Birth Prep Stretches – How can I prepare my body for birth?

Birth prep stretches montage

This week’s blog post is all about birth prep stretches! Keep scrolling for 6 easy stretches you can do to help with labor.

Birth Prep Stretches

I am currently 39 weeks pregnant and impatiently waiting for the arrival of our next little baby. I’m tired and uncomfortable … I’m sure I’ll be less tired and uncomfortable after the birth, right?

Right.

Labor Induction Techniques

I’m sure you’ve heard of all the things you can do to bring on labor – sex, red raspberry leaf tea, evening primrose oil, long walks, curb walking, squats, rest, and scrubbing baseboards seems to be common at the end of pregnancy for bringing on labor. While I don’t mind the others, I won’t be scrubbing any baseboards.

So, what else is there to do?

Stretching!

Physical therapy’s bread and butter – stretches. If you’ve ever been to a PT before, I’m sure you’ve been asked, “Are you doing your stretches?” To which you’d reply, “Of course!” But we all know no one does their stretches as much as they’re supposed to. I mean, heck… if I’m honest, I certainly don’t do these birth prep stretches everyday even though I’m sure they would ease my aches and pains, and possibly bring baby on sooner.

So, don’t let these stretches be “just another thing to get done”, just another stressor on your to do list. These birth prep stretches should be relaxing and a moment for you to de-stress. Add in your diaphragmatic breathing and maybe, just maybe, baby will make their grand entrance!

Or at the very least, they may make the first stage of labor go by a little faster. What’s not to love about that?

Why Birth Prep Stretches?

The birth prep stretches in this blog post are all about relaxing the muscles in and around the pelvis. Theoretically, these tight muscles could impede the descent of baby’s head into your pelvis. Sometimes, there is no stopping a baby that is ready to birth. But, some babies need a little coaxing. These stretches may be exactly what he or she needs.

I recommend holding each stretch for 30-60 seconds on each side. You can do as much gentle stretching as you’d like throughout the day.

Pelvic Floor Stretch

This one is obvious. Of course you want your pelvic floor to get used to stretching for the big day! Your pelvic floor will stretch 250% during a vaginal birth – isn’t that amazing?? Breathe deeply into your pelvic floor and allow the muscles to relax during this stretch – check out the reverse kegel post for even more information. You may feel this more with some support, try sitting on a pillow or holding onto a doorknob or something else secured to the wall.

Pregnant woman performing a deep squat

Hip Flexor Stretch

I love this stretch for so many things! At the top, the hip flexors are attached to the bones in your lower back and there are even some slips into the diaphragm. The muscle courses through your pelvis and then attaches at the bottom to the front of your hip. These muscles almost cradle your baby in your pelvis on each side so allowing them to lengthen will help baby slide a little deeper into your pelvis.

Pregnant woman performing hip flexor stretch
CORRECT – Make sure you tuck your pelvis under you to make sure you are doing the stretch correctly!
Pregnant woman performing hip flexor stretch incorrectly.
INCORRECT – While this stretch certainly looks like a deeper stretch, it’s actually not. By bringing your hips forward, you are losing the stretch at the top of the muscle.

Piriformis Stretch

This one is particularly more difficult to do as my belly gets larger. Sitting on the edge of a chair or couch, or sitting on a folded yoga mat has been the best way for me to still feel this stretch. You should feel this stretch deep in your glute, back off if you get any tingling into your leg. Your sciatic nerve runs right next to (or through for some people) the piriformis muscle so stretching too hard may send some tingling sensations into your leg.

Pregnant woman performing piriformis stretch

Adductor Stretch

Your adductors is the largest muscle group in your thighs. These muscles are often tight with pelvic pain – your body tightens the muscles near the pain to create a feeling of more stability… but it can end up making the issue worse with time. So, stretch those adductors! (Can you tell one on my adductors is tighter than the other?)

Pregnant woman performing adductor stretch

Hamstring Stretch

The hamstrings end up working harder during pregnancy because they are counterbalancing the weight of your belly. They may be tighter than usual because of this so make sure to give your hamstrings some love too!

Pregnant woman performing hamstring stretch

Calf and Plantar Fascia Stretch

Your calf is also working hard like your hamstring to counterbalance your belly. In addition, your foot flattens out a bit during pregnancy making the muscles in your foot a little tired. Stretching the your calf and the bottom of your foot will relieve tension all the way up into your pelvic floor. There is an interesting relationship between the foot and the pelvic floor – don’t ignore it!

Pregnant woman performing a calf and foot stretch

Now I’m off to drink my red raspberry leaf tea and do a baby dance in my inside out pajamas. Fingers crossed she arrives soon…!

Colleen's signature

Don’t forget to come back after baby and read the blog series all about activity guidelines during the first 2 weeks postpartum! You can find the entire series here: Postpartum Series. Sign up for the newsletter below to gain access to the complete, FREE, 23 page First 2 Weeks Postpartum Activity Guidelines!

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