Prenatal Fitness; Training for Labor and Delivery
Updated: Sep 12, 2018
Pregnancy should be an enjoyable and exciting experience for all mothers-to-be; a chance to embrace the beauty of life. However, many women experience a great deal of anxiety about the changes their body is going through and the fear of what labor and delivery could entail. While currently pregnant with my second child, from what I've seen/felt, the desire to embrace the prenatal experience while also having some anxiety is completely normal. Whether pregnant for the first time or the fifth, I believe there is always some uncertainties. The one thing I can tell you for sure, as women, our bodies were designed for carrying and birthing babies. During the delivery of my first child, the one thing that put my mind at ease was knowing that very fact.
Although there are several things that your doctor will inform you in terms of prenatal care, I can tell you from my personal knowledge and the perspective of a mother, that nutrition and exercise will help immensely when it comes to pregnancy, labor and delivery as well as postpartum recovery. Maintaining your strength and cardiovascular endurance will be key to getting you through the process of enduring contractions and pushing. Eating clean and exercising will help you maintain a healthy weight, decrease your risk for gestational diabetes and preeclampsia and ensure the health of your unborn child. Once the birth is over, the level of fitness will also speed your recover and give you something to revert to when training postpartum. I can tell you, from personal experience, I began competing in triathlon when my first child was a year old and the experience of labor and delivery gave me a whole new confidence in what my body was capable of doing. I used that memory to push myself in both my training and competition. Now that's not to say that you are destined to become a triathlete after giving birth, but it does give you a great sense of strength and confidence for whatever physical pursuits you may have in the future.
I have spoken to many women who did not maintain a basic level of fitness during pregnancy and had difficult labor and delivery. Their lack of fitness put them at greater risk for complications during pregnancy, and also made the labor process more arduous. Although there are definite modifications to address with a prenatal fitness program, and it's not recommended to use this time to set serious fitness goals, most doctors advocate maintaining fitness levels for the health of mom and baby. Think of this time as preparing for the physical demands of the labor process. I have one client who gave me a direct comparison of not being fit for the birth of her first child, versus maintaining her fitness for the birth of her second. She said "after the first birth I felt I had run a marathon, with the second I maintained my fitness and it felt more like finishing a 5k".The last piece of advice I can offer is, if you have a history of miscarriage do not steer away from exercise completely, but listen to your body. If something is not feeling right, stop doing it. When it comes to the safety of your child, its best not to second guess your instincts.