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Antenatal Exercises

Benefits of Antenatal Exercises

While it is true that pregnancy and childbirth are both natural occurrences, there is no doubt that performing antenatal exercises will benefit the mom-to-be during labor.  Muscles that have gone unused for any other purpose will be called into service during labor, and preparing them for this duty will aid in making labor easier.

Pregnancy creates a great burden upon the female anatomy.  Additional weight that increases pressure on the bladder, rectum, legs and back; a flux of emotional hormones that go up and down like an elevator; essential elements being pulled from the woman’s body to provide for the fetus; these are all things with which a pregnant woman’s body must deal.  Despite the fact that the female body is equipped for carrying a fetus and giving birth, there are still many demands placed on the physique that can be tiring and painful.  Thankfully, there are exercises that are designed for the pregnant woman to make the process less stressful for their body.

It is important to stay physically fit during pregnancy, even when the inclination is to sit with your feet up.  Keeping your body in shape will help the digestive, respiratory and immune systems continue functioning properly.  Exercises such as walking and light aerobics will also keep the woman’s energy level high as well the emotional well being in balance.  Going one step further, performing antenatal exercises will prepare the body for the immense activity that labor demands.  There are structured, organized classes that are recommended for women to learn the proper technique of these exercises and how often to do them. 

Called antenatal exercises, these activities work muscle groups that will be called in action during the last month of pregnancy and through labor.  Abdominal muscles, pelvic floor muscles, oblique and back muscles work in conjunction with the uterus as contractions accomplish the delivery force of birth.  If the muscles are not in optimal shape, the sudden stress that labor places on them will exhaust them quickly.  Before beginning any type of exercise, pregnant women are strongly cautioned to consult with their doctor to ensure the safety of doing so.  Exercises designated as antenatal are safe, but situations can vary from woman to woman. 

Kegel exercises are those which work the pelvic floor muscles.   These are the muscles that support the uterus, the bladder and the bowel.  To perform, the pelvic floor muscles are contracted and then relaxed.  The contractions should be held for approximately 4 counts, and then relaxed for four counts.  This exercise should be performed several days every day for the best results, and can be done innocuously anywhere without anyone knowing.  The added benefit of this type of exercise is that, done regularly, it will lessen the chance of incontinence after pregnancy as well.

Certain yoga poses and stretches are also beneficial for strengthening the muscles.  Before beginning any yoga exercise, discuss the types of exercises that would be appropriate with the instructor.  The “cat and cow”, the “pelvic tilt” and the “child’s pose” are some of the beneficial exercises that are also safe for a pregnant woman to perform. 

Pilates is a wonderful means of strengthening and toning muscle groups, and there are specific Pilates antenatal exercises that can be practiced by pregnant women.  There are many, however, that could place too much stress on the body.  For this reason, it is important to either find a Pilates class that is targeted for pregnant women or to ensure that the Pilates instructor knows that you are pregnant so she can safely modify the exercises for you. 

Staying in shape during pregnancy through exercise not only helps labor go more smoothly, but will provide additional benefits after the baby is born and you begin to regain your pre-pregnancy body.


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