5 Effective Stretches to Ease Labor Pain and Improve Delivery Outcome

stretches for labor for pregnant mom

Exercise is far from my favorite thing to do. This is especially true when I’m pregnant! Being bigger, more tired, and less flexible than usual doesn’t help with motivation. However, the benefits of staying active during pregnancy are staggering– especially when it comes time for the big day! 

During pregnancy, you can continue (or begin!) an active lifestyle that will provide excellent rewards for both you and your baby. Advantages can include reducing pain during labor, making labor shorter, and having better physical and mental outcomes. A decreased risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and hypertension are all reasons to get your body moving and blood pumping! 

Be sure to maintain a good line of communication with your doctor or midwife throughout your pregnancy, including informing them of any changes in activity. This is especially critical if you are high-risk. If you weren’t running marathons before pregnancy, this might not be the best time to train for your first. However, if you were already living a relatively active lifestyle, there’s no reason you can’t continue! 

If at any point you experience alarming symptoms such as abdominal pain, chest pain, fluid leaking, or vaginal bleeding, stop and contact your doctor immediately or call 911. Pain isn’t normal, and even if you or your baby aren’t in immediate danger, you may want to consult a physical therapist or another medical professional to find the safest way to move your body. 

If you are unsure where to start, here are five stretches for labor to get you started! 

1.) Birthing Ball

There’s no image quite synonymous with laboring as bouncing on a birthing ball. The most basic exercise is simply sitting on the ball and rocking your pelvis in all directions. This can easily be done any time you normally sit, such as during desk work, while folding laundry, or watching TV. You can consider enrolling in a local birthing class that utilizes birthing balls for more detailed exercises and stretches. 

Benefits:

  • Potentially decreases labor time
  • Strengthens the abdomen
  • Relieves pelvic and back pain
  • Encourages the baby to descend toward the birth canal

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2.) Walking 

This exercise is a great alternative if you don’t have access to a birthing ball. Walking requires zero equipment and can be done almost anywhere! Even a small space can be utilized for walking (just don’t make yourself dizzy; a fall could be dangerous for your baby). Walking is a habit that will help you throughout your pregnancy and continue to serve you well even after delivery. For extra good measure, you can incorporate lunges into your walk to really get things going!

Benefits:

  • Improves cardiovascular function
  • Distracts from the pain of contractions during labor
  • Encourages the baby to descend toward the birth canal

3.) Child’s Pose

A classic yoga position, child's pose is accomplished by kneeling, sitting on your heels, and leaning forward slowly, stretching your arms in front of you. Hold this position and practice breathing deeply. This can be a challenge in the second and third trimesters when your belly is bigger, but you can widen your knees to give your growing baby more space. Child’s pose is relaxing and relatively easy, placing it high on the list of favorite stretches during pregnancy.

Benefits:

  • Lengthens pelvic floor muscles
  • Eases discomfort both before and during labor
  • Brings relaxation and a sense of well-being

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4.) Deep Squats

This stretch is a valued choice for pregnant and non-pregnant people alike! Begin by standing with your legs slightly more than shoulder-width apart, and your toes pointed out. Slowly squat down with your hands pressed together in front of you. You want to go down as far as you can, pretending to sit on an invisible chair, before slowly standing back up and repeating the exercise. You may need to hold on to the back of a real chair for support during this exercise.

Benefits

  • Lengthens pelvic floor muscles
  • Stretches the perineum
  • Strengthens the legs for possible support during labor

5.) Perineal Massage

Beginning at 35 weeks, you can try this technique once a day. After a warm bath (or holding a warm compress to your perineal area for ten minutes), sit or lean back in a way that feels as comfortable as possible. Using some lubricant, place your thumbs an inch or so into the vagina and press down toward the rectum. Continue pressing down and to the sides until you feel a slightly uncomfortable stinging or tingling. Then, gently massage the sides of the vagina back and forth for three minutes while breathing deeply and trying to relax. The idea is to stretch the back part of the birth canal using a little more pressure each time. Being aware of your body and what it is feeling while consciously relaxing those muscles can help you be more present and in control when you have those sensations again at birth. Inviting your significant other to participate in this stretch (using their index fingers rather than thumbs) can be a great opportunity to promote closeness by including them in the pregnancy and labor preparation process. 

Benefits:

  • Softens tissues of the perineum
  • Increases blood flow to help stretch the perineum 
  • Lowers the risk of tearing during labor

Near the end of your pregnancy, exercise can potentially trigger contractions which makes it a popular method of natural induction for many people. Let your doctor or midwife know if you plan to encourage labor through exercise, especially if you are high-risk. If exercise does not seem to be doing the trick to jumpstart labor, don’t push too hard. It’s best not to exhaust yourself if your body isn’t ready. 

Even if exercising doesn’t help you go into labor, you will still receive all the benefits it offers and build a healthy routine to maintain after giving birth, which is a wonderful gift for you and your baby. 

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