How To Make Birth Easier With Effective Preparation

So you like giving birth naturally…. Now what?

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The pursuit of an easier birth is on most parent’s minds as they face the reality that the baby they are lovingly growing will need to eventually come out. BRM®️ views birth preparation as a multi-faceted approach that stacks the cards in our favor for a smoother, more satisfying birth experience. This article will provide an overview of those approaches.

What Does An Easier Birth Mean?

What an easier birth means to one person may not be the same for another. Most people would say they want to avoid a c-section, an episiotomy, an overly long birth and being overwhelmed. They might ask themselves how can I give birth faster, with less pain, and fewer interventions? As instructive as it is to look at what we want to avoid, let’s shift our focus to the positive.

Let’s agree that, for our purposes, an easier birth is one in which the birthing person feels calm and aligned with their desires. It would be a birth that is in that Goldilocks zone of not too quick and not too long. An easier birth is one in which the baby is able to get head down, rotate into an ideal position and descend easily through the maternal body. It is a birth that accesses the incredible power of the birthing body and mind.

So, how do we get there? The good news is that there are ways to prepare in pregnancy that will significantly improve the chances of an easier birth. The solution to how to make birth easier isn’t just one magic thing.

Why Specificity Matters

Think about the different types of physical training we do. When we prepare for running a marathon we have a very different training protocol than if we were training for a weightlifting competition. Yet, when we get pregnant we are mostly told “just listen to your body,” “do what you’ve already been doing” or “do your kegels (or squats).” What does “just listen to your body” even mean and how can we really help prepare for one of the most incredible physiological feats ever: childbirth?

We start making birth easier by using what the exercise science world calls the law of specificity: training specifically for the changing pregnant body, the event of childbirth, and to optimize postnatal recovery. And yes, there really are specific ways we can prepare in pregnancy that make an easier birth far more likely.

There are many factors at play outside of our control that can impact how easy or difficult our births may be. But, time and time again we see the physical and mental preparation work when done consistently over time. The most important factor when looking for exercises to make birth easier is to choose a program that is designed for pregnant people. This will ensure that all exercises take into account the changes happening within the pregnant body and the distinct needs of that body in birth.

The Limits Of The Usual

The importance of this specificity in exercises to make birth easier can be seen when we look at common birth preparation advice such as doing Kegels. They were taught as an exercise to strengthen the pelvic floor. The problem is, kegels don’t address strength holistically. They just make the pelvic floor more tight and a tighter pelvic floor isn’t necessarily a stronger one and it certainly isn’t a functional one.

The healthiest state of the pelvic floor is to be flexible and responsive to the needs of the body. When the pelvic floor is in this condition, if we jump, laugh or sneeze the pelvic floor knows how to respond appropriately – rather than leak! When we are giving birth a flexible and responsive pelvic floor has the ability to yield and stretch for the baby to pass through it.

Because of the inadequacy of recommending Kegels to everyone, regardless of the state of their individual pelvic floors, many advise squats instead. The thought is that while Kegels contract the pelvic floor, squatting can lengthen it. Once again, this guidance lacks specificity. It views the pelvic floor as an independent entity when it is really part of an integrated system that interacts with many different parts of the body.

To answer the question “what makes giving birth easier”, look beyond the overly simplified blanket recommendations like “do Kegels” or “do squats” and look at the whole body. When we work towards balance in the whole body, we give it the ability to have an easier, shorter and safer birth.

After all, the pelvic floor is the bottom of the core system. Think of it as the gear of a machine. Is one shiny gear going to make the whole machine work better? Not if the parts aren’t communicating with each other. This interconnectedness means seemingly unconnected areas of the body can and will influence each other. An effective exercise program will address the whole body and help all the parts of the body work well together in the group project that is growing and birthing a baby

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Movement Patterns & Alignment

As we start to look at the integrated body as a whole, we also want to take into account how we move and use our bodies daily. This can reveal valuable insights into which areas of the body need special attention and what form that attention may need to take.

