Taking Birth Prep Classes
Have you thought about what labor and delivery is going to look like for you? When I was pregnant with my first child, I did a ton of research on caring for a newborn. My husband and I took two birth prep classes at the hospital. I was a bit nervous about labor and delivery, but I thought I was prepared. Boy, was I wrong!
I found myself really not knowing what to do – which positions to try during labor and delivery, how to relax my pelvic floor (or that I even needed to relax my pelvic floor), and how to push. Kind of important information, right?! I just went with the flow and did what the nurses suggested. It was confusing and frustrating to say the least.
Birth Prep in Physical Therapy
While many other birth prep classes review what exactly happens during labor and delivery, some big crucial pieces of information are often left out. Most of this missing information has to deal with your body. There is really a lot that can be done both during pregnancy and during labor and delivery to help the process go as smoothly as possible and decrease risk of complications or tearing.
Did you know we can teach you all this important missing information in physical therapy? I know first hand how much of a difference having all this knowledge can make. Labor and delivery with my second child was vastly different. I knew what to do, voiced my wants and needs, only pushed for 20 minutes (compared to 3 hours with my first…), and had very minimal discomfort afterwards.
Preparing Your Body
Relaxing and Lengthening Your Pelvic Floor
Did you know your pelvic floor does not push your baby out? Your uterus does! This is what your uterus is meant to do, and it’s something you do not control. Your pelvic floor actually needs to relax and lengthen anywhere from two to four times its resting length in order for baby to pass through your pelvis! This is your biggest job during labor and delivery.
Relaxing and stretching your pelvic floor muscles is one of the most important things we work on in our birth prep sessions. Pushing down into a tight pelvic floor is going to make getting your baby out a lot more difficult. Case in point – the birth of my first child! Check out this blog post to hear more in depth about my labor and delivery experiences.
Getting the Rest of Your Core Moving
Improving mobility in other areas of your core, such as your pelvis and diaphragm (through deep breathing), can be helpful in preparation for labor and delivery too. Your pelvis and tailbone have to be mobile in order for baby to pass through your pelvis. In our birth prep sessions, we practice exercises to help get these areas moving more.
We also work on deep breathing. The diaphragm moves together with the pelvic floor. When you breathe in, your diaphragm and pelvic floor both move down. As you breathe out, your diaphragm and pelvic floor move up. Thus, a good breathing pattern is important for proper pelvic floor function – not only during labor and delivery, but also during pregnancy and postpartum. Deep breathing focusing on a good inhale is also another great way to help your pelvic floor muscles relax during labor and delivery.
Massaging Your Perineum
Your perineum is the tissue between your vagina and your anus. This is an area that also stretches A LOT during labor and delivery. Massaging your perineum within the last few weeks of pregnancy can help reduce the risk of tearing and decrease pain and sensitivity down there during labor and delivery. We review these techniques in our birth prep sessions. We talk about a lot of private or sensitive things, don’t we? There is literally no TMI when it comes to pelvic floor physical therapy!
Positions for Labor and Delivery
Traditionally many women labor and deliver on their backs, especially if they have an epidural. I mean, that’s what is portrayed in all the movies, right? This was my mindset going into labor with my first. I had an epidural and was mostly lying on my sides and on my back during labor. When it was time to push, the staff rolled me onto my back. Little did I know this position for pushing would NOT work well for me, and it does not work well for many others!
In our birth prep sessions we talk about and try various positions for labor and delivery. Lying on your back does not allow your pelvis (especially your tailbone) to be mobile. It is important that your pelvis and tailbone can be mobile in order for baby to come out. Being upright can help with pain reduction and gravity can assist baby in descending into your pelvis. And just because you have an epidural does not mean you have to push while lying on your back! Lying on your side or a supported hands and knees position works very well in that situation. Again, I know first hand how much positioning can make a difference. It only took 20 minutes for me to push my son out while lying on my side!
Learning How to Push
This was one area I felt so lost in during the birth of my first child. I had no idea how to push! Being told “just push like you’re pooping!” in the moment was not nearly enough guidance for me.
As I mentioned earlier, your uterus does most of the work to push your baby out, and you do not have control over what your uterus does. You should bear down to assist, but it should NOT be a lot of hard straining (again, like what you see in the movies…). In physical therapy, we teach you how to bear down, and we practice pushing techniques. Pretty helpful information, right?! (Check out a blog post in the near future on some in depth instruction on how to push!)
Women are often not told what to do or how to restore their body after having a baby. Many are left to just figure it out on their own. Myself included! This can lead to frustration, unintended challenges, and confusion. There is a lot of progress you can make in those first few months postpartum! Knowing where to start, how to progress, and what symptoms are normal and NOT normal can be so helpful. Even as a physical therapist (prior to all the classes I took on treating the pelvic floor), I didn’t know some of the symptoms I was experiencing were not normal, nor did I know how to properly progress myself back into running.
Physical therapy can also play a crucial role in your postpartum recovery. Providing guidance in figuring out which symptoms are normal and which are NOT normal (and what to do about those) can take some stress off of your postpartum recovery. We work with you to rebuild strength and function in your pelvic floor, abdominal and hip muscles, address any pain or issues (leaking, heaviness, pressure, pain with intercourse, etc) you may be experiencing, and help you return to the activities you love!
Get Your Questions Answered About Birth Prep
Let us help decrease some of your stress or worries and answer your questions regarding labor, delivery, and your postpartum recovery! Having the knowledge ahead of time can make all the difference in your experiences. I can definitely attest to that! Send us a message to learn more about how we can help you make your labor and delivery go as smoothly as possible!