Giving birth is one of the most physically demanding things a person can go through. I’ve never run a marathon, but the cliche comparison between birth and running 26.2 miles straight seems to be fairly accurate. After all, what you do in the days, weeks, and months leading up to delivery heavily impacts how your childbirth experience unfolds. Needless to say, movement is a must not an optional addition.
Before we dive in, let me say one thing. Unforeseeable things do occur in some labors. I don’t want to sound like I am insisting that a great prenatal movement protocol is the solution to delivery complications – it’s not. That said, physically preparing for labor has a myriad of benefits beyond delivery. Some researchers have found that there may be long-term cardiovascular advantages for babies born to mothers who were active during pregnancy! Minimal weight gain and a faster postpartum recovery are additional perks of staying active while the bun is in the oven.
My Story in a Nutshell
So far, I’ve been given birth to two, beautiful, rambunctious boys. My first birth lasted roughly six hours and my second decided to appear in just under 3 1/2. (You can read my birth stories here: Birth #1 | Birth #2) I followed the same, general protocol to prepare my body for labor with each pregnancy. The second time around, I made a few, educated tweaks to ensure that my efforts were providing the most benefits, but overall stuck to the same plan.
Not only did my protocols allow me to have relatively fast deliveries, but they also let me experience nearly identical (read: positive) pregnancies. I experienced no excess weight gain, minimal aches and pains, and actually went into labor the exact same day in both of my pregnancies (28 + 5) without any form of induction.
Why does movement matter?
Before we dive into the protocol, I want to remind you that movement really matters when talking about preparing for childbirth. Being active – beyond simply exercising – is great for building endurance for giving birth. Birth is not a walk in the part and it is so important to strengthen our muscles (not just the pelvic floor) when preparing for the incredible symphony of bringing a baby into the world.
As you near delivery, intentional movement is also highly beneficial for encouraging baby to drop into the correct position for delivery. You’ll notice that I incorporate a wide variety of movements in my protocol. My ultimate goal with movement is optimal pelvic alignment and proper fetal positioning. By getting my body – specifically pelvis and surrounding ligaments, tendons, and tissues – into the best position, I could minimize the amount of work I would have to do when it came time to deliver.
You may also like: 11 Simple Steps to a Faster Labor
The same is true for you. While I fully understand the temptation to veg out on the couch in the third trimester with a pint of ice cream, there are better ways to relax your body that facilitate a great delivery. We’ll dive into them below.
Please speak with your care provider prior to starting a movement routine to ensure that it is safe for you and your unique situation. I am not a doctor or personal trainer. This is the protocol that worked for me.
The Movement Protocol
So, let’s talk movement! I’m a huge advocate of moving as much as possible while also allowing for plenty of rest. Growing a baby is hard work. As much as we want to be maintaining an active lifestyle, it is also important to respect the body that is working so hard to grow a life. I’ll share how we do that in a moment.
Before we dive in, I want to remind you that eating enough is essential while pregnant, especially when physically active. Ensure that you are consuming enough protein, fats, and whole fruits and vegetables. Those will aid you in preparing your body for birthing your baby. More to come on that in another post.
Do you have an autoimmune disease? I wrote an entire post on how to be pregnant and avoid an autoimmune flare here.
Let’s get to it! Here’s my movement routine:
Entire Pregnancy: Walk, Workout 2-4 x per week, Squats
Take magnesium, eat what sounds good, and just get through it. If I feel awake enough to exercise, then do it! Otherwise…just get through.
By 20 Weeks – Swap out my chair for the birthing ball
Keep exercising as I feel able, aiming for 3-4 times per week, and avoid any unsafe core exercises. I specifically emphasize weight training over cardio, which is something I was doing prior to pregnancy. Also, try to fit in prenatal yoga once a week or so. Ultimately, just work on being happy, healthy, and strong this trimester.
At some point during this trimester, I also start doing Spinning Babies exercises on a daily basis. (Specifically, the Forward Inversion and Side Lying Release.) I continue these until delivery.
30 Weeks – Squatting more consistently, with an emphasis on ancestral squatting. (Not sure what that is? Here’s a great tutorial.)
By 36 Weeks – Intentionally walking at least 3-5 miles per day
Continue to exercise, with an emphasis on weight training. From 36 weeks on, I start favoring upbeat cardio.
Walk Stairs 1-2 x per week for 15-20 minutes. Bump up the tunes and see how many times I can go from the first floor to the third.
Pelvic Opening routine 3-5 x per day. (New for my second pregnancy.) This is such a great thing to add in for encouraging the pelvis to remain balanced and baby to drop lower! A single set is each of these exercises for 5 minutes – deep squat, leg up/uneven pelvis – right then left. (See “Step Three: Get Up and Moving” here and also the note below*.) In total, it should take 15 minutes to get through. This is a great time to do computer work, listen to a podcast, or watch something.
In the evenings, I would rest on the birthing ball in all fours for 30-60 minutes. This is very relaxing and also great for encouraging baby to move into the proper position. Often, I would also place a rice pack on my tail bone to amplify the relaxation I felt in this position. One suggestion, place your yoga mat below you to add a cushion for your knees.
While not technically a movement I performed, I also saw my Chiropractor, who is Webster Certified, every week throughout my pregnancy. The helped to reinforce all of the pelvis-balancing activities I was performing at home.
What did your movement routine look like during pregnancy? I’d love to hear about it below in the comments!
*Why not the entire Miles Circuit? Spinning Babies advocates for doing the Side Lying position daily during pregnancy. It is one of the exercises I use in my daily movement prep! The Open Knee Chest, however, should only be utilized under care provider supervision. In Spinning Babies, this pose is used to turn a breech baby or help progress labor when baby is malpositioned. I’ve read unfortunate stories of women who utilize this pose only to discover that it caused their baby to turn breech. Before incorporating this into your daily routine, please speak to your care provider and chiropractor.
Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. Please speak to your care provider before making any diet or lifestyle changes. This article contains affiliate links. You will not be charged extra when purchasing through the links provided in this post. A small portion of the purchase will support this website.