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7 Simple Ways to Naturally Prepare for Labor and Vaginal Delivery

Pregnant and wondering how you can mentally and physically prepare for labor?
Pregnant women prepares for delivery

Pregnant and wondering how you can mentally and physically prepare for labor?

The last few weeks of pregnancy seem the longest and the prospect of labor can feel overwhelming, especially if this is your first baby. Even the most seasoned parents often feel weighed down and still worry about the process.

As you approach your due date, you may be wondering how you can mentally and physically get ready for labor. Well, take a deep breath and relax beautiFULL mama, help is on the way with these simple ways to prepare for labor and a smooth vaginal delivery.

As a two-time mama, I also searched for natural tips for an easier labor and delivery.

When I was pregnant with our first daughter, Isla, I worked with a pelvic floor therapist during my third trimester. Thankfully, she guided me in a few simple ways to prepare for a smooth vaginal delivery. Her advice, paired with guidance from other holistic health-care professionals, and some extensive research, allowed me to have a better labor and delivery experience during both my pregnancies.

While I couldn’t naturally control how or when I went into labor, it was reassuring to know that I was able to be proactive in the process—and my hope is that these simple tips will do the same for you too!

The Best Ways to Naturally Prepare for Labor and Vaginal Delivery

When to start preparing for birth

If you haven’t already, a good time to actively start helping your body prepare for labor and delivery is somewhere around 34 to 35 weeks of pregnancy.

Keep in mind, you should always consult with your physician before making any changes to your diet and lifestyle, especially when pregnant.

1. Practice Kegel exercises

Studies have shown that regularly doing Kegel exercises before, during and after pregnancy can help decrease the odds of pelvic floor issues.

Your pelvic floor muscles are kind of like a basket that keeps your pelvis stable and holds all your lady parts in place. They also help to keep urine from leaking when you jump, cough or laugh—a skill set you’re only likely to notice when it’s gone.

As your baby grows inside your uterus during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester, these muscles have to support more and more weight. When you finally go into labor, your pelvic floor muscles stretch even further to make room for your baby to pass through.

Because pregnancy is one of the BIGGEST reasons pelvic floor muscles are weakened, it’s important to strengthen them to avoid future problems such as incontinence, diminished orgasms and lower back pain.

One surefire way to strengthen these precious parts are Kegel exercises.

When you regularly practice Kegel exercises, you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and develop the ability to relax and contract them in preparation for childbirth. Research even suggests that women who do pelvic floor exercises may have a shorter active phase of labor than women who don’t. Strengthening your pelvic floor can also help the perineal healing process during the postpartum period. Basically, incorporating Kegels into your daily “exercise” routine is a win-win!

The great thing about Kegels is you can practice them anytime, anywhere (without anyone even knowing). That means you can get in all your sets whether you’re in a business meeting or out to dinner with friends.

How to find the right muscles

One of the most common mistakes while trying to practice Kegels is exercising the wrong muscles. While trying to locate your pelvic floor, try to relax your body as much as possible and focus on the area at hand.

The elevator approach: One way to find your pelvic floor muscles is by lifting and squeezing from the vaginal opening up toward the cervix. Visualize bringing your lips together and closing the vaginal opening while you squeeze. Some describe this tightening like zipping up a zipper or riding an elevator up as far as it will go. Then, as you let the muscles relax, unzip or take the elevator all the way back down.

The pee approach: Another simple way to find your pelvic floor muscles is to urinate and stop your flow midstream. Voila! The muscles you just used to stop your flow are your pelvic floor muscles.

How to practice Kegels

Slow Kegels: Slow Kegels help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.

  • Slowly, lift and squeeze your pelvic floor while inhaling deeply.
  • When you reach the “top of the elevator,” hold firmly for 5 to 10 seconds (depending on your strength), while breathing normally. Keep in mind, it might take some practice to lift your pelvic floor while breathing in and out.
  • Release slowly, then relax for 5 to 10 seconds before another contraction. If you don’t, your next pelvic floor lift will be weak.
  • Aim for 10 reps in a row, but if you notice yourself fatiguing, scale it back to 5.

Quick Pulse Kegels: Quick pulses help strengthen things down under for coping with pressure (when you sneeze, cough or do jumping jacks).

  • Rapidly squeeze and release your pelvic floor muscles 10 times in a row while breathing normally.
  • Aim for 10 reps in a row, but if you notice yourself fatiguing, scale it back to 5.

