miss a week!

Weight Lifting + Physical Stamina

I look at labor as somewhat of an athletic event. I’ve heard moms say in their birth stories that being active really helped them get through the physical endurance it requires. Caitlin said in her birth story that she could not have imagined going through it without staying active throughout her pregnancy. I’ve heard other moms say that the closest thing they’ve done to giving birth is run a marathon. Thus, I have viewed a lot of my activity as preparation for labor. I’ve kept my body strong with Pump classes twice a week and my stamina up with tons of walking, some cycling and a little bit of swimming – nearly daily exercise of in some shape or form. While I’m not sure that I could run an 8 minute mile right now, I do feel that my fitness level has been maintained – at least to the level that I’ll need to be in good physical shape for the big event ahead.

Pump

Chiropractic

I have not been a chiropractic patient in the past – mostly because I’ve been lucky not to have any issues with my back or structure that have caused me pain. But I knew upon getting pregnant with so much change going on in my body that I wanted to be proactive about keeping things balanced. It helps that my friends own a clinic that made going to my first visit very accessible and not scary. My insurance luckily covers it (with a co-pay) up to a certain number of visits a year, so I’ve been going every 2 weeks starting in the second trimester for an adjustment. For the most part, my body has been aligned well, but there have been times when my pelvis was off that I’m glad we fixed before it got worse. I can only imagine all the changes going through that area with the growth of the bump pulling and the hormone changes. I don’t think that chiropractic is absolutely necessary in pregnancy, but I wanted to be sure to catch something before it became a problem – and I want to make sure my pelvis is perfectly aligned when go-time happens and the baby must squeeze through! And thankfully my insurance supports chiropractic for wellness.

Dr.tate Tate

Massage

Hand-in-hand with chiropractic, I’ve been getting regular massages. Now this isn’t something I would be doing regularly with the typical costs of massage or at a luxury spa, but CORE has a massage therapist in the building that is able to take my insurance (up to 15 visits – yay Blue Cross) if it’s referred through Dr. Tate. I’ve been seeing Erica regularly and she does amazing things for my hips, glutes, legs and back. The massage has been great first for symptom relief, but second it’s also helped to keep my body loose and counter the weight lifting I’ve done. I’ve heard a tight butt and hips are the last thing you want when your pelvis wants to open!

Stretching

Continuing the “balance the body” theme, I’ve been doing stretches at home to keep my body limber. Mostly an extension of the poses from yoga, squats, hip openers and sitting in cobbler’s pose. I don’t do them too often – maybe once or twice a week I’ll do a series when I get out of bed in the morning or in bed at night. Additionally, Jen, our doula, taught me several stretches. You can find them on Spinningbabies.com.  This inversion I try to do once a week or so (it relaxes all the ligaments) and this side stretch that is a partner stretch with Matt is AMAZING on the hips and glutes!!

IMG_1229

Do I think it’s necessary to do these things to have a healthy pregnancy and give birth? No. But they are all things that have personally helped me and will hopefully give me the best possible physical preparation for the Big Day(s ).

PREVIOUS 31 WEEK POSTS

Snapshots

Stuff

Live From The Womb

ABsolutely Stretching

Not The Patient

PREVIOUS WEEKS

4 weeks

5 weeks

6 weeks

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8 weeks

9 weeks

10 weeks

11 weeks

12 weeks

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30 weeks

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bridget July 6, 2012 at 8:38 am

Can I add one more activity to your To Do list? Practice the body relaxation and deep, slow breathing described in the Bradley Book. There is also that side-lying position that helps you achieve that. Your yoga practice is already setting you up for this. There are potentially long hours of labor where you aren’t pushing, you are just allowing the process to progress. And probably at home! The more relaxed and calm you can help your body become, the better experience you will have through those earlier stages of labor. You can also enlist Dad to do some massage on your lower back in case you experience back labor.

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2 KERF July 6, 2012 at 8:39 am

I do need to work on breathing – I’m not the best at it. Although whenever I stub my toe or hurt myself, I always practice!

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3 Maggie July 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Thanks! I have been trying to read with the week I am (12 weeks today) and hadnt gotten that far :)

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4 KERF July 6, 2012 at 5:28 pm

No problem

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5 Jodie July 6, 2012 at 8:40 am

Great post Kath, enjoy reading your journey & experiences.