Let’s explain movement patterns through the idea of a group project. Maybe you’ve been part of a group project where some of your team members were underworking and other team members were overworking. The work is imbalanced! In our bodies, if there is imbalance, we often go to a bodyworker, such as a massage therapist, and get that tight, overworked tissue massaged and released.

This can be very relaxing. But what happens when that relaxed tissue has to go back to that group project? If we have not addressed the slackers on the team, the overworker is just going to tense back up. They want an A on the project, afterall. Part of the work we do here at BRM ® ️ is to help your body’s group project to be balanced and that is the foundation of what makes giving birth easier.

Think about what you do throughout your day and how you have used your body throughout your life. Were or are you an athlete? Do you stand with a baby on your hip for many hours a day? Do you sit at a desk for work all day? Our body adapts to how we have used it throughout our lives, not to the hour we are working out at the gym.

Work smarter, not harder, by learning how to move better throughout your day-to-day life. Otherwise, we can spend a lot of time undoing the good work we’ve maybe put in during our movement time. That is why at BRM®️, we do not just give you exercise classes, but teach you about your body systems in a fun and accessible way. So that if you, for example, must sit at a desk for work all day, you can learn how to address that.

Those who sit at a desk for work every day may need to work on creating length in the muscles at the front of the hips. These can become shortened from the many hours, day after day, of sitting with our knees flexed at 90 degrees or more.

A simple tip for you: Find Neutral Pelvis! Place a rolled towel, a segment of pool noodle or a small bolster on your work chair and sit on it. Keep the bolster just underneath the bony part of your bottom and it will lift your hips slightly higher, allowing the muscles at the front of the hips to relax into a more lengthened position. Your sticky out hip bones (ASIS: Anterior Superior Iliac Spine) should be stacked on top of your pubic bone. Pelvic alignment should never be forced, and bolstering the hips up allows it to feel easeful and natural. Additionally. Make sure to regularly take a break from sitting to walk around your workspace. The best position is your next one. Meaning, mix it up! We are not meant to sit in the same position for hours on end. Remember, our body adapts to what we ask it to do/not do, so let’s give it more options!

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Upper Body

The upper body is an often missed, yet incredibly important aspect to preparing for an easier birth. The upper body includes the rib cage and the respiratory diaphragm, which is our breathing muscle and the top of the core system. With every breath, it interacts with the bottom of the core system, the pelvic floor – which will need to yield to allow the baby through in birth.

During pregnancy, as the baby is taking up more and more space in the abdominal cavity, the rib cage has to expand to accommodate this. But what happens when either the rib cage can’t expand well, or expands too much? This is when we see an upper body restriction.

The ISA (infrasternal angle) can become too wide or it can remain too narrow. People with one or the other usually also have specific compensations throughout the body. Remember the group project: if something is underworking, something else is overworking to pick up the slack. Compensations for either of these situations can impact how much space is available within the pelvis. Ideally we want a dynamic infrasternal angle; one that can expand dimensionally when we inhale, and come together when we exhale.

One important tip to promote upper body balance for easier birth is to remove the tight bra strap. During pregnancy we want to be able to breathe into the rib cage and tight bras limit that movement and therefore limit the mobility of the ribs and pelvis. If you can get your ribs moving, you will be getting your pelvic bones moving too, because they mirror one another when we breathe.

Core

Many people think of “abdominal muscles” when they hear the word “core” but the core system actually includes the respiratory diaphragm at the top, the pelvic floor at the bottom, and the abdominal muscles at the front. All of these parts are like gears in a machine, all working together to control and manage pressure in the abdominal cavity.

We can think of the abdominal cavity like a balloon filled with air. If you squeeze one end of the balloon, the air is pushed into a different part of the balloon and that part will be more stretched and weaker. Likewise, if one part of the core system is too tight, or not working well with the others, it is going to push that pressure too much in one spot. Taking the upper body example above, if the upper body is tense, it would be like squeezing the top of a filled up balloon, what is going to happen to the rest of the balloon? More pressure is going to be placed on it.

If the abdominals are not supporting well from the front we may see abdominal doming, where the muscles bulge outward. If the system isn’t working well together or the pelvic floor is too tight we tend to see urinary incontinence. Symptoms are a sign that the system needs attention from us to restore balance.

