Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by our partners at Balance Holistic Health.
How to Avoid “Labor” in Labor
An easy labor. It’s what most mothers hope for at the end of their pregnancy, although most expectant moms are blissfully unaware of what goes into producing such a feat.
The lifestyle that many families lead in current society makes an “easy” labor more of a dream than a reality. We sit too much, move too little, and spend the majority of our days sucking our tummies in, all of which, unfortunately, lead to a less than optimal functioning core. Furthermore, if the habits of the average American today persist whilst pregnant, labor is anything but “easy.”
Traditional exercise, although appealing in theory, isn’t always the most effective way to prepare for birth and rock it in the delivery room. Rather, a simple labor predominantly involves proper core engagement, specifically the inner unit, every single day, during exercise as well as throughout our daily routines. In a properly functioning core, muscles remain anticipatory, meaning they contract prior to movement and work together in concert to stabilize the spine and maintain normal intra- abdominal pressure. During pregnancy, your growing baby is pushing out in all directions, thereby placing added pressure to the core walls. When you bend forward to pick up a box of diapers off of the floor without proper core control, this places even more pressure on the core walls. In applying this to training, while exercise may make your heart pump harder and your muscles burn faster, the habitual nature of traditional exercise will likely result in added pressure to the core walls if proper engagement is lacking. Added pressure on an already stretched and possibly weak core can produce varying and quite serious repercussions – some of which include diastasis recti, incontinence, hernia, hip and low back pain, and more. Likewise, these issues will only further hinder your ability to attain the labor of your dreams because the main muscles used in labor and delivery are – you guessed it – the core!
So what’s the secret? Train smart and learn how to properly breathe and PUSH!
A first time labor can last anywhere from 12-24 hours, and in some cases, longer. During that time, your body will certainly begin to fatigue, so it’s important that your musculature is properly prepared and you know how to breathe before your baby’s debut! Most women (and men) today breathe via overuse of the chest. Chest breathing is the way we were designed to breathe in response to stress – think fight or flight. Improper breathing habits also diminish the use of the core completely, making a weak and poorly functioning inner unit. Alternatively, belly, or diaphragmatic, breathing is very relaxing for the body. The diaphragm is the dome-shaped muscle that lies at the base of the chest and acts as the primary muscle of inhalation. By moving the breath from the chest to the belly, we are adequately engaging the entire inner unit, just as the human body was designed for.
To reap the most effect out of a push, the mother must learn to breathe out while “wrapping” her transverse abdominis, all the while bulging her pelvic floor. Think of a tube of toothpaste. Your hands around the toothpaste tube represent your transverse abdominis. As you exhale, you should ideally wrap hard and “bulge” the pelvic floor, and voila! The toothpaste shoots out. If the pelvic floor is tight and contracted, it’s as if the cap of the toothpaste tube is still on. Nothing can exit! While this may seem confusing now, once you begin to practice, it becomes easier and much more natural to tap into the power house that is the core and pelvic floor. After all, this way of breathing and birthing is in line with our physiology. Preparing for labor and delivery takes mental, physical, and spiritual practice. But fear not, for there are many ways to train your body to manifest the less-laborious labor you’re looking for.