Women who are physically fit tend to have shorter labors, fewer medical interventions and less exhaustion during labor, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Regular exercise during your pregnancy can also reduce discomfort and help you sleep better before your baby is born. It can improve your mood and help you return to your normal weight after delivery. Drink plenty of water and stop exercising if you feel light headed, out of breath or experience contractions.
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Kegel exercises help strengthen the pelvic muscles used to push during delivery. Before performing Kegel exercises, identify the correct muscle group. The easiest way to do this is to try to stop your urinary stream briefly. Once you have identified the correct muscle group, tighten and hold for 10 seconds, then relax for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times, three times per day. It can take four to six weeks for the pelvic muscles to become noticeably stronger, so you should begin doing Kegel exercises in the first or second trimester.
Stretching is a good way to loosen your muscles before exercise and to relieve discomfort in your lower back. Stretching can also help you increase your flexibility, which will allow you to try different positions, such as squatting, during labor. A prenatal yoga class is a good way to learn new stretches. Any stretch that elongates your back or flexes your pelvic area will be helpful during labor. A good stretch for the pelvic area is the standing pelvic tilt. Stand with your back against a wall and your feet shoulder-width apart. Push the small of your back against the wall and hold for 10 seconds. Relax and repeat. Gradually work up to a set of 10 repetitions. This stretch will relieve lower back discomfort. You can also do this stretch lying on the floor by pressing your lower back into the floor instead of the wall.
Walking, swimming and bicycling are good exercises during pregnancy. They raise your heart rate and help you build endurance. Good endurance will help you get through labor and delivery with less exhaustion. Be careful not to fall while walking, jogging or bicycling late in your pregnancy. Your center of balance will be shifted forward, making you more top heavy than you may be used to. Avoid intense exercise that raises your heart rate above 140 beats per minute, especially in the first trimester.