A balanced core system will allow babies to find their most optimal position for childbirth. They navigate the space they are given and a balanced core system allows for a balanced uterus. That gives the baby the greatest chance to find their best position.

If there is a clear goal for the core when preparing for birth, it would be to optimize core balance via a stacked and responsive core system. This would allow space for the baby to turn out of a breech position and into a head down position for birthing. Working in this balanced way is considered “prehab” and will also help optimize core function to support postpartum core rehab and lessen too much abdominal separation (diastasis recti).

Pelvis

The pelvis is a dynamic, shape shifting entity that adapts to how we use it throughout our lives. No two pelvises are exactly the same. Many people are told their pelvis is either “too small” or that the baby is “too large” to birth. In reality, true CPD (cephalopelvic disproportion), the name for the condition where a baby’s head is much larger than the internal space of the pelvis, is very rare and tends to go along with either the mother’s childhood nutritional deficiencies or a birth defect.

The pelvis has 2 joints in the back, the sacroiliac joints that join the sacrum to the bones of the pelvis, a joint in the front called the pubic symphysis, and a joint at the bottom of the sacrum that attaches the tailbone. These joints allow for movement when we move the spine and the leg that are attached to the pelvis.

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And while the pelvis is intended to be dynamic and have movement via the legs, spine, and even the arms, we do not tend to use our pelvis in very dynamic ways in this modern day and age. We spend a lot of time sitting, crossing our legs, wearing high heel shoes, tensing our core muscles and living in high stress environments. Our body, mind and spirit adapts and very often as a result, the pelvis can get immobile and imbalanced. Our bodies are designed to make giving birth easier and we can make that more likely to happen when we discover the way to make that ease available to us and then practice it throughout pregnancy.

Pelvic Floor

After getting into the top of the pelvis, the baby will begin moving downwards. Partway through its journey, the top of the baby’s head will meet the pelvic floor. Ideally, the pelvic floor will encourage the baby to tuck their head into their chest and present the smallest diameter while birthing as they spiral deeper into the pelvis.

If the pelvic floor has low tone, the baby’s head may not tuck. If the pelvic floor is unbalanced, the tuck may happen, but the baby’s head may also tilt to one side. In both of these cases, the untucked or tilted head presents a larger shape that will move through the maternal body much more slowly. If the pelvic floor is very tight, the baby may take a long time and need a lot of force to move through and be born.

People looking for ways to make giving birth easier should find exercises that will release tension in the pelvic floor, lengthen the muscles and build strength. The goal is for the muscles to be balanced and strong enough to help the baby flex their chin to their chest, without tipping to one side, while being yielding enough to allow the baby through with low effort.

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Mental & Emotional Preparation

In the pursuit of an easier birth, mental and emotional preparation cannot be overstated. It is the thing that unlocks the power of physical preparation.

There is a dynamic interaction between the mind and body during labor. This is the nervous system with its twin, but opposite, aspects at play. The nervous system is the main communication system of the body. It takes in information and then directs the body as to how it should respond. Like a coin, there are two sides to the nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system gets activated when we perceive danger and the parasympathetic nervous system helps our body relax.

Our nervous system is designed to help us respond to danger and then relax, or “rest and digest”, after the threat has passed. The problem lies in the fact that a lot of us are running from “internal tigers” for days, weeks, even years at a time. This chronic stress can have major implications on our health and it can also have major implications on our birthing process.

Help your body remember how to give birth

Learn birth positions and techniques to help baby progress and what to do if labor stalls  

Help your body remember how to give birth child
Innerwork

It’s crucial to acknowledge and process our inner fears and biases surrounding childbirth. This is part of the innerwork needed to become more emotionally and mentally resilient. Some may be deeply afraid of birth after hearing stories and watching high risk or fictionalized depictions. We may have assumptions about birth and what we are capable of achieving. By cultivating self-awareness and actively engaging with our emotions and biases, we can transform our worry into strength. 

Incorporating practices like deep breathing and mindfulness, along with the innerwork of processing and releasing fear helps condition your nervous system to learn how to respond to stress better. Actively engaging in these techniques reduces stress and fosters an environment that eases contractions, making the overall birthing process more comfortable. 