Incorporate these exercises into your routine one to three times a day, depending on if you’re leaking or not. Remember, these muscles are no different than any other muscle in your body. Time, consistency and focusing on the quality of the movement are what will strengthen them, so don’t get discouraged. The goal is to increase the reps of your exercises to help train your muscles for labor and delivery.

For more pointers on how to get in touch with your pelvic floor muscles, check out this article on Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor.

2. Incorporate vaginal opening massages.

For many women, the idea of their vaginal tissue tearing can cause a lot of anxiety. The good news is that by incorporating gentle perineal and vaginal opening massages (A.K.A. pre-stretching your vagina), you can help create more elasticity and space to accommodate and allow the baby’s head and shoulders to squeeze through a relatively small opening.

Vaginal opening massages also allow you to practice breathing through the stinging sensation of your tissue being manipulated, which many women say helps them to be more confident and relaxed during labor.

You may be thinking, “Stretching my vagina sounds extremely unpleasant.” Trust me, this was my initial reaction too. But after my pelvic floor therapist discussed the benefits, I gave it a shot and found that it wasn’t as uncomfortable as it sounds.

How to gently stretch the tissue at the vaginal opening

To help reduce tearing, you’ll want to begin adding vaginal opening massages into your daily routine 4-6 weeks prior to delivery.

  1. Lie on your back with two pillows behind your head and one under your upper back.
  2. Visualize a clock with the 12 o’clock at your pubis bone and 6 o’clock at your anus.
  3. Resting your palms against the inside of your legs, insert your index finger of both hands into your vagina at the position of 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock about an inch in.
  4. Gently stretch the sides of your vagina outward and downward. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. You should feel a stretch and a bit of stinging, but never pain. Practicing awareness and breathing when you feel this pressure will help you feel more in control when you feel these same sensations during delivery.
  5. Relax for 30 seconds.
  6. Move your index fingers of both hands to the position of 6 o’-clock. Gently press down with your fingers toward the anus, and then pull them apart from each other and out to the sides.
  7. Do three sets, once daily, right up to delivery.

3. Practice natural coping techniques for pain management.

Just because you’re going into labor doesn’t mean you have to be absolutely miserable. Believe it or not, there are lots of techniques you can use to cope with contractions and active labor.

One technique that I found extremely effective, especially when it came time to push the baby out, was deep breathing. This was something that my pelvic floor therapist spent a lot of time coaching me on prior to delivery.

When women push during labor, they often hold their breath, tighten up and clench their gluteal muscles. The problem is, when you tense up you diminish the ability of the cervix and vagina to open to full capacity. Basically, you fight against yourself. This muscle contraction can increase pain and make it much more difficult for the baby to pass through the vaginal canal during delivery.

How to practice breathing, relaxing and pushing simultaneously

During active labor, it’s imperative to breathe deeply and relax your pelvic floor while pushing. Because proper pushing isn’t something that necessarily comes naturally, it’s a good idea to practice prior to the main event.

To do this, inhale deeply. As you exhale, focus on relaxing your body, thighs and pelvic floor muscles while pushing as if you’re having the biggest BM of your life. It seems counterintuitive—breathing deeply, relaxing and pushing all at the same time—but this combo helps move the baby down the birth canal more swiftly.

Another cue you can use to relax is to practice breathing while visualizing your pelvic floor as a flower bud opening up and blooming from a tight bud.

Practice this 10-15 times, once daily, right up to delivery or until you get the hang of it.

4. Do squats.

Squats do wonders to prepare the body for labor, and they’re a great prenatal exercise to target the pelvic floor muscles. They also improve hip mobility, improve blood circulation to your whole body, and build strength and range of motion in your lower body and core—all things that help prepare your body for labor.

There are a few contraindications for doing squats while pregnant (like previous knee or hip injuries or certain high-risk pregnancies), so it’s always good to discuss your workouts with your OB-GYN if you have any concerns.

Make sure your technique is correct when you're doing your squats, especially while you're pregnant.

  • Your feet should be flat on the floor, slightly wider than hip width apart.
  • With your body weight in your heels, inhale deeply, slowly bend your knees and lower your booty to a max of 45 degrees. While doing this, keep your chest open and up, your spine in neutral position and your knees pointed in the same direction as your toes (in other words, don’t collapse them inwards).
  • Slowly rise back to start position while exhaling, pushing through your heels and contracting your glutes.
  • Relax for 5 seconds and repeat.
  • Start with 10 reps and work your way up to 30.

