My sister-in-law recently had a baby, and although there wasn’t much I could do for her in terms of taking the baby’s weight off for a day or two to help relieve her back pain, there were some exercises that I was able to recommend, that she felt really helped.
These movements will help:
- Prepare your body for labour
- Help calm down your system – life can be stressful at times, let alone life when you’re carrying a little bubba inside you!
It doesn’t matter whether you’re one or nine months pregnant, these movements can still help you.
- Side Rocking
This is a brilliant movement that calms our system down. It can be done passively (someone initiates the movement on you) or actively (you do it yourself).
Passive: Lay down on your bed, with both hands placed under your head. Have your family member place one hand on your hip and one hand on your shoulder and start rocking. Ensure the rocking movement is as gentle or as fast as you like. The most important thing is that the movement is done rhythmically. Both hands should be moving at the same time and pace.
Active: Lay down on your side in bed, with your hands placed under your head. Gently rock your body from side to side. Imagine someone has placed their hands on your hip and shoulder; the movement should be originating from those to places only. You’ll notice that your entire body will slightly rock.
This movement targets the area of our brain known as the limbic system. The limbic system is the part of the brain involved in our behavioral and emotional responses – such as our fight or flight response. Basically, it means that this movement will help calm you down and relax your body.
You don’t need to do too much of this rocking. Stop when you feel like you’ve done enough (just a minute or two)!
- Core Breathing
This a brilliant technique to stimulate a Chapman’s reflex point. It opens up your diaphragm and allows you to take in more oxygen. My sister-in-law had felt that baby was taking up her breathing space, but once activating the Chapman’s point, she straight away felt that she had more room to breathe.
My sister, who had been suffering with persistent nightly asthma attacks, found that doing this exercise relieved her symptoms; the night after we completed the exercise was the first time that week she hadn’t had an attack.
Personally, I do it on myself all the time. Interestingly, the first time I did it, it took me until the next day to feel a difference in my breathing.
Other advantages to diaphragmic breather include:
- Lowering of heart rate and blood pressure
- Reduces stress hormone
- Increases energy and motivation
- Increases blood oxygen
- Decrease muscle tension
- Helps with constipation! – Activating the diaphragm actually causes a gentle massaging action allowing the blood and lymph that flows through the abdomen. Due to this, you’ll feel as if your stomach is getting a bit warm. This is actually an indication that peristalsis (contractions of the intestine) has begun to move the food through the intestines.
- Helps with diarrhoea – The same massaging action of the internal breath, calms down the ‘cramping’ feeling that you get that leads to an urgency to use the bathroom!
- The Clam exercise
You may well have heard of this exercise from your doula, midwife or a pre-natal class.
This exercise helps stabilize your pelvis, and strengthen your gluteus medius (the gluteal muscle that goes around the side of your hip and the edge of your butt). The general strengthening and stability of your hips is super important for labour as they’ll in turn help protect your lower back!
- Lie down on your side, with your arm extended out under your head, and your other arm resting on your body or the floor in front of you.
- Bend your knees so they’re at a 45 degree angle and keep your heels together.
- Breathe in, lightly pull your tummy in (you want baby bump to come in toward your spine). Breathe out, and raise the knee that’s ‘on top’ off the floor, whilst keeping your heels together. Raise your knee as far as you can, without moving your pelvis, your hips or your lower leg.
- Breathe in again to lower your leg. Do it about 10 times on each side (or to be honest, as many as you can!)
Good luck & remember – your body is so much stronger than you believe!