What if we didn’t do this innerwork before birth? Like most stressful and challenging situations, our fears and anxieties would rear up and affect how we function. As we’ve explained, our nervous system is designed to keep us safe. If we don’t feel safe, one way our body responds is to change how the muscles of the uterus behave. 

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Our uterus has vertical and horizontal muscle fibers that are designed to draw up, dilate and efface the cervix. This leads to labor progress. When we feel safe, contractions can do this work powerfully which builds a muscular wall at the top of the uterus (the fundus) that will help to push the baby out into the world.

If we don’t feel safe in labor and our mental tigers are chasing us, those muscle fibers behave differently. The horizontal fibers of the uterus get activated when our nervous system is up-regulated because they are designed to react to our perception of danger, clamp down, and halt the birth process. It’s a primal reaction that allows us to get somewhere safe, away from the predator that is chasing us. When the danger has passed, we can relax, down-regulate, and progress.

This goes haywire in modern maternity care. While you probably aren’t running from a predator during your birthing process, those imaginary internal tigers that we are often running from for days, weeks, and even years at a time feel as real a threat to our nervous system as an actual tiger. Those internal tigers are often chronic stress, trauma, our perceptions about childbirth, and the often flawed medical system. If we are looking for ways to make giving birth easier, manage stress, confront fears, and practice down-regulating the nervous system.

Communication

Changing the way we communicate with ourselves is a powerful tool in this journey. It fosters a positive mindset and builds the mental resilience necessary for labor. Studies looking at positive self-talk in endurance athletes show a consistently strong positive effect in boosting their performance.

When athletes prepare for a competition they don’t start off by visualizing themselves failing. They don’t spend their preparation time thinking about how the conditions of the field are going to be terrible. They visualize themselves successfully carrying all of the moves required to score or win. They tell themselves out loud and within their own minds that they are unbeatable, that they will win.

Our society loves to tell us how painful, scary, and awful birthing is. And we have come to expect that. There is often a lot of unlearning and deprogramming to be done when preparing for a more joyful journey.

Birth is a feat of endurance that is physically demanding. Can you imagine finding the challenges of birth satisfying, even rewarding, in the same way we find a day-long hike or hours of sparring at the gym satisfying? When we change up the stories we tell ourselves about birth, we can build a strong positive expectation that birth is not something impossible to manage. We can teach our minds to expect an easier birth. And, if you are scoffing at the term “easier birth” then you, like a lot of people, may have some deprogramming to do.

Education

Education serves as a cornerstone for dismantling myths and fostering a deeper understanding of physiological birth. It removes the unknowns and builds confidence. That confidence allows for the fruits of all of the prenatal preparation to be available in labor.

It opens up a spectrum of options, enabling people to tailor their birthing plans according to their preferences and values. Armed with information about pain management options and potential interventions, families can make choices that align with their individual needs. Additionally, learning and practicing coping techniques, such as breathing exercises, visualization, and movement, during childbirth education classes allows the expecting to embody these skills, enhancing their ability to manage pain and stress when labor unfolds.

We believe that it’s not about memorizing birth positions, it’s about knowing them in your body. That way, during the process you will be able to intuitively find what positions feel right for you. But how can you be intuitive with a position you’ve never tried before?

In the Body Ready Birth program, we teach you how to open each level of the pelvis and give you a chance to practice. That way, the movements are known in your body, not just your brain. Think about the first time you rode a bike. There was a lot to think about! It didn’t feel easy. Now think about bike riding after years. You just do it. You don’t even have to think about it. It’s not just creating space and balance, but creating intuitive pathways for movement. And that is important for helping us achieve the labor flow state.

Flow

Hungarian researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihaly has focused his research on the psychology of flow. It’s that state we find ourselves in when we have the skills and desire to meet a challenge and where the meeting of that challenge feels both effortless and satisfyingly ambitious.

Csikszentmihaly found that when people were prepared for difficult tasks they were more likely to be able to meet their challenges while remaining positively engaged in the task at hand. The harder the task was going to be, the more thoroughly it’s recommended people prepare. The better prepared a person is, the more instinctually they respond to their challenge.

