• Caroline
  • Jul 10, 24
  • Bagga min read

117: How to Physically Prepare for Birth with Prenatal Yoga

Pregnancy and birth places your pelvic floor muscles under enormous strain. Prior to pregnancy you’ve probably not given much thought to your pelvis or pelvic floor, then suddenly, you’re expected to know how to move your pelvis during labor, how to activate your pelvic floor muscles, relax them, and use them to push your baby out! Not only that, but a strong pelvic floor is the starting point for your postpartum healing.

Due to the strain it puts on your body, giving birth is often compared to running a marathon but many women still under prepare. They mistakenly think their body should just “know what to do” and to a degree, it does. But you wouldn’t run a marathon without spending months preparing for it – running daily, stretching your muscles, eating healthy food, ensuring you have the right support crew, and working on your mindset so you can keep running even when you feel like giving up. So why not do the same for birth?

When it comes to pregnancy, staying active is important and you may have read that prenatal yoga is the best all-round form of exercise. But what you may not have realized, is that pregnancy yoga is also the best way of preparing for birth – both mentally and physically.

As a prenatal yoga teacher and doula with over 12 years of experience supporting thousands of pregnant women, I have seen firsthand the many benefits of prenatal yoga. In this blog post I will focus on five of the physical benefits for birth.

1. Create long and supple muscles

Why is this important? Long muscles and a full range of motion make room for your baby so they can get into a better position for a quicker, easier descent through the birth canal (see number 3.) Supple muscles allow your pelvis to open during contractions better than stiff muscles can.

How does yoga help with this? Prenatal yoga involves both stretching and strengthening. Strength-work is important to prevent aches and pains, because you’ll be carrying extra weight during pregnancy. Maintaining your core strength as much as possible during pregnancy will create a “belt and braces” support for your baby, reducing the strain on your back.

In addition, well-toned muscles stretch better to make room for baby to get into the optimal position.

2. Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles

Why is this important? Pregnancy and birth places your pelvic floor muscles under enormous strain. Prior to pregnancy you’ve probably not given much thought to your pelvis or pelvic floor, then suddenly, you’re expected to know how to move your pelvis during labor, how to activate your pelvic floor muscles, relax them, and use them to push your baby out! Not only that, but a strong pelvic floor is the starting point for your postpartum healing.

How does yoga help with this? Unlike a normal yoga class, understanding how to activate and relax your pelvic floor muscles is an important part of all prenatal yoga practices. You’ll start to move your pelvis in different ways and particular poses help you to become familiar with your pelvic floor so you can learn how to activate these muscles correctly – and importantly learn how to relax them for giving birth.

3. Baby’s position

Why is this important? Getting your baby into the right position to facilitate an easier birth is known as “Optimal Fetal Positioning” (OFP.) Babies rotate through the pelvis to emerge from the womb, so the position they’re in affects the relative ease of that rotation and descent. Put simply, you’re more likely to have a shorter, easier labor if your baby is engaged in the right position – which is anterior, with baby’s spine facing outwards.

How does yoga help with this? Firstly, if you attend yoga classes, you’ll start to create better posture habits by learning how to stand in the anatomically correct position. Your own posture is important in OFP. Secondly, many prenatal yoga poses involve leaning forward instead of backwards. This is because the heaviest parts of your baby are their head and spine, so we allow gravity to help us by allowing those heavy parts to fall into the ‘hammock’ that we create when leaning forwards, thus turning their spine to face outwards.

4. Practice breathing techniques

Why is this important? Breathing is probably the number one tool that women use to cope with contractions during labor.

How does yoga help with this? In prenatal yoga you’ll learn and practice a variety of breathing techniques so you can be sure to find one that resonates with you. The practice part is crucial – if you practice your chosen technique regularly, it will become familiar, comfortable and comforting for you to use during labor.

5. Learn labor and birth positions

Why is this important? When we watch women give birth on TV, we generally see them lying on their back in bed but this is NOT how your body is designed to give birth. Being active, moving your pelvis and allowing gravity to help baby descend is much more effective.

How does yoga help with this? In prenatal yoga, you’ll learn and practice different labor and birthing positions (many of them are actually yoga poses!) But importantly, you’ll get to know your body and cultivate a deep trust in it, so you can move intuitively in ways that help baby’s descent during each part of your labor.

 

Check out Part 2 – How to Mentally Prepare for Birth with Prenatal Yoga

 

*Stills from Mother Nurture Yoga on Informed Pregnancy+

 

Caroline Bagga is a mum of three, prenatal yoga teacher, doula, and founder of Mother Nurture Yoga. Based in Sydney, Australia, Mother Nurture Yoga offers prenatal yoga classes, retreats, couples birth preparation workshops, doula support and teacher trainings. If you’re in the US, you can access a five-day free trial of the On Demand membership, which offers hundreds of recorded pregnancy yoga classes.