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6 Tara July 6, 2012 at 8:42 am

I definitely think being active is important for labor. I am really impressed by all the exercises you are doing! With my first pregnancy I was not the most active. I walked, but was nervous about doing my normal exercises or pushing myself too hard. I made it through 20 hours of labor, but I feel like I would have had more energy and bounced back faster if I had kept up a regular workout routine. Now I’m pregnant with our second child and I’m focusing on combing walking with strength/areobic workouts. I’m interested to see how it will impact my labor/recovery this time around.

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7 Meghan July 6, 2012 at 9:00 am

Whoops, think you meant glutes!

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8 KERF July 6, 2012 at 9:04 am

Yes, thanks.

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9 Diana @ frontyardfoodie July 6, 2012 at 9:02 am

I truly believe preparation is the key for a good labor and delivery. Not necessarily physical (though that is extremely helpful) but keeping your labor in mind while doing all these things is going to be priceless. Learning about labor, each stage, and all the options for moving, positions for pushing and all that.

Trusting your body is key and you’ll be great. I’m SO glad you’re doing all this in preparation. Having those muscles ready will not let you down!

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10 Marci July 6, 2012 at 9:22 am

Definitely think all those things help the body and mind. Can’t hurt, and if it makes you feel good, it’s working.

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11 Alicia @culinarybliss July 6, 2012 at 9:29 am

I found that being in good shape helped with my endurance for labor, but REALLY helped with recovery. I was feeling really good pretty quickly and attribute it some to luck and some to being in shape.

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12 Julie H. of Spinach and Sprinkles July 6, 2012 at 9:32 am

I am soooo bad about remembering to stretch- I have a bad feeling it will totally catch up with me in the next few months when the big day(s) get here! :) You’re doing great!!!!

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13 Jessica July 6, 2012 at 9:53 am

Kath, I’m sure you know this, but some of your readers may not – as you get closer to your due date, you’re not supposed to do ANY types of inversions, even modified ones, as you want your baby to be moving DOWN the birth canal, not the other way around!

I don’t think I could have managed my 55+ hour labor naturally without having taken prenatal yoga! The most important thing that helped me from my yoga class was the breathing and relaxation – I used the vocalizations that we talked about in class to help relax through the contractions, and they really helped me through it. You have to be pretty zen and relaxed to make it through labor naturally. And for a type-A person like me, learning to relax, go with the flow, and put my own needs on the back burner during labor were a GREAT lesson for parenthood! Nothing will change a type-A person like having an infant! :)

Here’s my 2 cents about interventions: I would say though that labor is probably 20 percent physical and 80 percent mental! I’m not in particularly great shape (I workout on a regular basis and eat healthy but I am overweight), and one of my friends from prenatal yoga has done Ironman triathlons and marathons, and I managed a completely natural childbirth, whereas she said that labor was WAY harder than any marathon she had run (and her labor was only 10 hours!) and ended up with an epidural and other interventions. BUT the big difference was that I was very passionate about having a natural childbirth from the start, and she was pretty up in the air about getting an epidural. From my experience, women that aren’t completely intent on a natural childbirth usually end up with epidurals. It takes a LOT of mental discipline and determination to make it through the pain.

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14 KERF July 6, 2012 at 9:56 am

I agree with you on the mental part – Healthy Tipping Point has a link to an interesting article this morning on fear of childbirth and how it extends labor by an average of an hour and 32 minutes with likely more interventions. I’m hoping to go in the with the same attitude you did.

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15 Jessica July 6, 2012 at 10:02 am

I saw that article as well! I would guess that I’m an exception (considering my labor was over two days long, ha!), but I was never afraid until I started pushing – that kind of pain definitely incites a lot of fear, when you feel yourself ripping open! But that’s where my great support group came in – my husband and WONDERFUL nurse really motivated me and kept telling me how fast the baby was coming, and how well I was pushing, and I only ended up pushing for 45 minutes!
I think another thing that really helped me was not going into the hospital too early – I started having frequent contractions on a Wednesday night and I didn’t go into the hospital until midnight on Friday night. I knew there was no need to rush in, when my contractions were only 5-8 minutes apart! I waited until the pain really changed and the contractions were about 2 minutes apart, and when I got the hospital I was 5 cm. That made a BIG difference.

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16 Erin Motz July 6, 2012 at 11:13 am

My best friend did nothing – not even birth classes – and had a totally normal uneventful birth.no on the other hand, would be waaaayyy more inclined to prep as much as I thought I could, like you. Why not give yourself every opportunity to be as ready as possible, right?

