When I thought about giving birth, I always imagined I would be in the room with my mom and my husband. However, my mom lives a two-hour plane ride away, so there was a chance that if I went into labor early, it would end up being just myself and my husband. Considering this was both of our first times going through this, I worried that we were both walking into the situation completely blind. Would we even know if something was wrong? And if something went wrong, what would we do?
This is when I first considered a doula. While it felt a little, um, granola?, for my medicated hospital birth, I thought that it could be a good idea. I liked the idea of having an advocate in the room who knew what was happening. My OBGYN was fantastic, but I only started going to him when I got pregnant (we had recently moved), so I wanted someone who would be with my husband and I to offer emotional support as well in case my mom couldn’t be there.
My doula was lovely. I met with her about six times during my pregnancy, and she was so helpful and informative. We also took birth classes, which were informative, but my doula worked with me to help get my body emotionally and physically ready for birth.
My doula was certified by Spinning Babies, which is “an approach to optimize the physical relationship between the bodies of the mother and baby for the easing of childbirth.” Using that knowledge, she gave me a whole list of exercises to do everyday to help prepare my body.
Here are a handful of exercises that helped me to feel more comfortable, and ultimately helped me have a pretty straightforward birth experience:
1. Hip Openers
My hips were tight during pregnancy, so these felt great. You can do them on the floor and reach through to grab your thigh and get a deeper stretch, but I was much more comfortable sitting on a chair with my pregnant belly. According to Spinning Babies, this stretch “opens the hips, allowing easier descent of the baby in labor.”
2. Calf Stretches
When my doula first showed me these, I wasn’t sure what they had to do with getting ready for pregnancy, but considering your leg position when pushing, it actually makes a lot of sense. With the extra weight, I found my hamstrings getting really tight during pregnancy, and the leg and foot swelling definitely didn’t help with the discomfort. According to Spinning Babies, calf stretches help “to ease pushing a baby out and make squatting easier,” should you decide to push that way.
3. Pelvic Tilts
For obvious reasons, my back was constantly hurting or uncomfortable during pregnancy. You spend a lot of time adjusting to your new center of gravity as your bump grows, and much of that pressure ends up in your back. Pelvic tilts “loosen the hips and sacrum [and] relax the lower back at the end of a long day.” Pelvic tilts always helped relieve pressure for me which felt wonderful, especially when I was in the third trimester.
Windmills were another great way for me to stretch out my back. The twist motion really helped me to get a deep stretch in my lower back and butt. According to Spinning Babies, doing these daily can potentially help to prevent sciatica, and generally keep your lower back feeling good.
5. Forward Lunges
Lunges were a great way to keep my pelvic area from feeling too tight. According to Spinning Babies, “forward lunges do their part to ‘free the sacrum’ by lengthening hamstrings and giving the tuberosities more give.” Labor is uncomfortable enough — getting my pelvic area ready seemed to really help make the experience a bit more tolerable.