A lot of stress and anxiety exists around labor and delivery. Many pregnant women who exercise during pregnancy are even told their labor will be a walk in the park. While this could be true, it also is not often the case. There are many circumstances you cannot control when it comes to delivering your child. We are going to dive into a brief overview of the stages of labor and 5 of our tips for preparing for it. 

Labor consists of 3 stages. 

Stage 1 is typically the longest averaging 12-19 hours. During this phase, contractions begin, the cervix begins to dilate and efface (thin out) to allow the baby to begin to descend into the birth canal. In early labor your cervix is 0-6 cm dilated, you will usually be at home, and contractions will be 5-15 minutes apart. The general rule of thumb for going to the hospital is when contractions become less than 5 minutes apart, last for 1 minute and have been for 1 hour. 

 Stage 2 of labor begins when you are 10 cm dilated and you begin to push. This phase averages 30 minutes to several hours. Stage 2 ends with the delivery of your baby. 

While this is when labor seems to end, there is a 3rd stage which includes the delivery of your placenta.This is the shortest stage and lasts less than 20 minutes on average. 

We have 5 tips to help you prepare for this incredible event. 

1. You cannot really train for birth. 

Everyone has a different birth story. Some share experiences of only pushing 1 or 2 times while others are much more drawn out events. Some women who exercise throughout their pregnancy have quick labor and deliveries while others are marathons. Some end in a smooth and uneventful vaginal birth while others end in failure to progress with a c-section delivery. The point is, you can try “all the right things” and still not be able to control what happens during your labor and delivery. Exercise is beneficial during pregnancy so for you and your baby’s health, we recommend it. However, it may not speed up or make your labor easier so keep that perspective as you near your due date. 

2. It is so important to be able to relax your pelvic floor muscles. 

Women who exercise regularly and are physically fit tend to have stronger and tighter pelvic floor muscles. After all, these muscles have to contract to prevent leaking during exercise. However, that tension can make labor more challenging if you are pushing against a contracted pelvic floor. We teach our clients to relax the pelvic floor in preparation for birth in order to allow for less restriction for dilation of the cervix and delivery of your baby. 

3. Let your breathing help you. 

Your breathing can assist you in your labor. Pursed lip breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth, aids in pain management which is critical during the active phases of labor. Open glottis breathing, or in through your nose and out through a relaxed mouth, aids in helping the pelvic floor relax during the exhale and pushing phase. Women are often coached to hold their breath and push, but this is when pelvic floor contraction occurs as well. This can resist the actual descent of the baby. So we recommend starting to practice breathing patterns a few weeks prior to your due date to allow for improved relaxation during the delivery process. 

4. Change positions (if you are able). 

There are a multitude of positions you can labor and deliver in, and we recommend changing positions throughout if you are able to. If you have an epidural, you will likely be unable to move much so this will not be as applicable to you. Pushing on your back is common practice, but this does not put the pelvis in an ideal position for your baby to descend and also requires you to push against gravity. We have a VLOG coming up in which we will demonstrate a few delivery positions that allow for a more gravity assisted and open pelvic position. 

5. Be flexible.

You can go in with a plan, but there is a chance that plan will change. Have a support person who can share that plan with your medical team and be your advocate. Try to be as flexible as possible with this process. You do not have to compromise everything you would like, but remember there is so much in this process that is out of your control.