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17 Jessie @ Graze With Me July 6, 2012 at 11:13 am

Chiropractic adjustments were a huge help not only during my pregnancy but especially in the weeks after. Labor & childbirth is quite a feat. Pushing out a baby, I used muscles i never knew about in my arms, neck, legs and back and I was SO sore all over for days. About a week later I went in for an adjustment and boy, did I need it! Plus, labor is equally hard on an infant. If your chiro offers adjustments for your child I highly recommend it. Helps with their sleep a lot!

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18 Elizabeth July 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Kath-where here in Cville do you do prenatal yoga? I have heard of people going to Bend but I don’ think that is where you go?

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19 KERF July 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm

At ACAC. I’ve been to Bend too, but it’s included in my ACAC membership whereas Bend is extra

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20 Averie @ Averie Cooks July 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I love each thing you wrote about and your connection to them and thoughts…from yoga to connecting with your teacher/doula on many levels to the chiro adjustments..you have done everything you can, Kath – bravo to you!

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21 Angel7 July 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm

I wish I could have done prenatal yoga! I am sure that it would have helped prepare my body for the big day.

I totally believe in chiropractic adjustments, & especially massage! Dealing with pain & not doing anything to help the situation is no fun, & those two things help.

http://faithfulsolutions.blogspot.com/

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22 Lindsay @ Fuel My Family July 6, 2012 at 3:53 pm

oh i hope for your sake it isn’t dayS! I agree with an earlier comment that fear may extend labor. I was SO excited to go into labor (im weird i guess) and mine were only 2 1/2 and 1 1/2 hours. Im sure there are many factors to that but still.

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23 Maggie July 6, 2012 at 4:28 pm

What types of strength training have you been doing specifically? What have you made modifications for?

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24 KERF July 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Body Pump classes and just recently, dropped one class for free weights. More info: http://www.babykerf.com/23-weeks-pumping-and-i-dont-mean-my-breasts/

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25 larabar July 6, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Hey there! I have had 3 children, and I found my experiences to be different each time. My first, I had an relatively quick, 8 hours, natural labor. My second was a 6 hour natural labor. My third was actually the worst. Everyone assumed that this baby would come quick, but she had other plans. I had lots of back labor, and my little miss must have been too comfy to come out. I had to get an epidural for the extreme back pain, which really was all over pain at that point, and had to get her party started with some more “move this thing along” drugs.

I ate healthy, exercised, worked all day (teacher), and took care of my other kids (obviously except while pregnant with the first). No matter your background, what you can afford to to, i.e. massages, chiropractors, etc. those little miracles are going to make their way in to this world how they want. You are going to have a beautiful son and that is all that matters. There is no medal for childbirth, just the miracle you created.

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26 Kate L. July 7, 2012 at 7:36 am

You are totally right! They get here how they get here. Preperation is never bad, but confidence that preperation automatically equals an end result you want is not helpful. It isn’t a contest to see who had the ‘best birth’ either or who had everything turn out ‘right’. I don’t blame you for wanting to get an epidural either with one of your births – no woman needs to excuse herself for making that decision. I think we overly-romanticize childbirth as our ancestors experienced it (we think, hey, they’ve been doing it without pain relief for thousands of years, so can I) but we forget that they HAD to do it that way. They had no choice. I highly suspect that if our ancestors had discovered some special tea to drink that took away the pain, many, many would have taken that tea to drink! I try to encourage women to do what they want to have the birth they envision (completely understanding that you don’t always get what you want) – if they think going *drug-free will make them happy then that is what you should do. If getting pain relief is what you want, it’s a perfectly good choice as well. I’m sure many women who have gone before would be very jealous that we have that choice and wish they had as well!

(*I sometimes shy away from the term “natural childbirth” because I think it implies a negative connotation to those that choose pain assistence. Women that get pain medication still go through the labor, experience the pain (it’s not like you get the epidural right away), and at the end, still push that baby out of their body! Pain or no pain, that still sounds pretty natural to me! Of course, those that need a C-section shouldn’t be shamed either, that’s grueling in it’s own way as well.)

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27 larabar July 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Well said! Having a baby is natural, no matter how they arrive in this world! People who have had to have epidurals or C-section, by choice or necessity, should never made to feel bad!

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28 Sara July 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

What’s the current theory on perineal massage? It was encouraged by my midwife 10 years ago with our first, so my husband did it for me (talk about strange!) starting around 36 weeks (?) or so. I had only a very small tear with our first baby and no tears at all with the second. Don’t know if the massage helped, but I was glad we did it anyway.

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29 KERF July 10, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I think it’s still encouraged….although I have no idea how to do it!

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