For additional balance and support during the last few weeks of your pregnancy, you can use a wider stance squat, do supported squats with a partner, or hold onto a sturdy table or chair.

You can also reduce the depth of your squat by half OR practice chair squats by squatting back into a chair, resting your bottom on the chair for 1-2 seconds and standing back up using your gluteal muscles.

If you’re unsure about your form for any reason, talk to a personal trainer or fitness expert.

5. Train your mindset.

To truly feel empowered during childbirth, you have to be your own biggest cheerleader. Positive affirmations are a great way to prepare your mind for labor. These “feel-good” statements help you overcome negative thoughts and create new pathways in the brain for positive changes. Think of it this way, when you repeat the same thoughts in your head, positive or negative, you start to believe them and your brain forms a pathway of neurons.

When pregnancy affirmations are properly used, your brain changes for the better and it positively affects your thoughts, feelings and actions—which can boost and build confidence so you’re able to coach yourself through the more intense moments of childbirth.

How to practice positive pregnancy affirmations

Repeat, repeat, repeat! Set an hourly reminder on your phone or write your affirmations on a sticky note and place them on your bathroom mirror, your kitchen fridge, or wherever you’re most likely to see them multiple times a day. Then quietly say them to yourself 5-10 times.

Make sure that ALL of the words used in your birth affirmations are positive. What we mean by this:

Rather than a statement that has a negative connotation like “I won’t worry about what could go wrong,” use something that takes on a positive vibe such as: “I am confident that my body will do what it’s designed to do.”

Some of the affirmations that I used to prepare for labor were:

  • “I am strong. I am able.”
  • “My mind is relaxed. My body is relaxed.”
  • “Inhale peace, exhale tension.”
  • “Breathe slowly, deeply and relax my muscles.”
  • “I am patient in this beautiful process.”
  • “I am content with any kind of birth my baby needs.”
  • Some moms-to-be find that religious affirmations and prayers are especially powerful. A personal favorite of mine was, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Birth affirmations aren’t just for mamas. In fact, positive affirmations are helpful for a partner to prepare for their birth role too! A few ideas:

  • “Together my partner and I can handle anything that comes our way.”
  • “The love in my family deepens when I show up and help.”
  • “I’m full of love for my partner and baby.”

6. Make healthy choices.

Being intentional about a healthy nutrition and exercise routine can go a long way when preparing for childbirth. That’s not to say that you have to be perfect! Pregnancy is hard and many women face challenges like food aversions and exhaustion, along with the busy lives we all lead.

Do the best you can. Drink lots of water, aim to eat whole foods and maintain some physical activity, even if it’s just walking on a daily basis.

7. Expect the unexpected.

Above all, don’t go into labor with rigid expectations. The only thing you can predict about giving birth is that it will likely be unpredictable!

Whether it was an extra-long labor, needing antibiotics during labor, or a distressed baby resulting in an unplanned assisted birth, almost none of the birth stories that other women have shared with me have gone exactly as planned.

While it’s important to feel prepared and gain knowledge about the birth process, it’s just as imperative to keep an open mind and be able to roll with changes. When coming up with preferences, try to be positive (“we hope to”) as opposed to negative (“under no circumstances”).

"Remind yourself that you can't control everything that happens during your baby's birth."

Being flexible and educated on the normal delivery process, as well as different circumstances that can arise, will help you feel confident no matter what twists and turns your birth may take.

In a nutshell, some of the best ways to naturally prepare for labor and delivery are:

  • Practice Kegel exercises.
  • Incorporate vaginal opening massages.
  • Work on breathing, relaxing and pushing.
  • Incorporate squats into your daily routine.
  • Train your mindset through positive pregnancy affirmations.
  • Make healthy choices.
  • Expect the unexpected.

I hope that this list will help your body prepare for the big day. Labor and delivery can take many different twists and turns but being proactive and preparing for the process certainly encourages a better experience.

Let's do everything we can to promote a positive birthing experience — together!

P.S. If you aren’t exactly sure what to pack in your hospital bag, check out this simple checklist!

Reader Feedback: Did you do anything special to prepare for labor? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below!

TAGS: Baby, How To
Cheers to a healthy lifestyle and living FULLforLife!
xo, Pam & Kalie

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Hi beautiFULL, We’re Pam and Kalie

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