If we, again, look at athletics, we can often see an athlete in this flow state. We can also see how people both try to protect it – like a masters golf tournament where everyone hushes as the golfer tees up – or they try to interrupt it – just like a baseball game where the fans shout at the opposing team’s batter.

Flow is best achieved with few interruptions, but it’s really only truly achievable when our desire to achieve a goal, matches the level of preparation to do the work and when that goal requires us to work at or near the limits of our abilities – because, quite frankly, if the task were easy, we might not believe it important enough to invest effort into. And if we don’t want to do the work, we will never even try.

The labor flow state in birth, sometimes affectionately referred to as “Laborland”, describes when birthing people are able to instinctually cope with contractions while remaining calm. It is a flow state where physical and mental preparation meet and make the work of birthing seem a compelling and welcome task. Ultimately, when a person is able to remain in flow, they will be better able to have an easier, shorter and safer birth.

To achieve and maintain this state in labor we must release our fears about birth – about pain and loss of control, about medical procedures and interacting with the healthcare system, about complications and what ifs – and we have to let it all go well before labor ever begins. We need to manage our emotions and tension in labor, releasing everything to remain calm and relaxed.

If we commit to the work and stay in the labor flow state, the rewards are pretty amazing. Birth will be calmer and more relaxed. It will move more easily and quickly from one phase to the next. It will be low stress which will allow all of the right hormones to surge and do their job while minimizing the hormones that slow labor down. We will be in a meditative state responding to what’s happening in our body with instinctual movements that move labor along and ease the baby into the world.

Armed with knowledge, a mindset attuned to positivity, and a balanced body, expectant families will navigate the challenges of birth with greater confidence. They will create a birth environment conducive to a more connected and ultimately easier birthing experience.

Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the most effective exercises to prepare for an easier birth?

The answer to this depends on you and your unique body. Connect with a professional, like a BRM®️ Pro, who can assess your body’s specific needs and provide a targeted movement plan to create balance, mobility, flexibility and strength for birth. We also offer an online prenatal exercise program that is designed to help you learn about your own body’s patterns and address through online exercise classes.

2. Can prenatal yoga really make birth easier?

A good quality prenatal yoga class, taught by a pregnancy and birth aware teacher, can be a great way to prepare for an easier birth. It can provide a combination of mental and physical benefits. Yoga classes typically inspire positive expectation, improve our resilience and encourage relaxation while moving through stretches and poses that will feel good in the pregnant body. Remember, however, that stretching is not an effective approach to easier birth and being more flexible is not the best approach to easier birth. It’s about creating balance and responsiveness in the tissues and nervous system.

3. What role does a doula, birth coach or BRM®️ Pro play in making birth easier?

A BRM®️ Pro can assess and guide you through a movement plan that will create balance and yield within the maternal body that will make birthing smoother and easier. A doula, or birth coach will guide you through the birth itself, helping you to find your flow and cope through birth. A doula or birth coach who is also a BRM®️ Pro can provide you with specific muscle softening and space creating positions and movements during labor and birth that will significantly reduce the need for interventions and speed up labor. Find a BRM®️ Pro here!

4. Are there ways to reduce anxiety and fear about giving birth?

There are many ways to reduce anxiety and fear around birthing. That is the process of doing the innerwork. Learn more about labor and birth from experts by taking a class, reading a book or an article. Learn different ways to relax through meditation and breathwork. For those with intense fears and anxiety, connecting with a therapist can be transformative.

5. How does a supportive birthing environment contribute to easier labor?

The environment in which we birth, the specific space and the people who will be in that space, can profoundly impact how easy birth can be. You can not enter into the labor flow state, a state of being where you have intuitive awareness and access to a deep well of hormonal support if you do not feel safe. When we find providers whose values align with our own, when we birth in spaces that are inviting and calm, we will be able to trust in the process, knowing our nurses, midwives and doctors will be cheering us on and actively supporting easier labor.

Are you ready to rock your pregnancy with a free workout on us?

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We would be honoured to support you on your marvelous journey.

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