There are some exercises that you can do in the final weeks of pregnancy to help prepare your body for the challenge ahead. Remember, if you’re not sure of how do any of these exercises, check with your midwife or health professional.
1. Birthing ball
From about 30 weeks of pregnancy onwards, you can practise using your birthing ball. It helps you with your posture and can encourage the baby’s head to engage.
Many antenatal classes will include a demonstration of how you can use a birthing ball – both in the lead-up to labour and during childbirth.
2. Perineal massage
Your perineum is the area between your vagina and anus. During childbirth, there is a risk the perineum can tear. Perineal massage from about 35 weeks of pregnancy can help loosen this tissue and reduce the likelihood of tearing. Aim to massage it two to three times a week. Or, if you don’t like the idea of massage, there are other options available to help stretch your perineum – ask at your local pharmacy.
3. Breathing techniques
At your antenatal class, you will be taught various breathing techniques to help you cope with contractions. Practice these so that they feel familiar when you are in labour.
You may also want to explore hypnobirthing – the practice of breathing and relaxation techniques to help you feel calmer and more in control of your birthing experience.
4. TENS machine
Some women choose to use a TENS machine during labour. This device offers pain relief by stimulating the body to produce endorphins.
If you are planning to use one, you will need to organise the hire of the machine, and become familiar with how it works and where to place the pads on your back. You would only start using it once you feel that labour has started.
Preparing your mind for labour
It is natural to feel fear and anxiety about labour and childbirth. To help alleviate your fears, ask questions at your antenatal classes and read up on as much as you can. Understanding what to expect at every stage – including an awareness of possible complications – will help you stay calm when the process begins.
With your partner and midwife or doctor, write a birthing plan that outlines the kind of birth you want. And, to really get your mind in the mood for labour, pack a hospital bag that includes your precious baby’s first outfits.
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