Practices to start early in your pregnancy (prenatal yoga and more)
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
We often start thinking of birth preparation classes when our belly is getting in a way, which may be in a late second trimester or early third. Better later than never, absolutely true!
How about though if you knew that by changing some of your habits, or adding a short practice to your daily routine earlier on, could help you with positioning your baby in the most optimal way for birth? Or avoid lower back pain? Or help you sleep better?
Below is a short list of practices which are worth exploring early on during pregnancy, as it can help you to avoid common pregnancy pains, and to experience more comfortable and calm labor..
1. Neutral posture (‘zero balance’)
Why keeping your posture in zero balance when sitting / standing is an important one during pregnancy?
You are likely to avoid or minimize lower back pain which may become quite heavy with growing belly over time
You allow your baby to find the most optimal position for birthing which will help you and your baby to experience an easier and more comfortable labor
The so called 'slouching on a sofa' creates the opposite of what you are aiming for – you put your pelvis in a position where the lower back and sacral area are not activated and over time become weakened. Hence lower back pain. You are also creating a ‘hammock’ for your baby to fall into – back of your baby aligned with your back, which means baby’s face directed towards the front of your body – a position of your baby which will require more effort during labor..
It is true that it is only later in your pregnancy when both lower back pain become more of an issue (it intensifies with growing belly), and when your baby starts positioning itself for birthing (somewhere around week 28), however changing the way you sit or stand require more time than a day. Same as when you try to stop smoking, or give up some weight – it takes time to change your habits, and for this reason it makes absolute sense to start with correcting your posture as early as you can during your pregnancy.
For teaching points on neutral position in sitting, standing, all fours and sitting on a chair, see the article here, #1 on the list. Below short tutorial also provides some more guidance.
2. Pelvic floor exercises
Woman’s pelvic floor muscles, so the muscles around our genitals, are inevitably affected by the weight of the growing baby during pregnancy.
Why we want to add pelvic floor muscles exercises to our daily routine as early as we can (which is after wk 14 of your pregnancy, similar as most of other yoga practices when pregnant)?
You increase elasticity and toning of your pelvic floor muscles which will help with keeping their integrity throughout your pregnancy and labor
You create the awareness of your pelvic floor muscles, which will be essential during labor when you need to focus on release and relaxation of that part of your body
Toned pelvic floor muscles are a great help for your baby during labor while he/she is moving through birth path to be born. Healthy pelvic floor muscles allow your baby to find the most optimal position for birthing
Pelvic floor exercises are also the first ones to practice in postnatal period. If you happen to have elastic and toned muscles as your starting point from before labor, your recovery in this area is also very likely to happen faster..
So yes, it may not be the most appealing of the practices, but it is definitely one of the most essential for us when pregnant. We can do it in any position really. Just pick a daily activity during which you can easily remember about the practice, and combine it with pelvic floor exercises.
For teaching points and additional tips, watch the short tutorial below or see the article here (scroll to middle of the page).
3. Long exhalation
Why it’s worth to start practicing it when pregnant?
During labor long exhalation is our natural pain killer. It helps us relax between the surges (contractions), and keep ourselves in a ‘zone’ which makes labor more calm, and comfortable experience
During pregnancy long exhalation may become a practice that can help us with many pregnancy challenges, like:
Anxiety and stress – lengthening exhalations slows the heart rate, decreases the amount of oxygen in the lungs after exhalation, and reduces fear and anxiety. That in turn can help avoiding a series of other problems, such as insomnia, hypertension and depression
Digestion – deep breathing massages digestive organs, hence improves the efficiency of the digestive process..
Not to mention that long exhalation is an easy way to achieve deep relaxation, which helps pregnant women to rest and recuperate at times when sleep may be interrupted during pregnancy and prepares them for the early months of caring for their babies.
For teaching points on long exhalation / calm breathing, including guidance on positions for relaxation, watch a short tutorial below or see the article here, #1 on the list.
4. Drink plenty of water
Why hydration becomes an essential topic when we are pregnant?
Water helps with your digestion by moving food through the digestive system and then moving toxic waste products out of your body
Water acts as a lubricant as well as a cushion for joints and muscles, and plays a major role in the spinal cord – an important functionality to keep with all the changes in your body..
Since pregnancy changes the way your body stores and uses fluids, the kidneys are far more active in filtering toxins. Increasing your consumption of water can help in this process and help avoid problems with toxemia later in pregnancy
Drinking sufficient water will help you during pregnancy to avoid some of the inconveniences like joint pain, constipation, muscle cramps or digestion problems
Worth knowing, amniotic fluid is replenished at least three times a day. Another reason why we should drink enough water every day.
And what is enough water?
It depends on the climate you live in, how active you are, or what is your current diet. General advice is 2 liters a day (8 medium glasses). The best way to see if you have enough though is to check the color of your urine – a body that is properly hydrated releases urine that is the color of light lemonade.
Some additional tips:
Carry a water bottle with you. It helps us remember to drink water during the day.
You may also put a few elastics on the top of the water, and each time you need to fill it up again, you take one elastic away – this way you know how much you drunk throughout a day.
It may be worth to drink more during the first part of the day. Filling up just before you go sleep will most likely lead to you waking up often to go to toilet, hence dealing with interrupted sleep or sometimes insomnia..
5. Stretch your hamstrings
Lengthening your hamstrings are a way to prepare your pelvis for labor, not for solving a slower pace during labor itself..
Why it’s worth to practice hamstrings stretches when pregnant?
You are creating more space in your pelvis, ‘freeing up the sacrum’
This way you are likely to avoid tension that may in some cases delay baby rotation during labor
And your sacrum and buttocks are more mobile when you need your pelvis to open for your baby during descent in labor
There is a number of prenatal yoga poses that can help you with stretching your hamstrings. A simple exercise to start with is calf stretches:
You can use a block, a folded blanket or a half foam tube. Best to place it against the wall, so you can support yourself while you step one foot on the block.
Straighten and bend the knee slightly and stay on each side for couple of breaths (start with 2-3 breaths, and extend to 5 over time). Repeat couple of times on each side (starting with 2-3 times, extending to 5 over time)
For those who have been practicing yoga before pregnancy, you may find those poses helping with extending hamstrings as well: 'Warrior sequence', Trikonasana, 'Prasarita sequence', Goddess pose, and the most classic one – Downward dog.
For teaching points on above mentioned poses, see an article here where you can also find a full prenatal yoga sequence for home practice (25 min). #pregnancy #pregnancyyoga #prenatalyoga #birthlight #spinningbabies #hypnobirthing