How Do I Prepare for Labor?

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on March 15, 2012
Medically Reviewed by Douglas Levine, MD

Exercise

Exercise is a positive lifestyle habit that can help prepare for childbirth. Exercise helps you maintain strong muscles and a feeling of well-being. Guidelines for exercising during pregnancy include:

  • Drinking water prior to and after the exercise session;
  • Checking the heart rate and maintaining a level of less than 140 beats per minute;
  • Doing 30 to 40 minutes of no- or low-impact aerobic activity;
  • Respecting your body and not exercising to a point of discomfort;
  • Squatting and kegel exercises should be added to the pregnant woman's exercise routine.

Kegel exercises focus on the muscles of the vagina and perineum (the area between the vagina and anus).

The exercise is done in the same way you stop and start the flow of urine: Tighten the muscles of the perineum for a count of three and then slowly relax. Increase the length of time you hold the count as muscle control becomes easier. These exercises strengthen the muscles used for birth. If you can tighten these muscles, you can relax them as well to help the baby come through the birth canal. Kegel exercises help women of all ages maintain good muscle tone and control in the perineum.

Nutrition

Following a balanced diet is another positive lifestyle habit that can help you prepare for childbirth. Nourishing a healthy baby while maintaining a healthy body requires intake of adequate calories and liquids. You should drink at least 6, eight-ounce glasses of water each day. An increased amount of most nutrients with a focus on folic acid, calcium, iron, protein, and calories are all required by pregnant women.

Coping with Labor

There are many alternatives to traditional medicine for pain relief while laboring, including

  • Massage therapy;
  • Acupressure;
  • Yoga postures;
  • Hypnosis;
  • Music therapy; and
  • Biofeedback

Labor often begins with mild contractions that are 20 to 30 seconds in duration and 20 to 30 minutes apart. Relaxation techniques can help you deal with these early contractions. You should try to rest, eat lightly, and keep well-hydrated to conserve your energy during this stage of labor. The contractions will be stronger and closer together later on, requiring more energy. You should change positions frequently, walk, squat, and use gravity to assist the labor.

There are numerous childbirth education methods to teach you how to prepare for a holistic delivery. Components of these prenatal education methods include the following:

  • Someone to support and nurture you during pregnancy and birth;
  • Physical conditioning;
  • Breathing and relaxation exercises; and
  • Lecture information describing what happens during pregnancy, labor, and birth.
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