Easier and childbirth are not typically words that are put in the same sentence. And of course there are many factors outside of our control. But we might as well take advantage of the factors within our control to make the birthing process easier.
Easier meaning that the birthing process is optimized for a smoother and more efficient process. Not only is an easier birth is of course easier in the moment, but it also helps the recovery process to be smoother as well. Many people are talking about the importance of mental preparation and this is CRUCIAL to eliminating that fear-tension-pain cycle and making birth less painful. But what if the mind stuff is all figured out but the pelvic floor is still really tight and unyielding, or baby is in a less favorable position? Ideally we want to work on preparing the mind AND preparing the body. This article addresses the preparing the body for birth component. Something crucial yet rarely talked about. Rather than buying into the assumption that we are just victims to whatever is going on with our bodies, we must get into the driver’s seat and take control.
Why will preparing the body for birth make the process easier?
One of the reasons that body preparation for birth makes the process easier is that it helps baby to find an optimal position. Baby accommodates the space they are given.
If they have less space, or that space is more roomy on one side, twisted, kinked, they are more likely to find a position that may not be as easy to birth. The simple fact of the matter is, baby’s tend to have an easier time going through the birth canal in a position like LOA, which stands for Left Occiput Anterior (see image), with chin tucked, smallest part of the head coming first. Posterior positions (baby’s spine against your spin. Sometimes called “sunny side up”) do not fit through the pelvis as well and can be accompanied by back labor, where contractions are felt very intensely in the back.
Proper body prep for birth takes baby positioning into account. When we balance and prepare the body we are not forcing baby into optimal positioning, we are just opening up the space for them to find it. Through balance, alignment, breathing and core support we support and give baby room. Babies are smart and they want to find the optimal position, we just need to give them the opportunity and room!
When we find balance in the body- through the soft tissues (muscles) and boney structures (like the pelvis- which baby passes through), we help baby to find an optimal position which, as we mentioned above, can make the birthing process shorter, easier and more efficient. Additionally, when we learn how to carry ourselves throughout the day (alignment, as taught in One Strong Mama program) and use exercise techniques to create body balance, we optimize the function and space in the uterus, pelvic floor, pelvis. Unfortunately, not all exercise classes, even prenatal ones, have a solid understanding of pelvic floor, core, and alignment. So even though they feel good and are mentally extremely helpful, they are not necessarily helping to prepare the body for birth in a more specific and thoughtful way.
The back of the pelvis, called the sacrum, is designed to MOVE via the sacroiliac (SI) joint during the birthing process. This movement is called Nutation and Counter Nutation.
Modern life has made our sacrums much less mobile than they used to be. We sit on our sacrums all day and we don’t use our body’s in a way that allows freedom of movement for the amazing sacrum. Let’s learn how to free the sacrum via freeing up all the muscles attaching to it and sitting and moving through life in a way that doesn’t smash it. The first step is literally just untucking the pelvis through the day. The next step is supporting the movement of the sacrum through your exercise program so that you can free this amazing part of the body up so that it can do its job easier during the process of birth.
The pelvic floor must yield (open up) to allow baby to pass through. The goal is not a TIGHT pelvic floor. It’s a functional pelvic floor that holds everything (like our organs!) up and in when it is supposed to, but yields to allow a baby to pass through. Short and tight muscles do not yield well and if the pelvic floor is extremely tight, it can make childbirth much more difficult and can contribute to issues such as pelvic pain and sexual dysfunction. There is some thought that too much tension in the pelvic floor can contribute to a prolonged pushing stage. There are many different causes of a too tight pelvic floor and we see this issue come up in athletes and desk workers alike. Often the advice we are given to prepare our pelvic floors for childbirth is the kegel. While we are not anti-kegel, we do not think 100 kegels a day is the best approach for body preparation for children. Too many kegels might actually contribute to the problem. It is imperative that we learn how to prepare our pelvic floor in a way that allows it to strengthen to support our continence and pelvic health for life, but also allows yield for a baby to pass through.
To sum up, preparing the body for birth is important. Just as we must prepare our bodies for running a race, we too need to prepare our bodies for birthing a baby. Not only will preparing the body make the process easier, it will also set us up for long term health and vitality! And guess what? Body prep for birth is kinda our thing and we’ve got you covered if this sounds like something you’d like to work on. After years working with pregnant individuals in person, we knew we had to share this birth changing information with the world and developed the comprehensive online prenatal body preparation for birth program- where all of these topics of body preparation are addressed through exercise and education.
We would be honoured to support you on your marvelous journey.