Must Do’s When Pregnant
Drink ½ your body weight in ounces + more if you are active and working out. Make 1 of these drinks an “electrolyte drink” to replenish key nutrients and keep you feeling hydrated. This will help prevent constipation and give you more energy. This becomes even more important when you’re going into labor. When early labor starts, hit the water hard to help prevent perineal tearing!
PICK THE RIGHT PROVIDER
Some of how your pregnancy and labor go are up to you—how well you eat, how you exercise, your mental health, some of it is genetics—predisposition to certain medical conditions including mental health problems, and even more is your care provider. Make sure your OB/GYN or Midwife shares your values and will support the birth you want. If you’re having a VBAC, make sure your provider is not just tolerant but supportive. If you want medication-free labor, ensure they won’t push meds by asking about their experience and opinion on medication-free birth, ability to choose your positions during labor, etc. The more questions you ask, the better!
Breathing deeply becomes harder as your belly grows, so the best time to start focusing on this is in the first trimester. However, if you’re reading this in your third trimester and freaking out, don’t worry. It’s not too late. Breathing well will allow your core (pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, and diaphragm) to work automatically while you sit, stand, walk, and run to prevent leaks, pain, other problems. When you inhale, the ribs should expand 360 degrees like an umbrella is opening inside of them and then the belly should rise slightly. You should not feel your shoulders or upper chest move. When you exhale, your belly should fall and your ribs should return to their resting state. When you breathe like this, your pelvic floor should respond by relaxing and lengthening when you breathe in and coming back to its resting state when you breathe out.
Start with the rib and belly movement:
Lie on your back with your head and shoulders propped up. Place one hand just beneath your breasts, at the bottom of your chest bone and your other hand on your belly. When you breathe in, you should feel the hand on your chest bone rise first and then the hand on your belly. When you exhale, your belly hand should move first and then your chest bone hand.
Add the movement of the pelvic floor:
When your diaphragm is working properly, your pelvic floor should move in rhythm with your diaphragm. When you inhale, your pelvic floor should relax, lowering down toward your toes like an elevator and when you exhale it should rise.
This time when you take a deep breath in, I want you to picture your pelvic floor lighting up in a soft glow. I like to imagine the soft light of a lava lamp or a nightlight. When you breathe in, imagine that light turning on, then when you breathe out, it softens (like turning down a dimmer). When you breathe in again, the light becomes more intense again. This will help you just connect with the pelvic floor first.
Next, take a deep breath in and imagine your pelvic floor melting and moving downward like an elevator to the ground floor. When you exhale, it rises back up to the first floor. Try this a few times until you can feel some movement.
Lie on your side with your head supported and a pillow between your knees. With your top arm, reach behind your body toward your butt and reach between your butt cheeks. You want to find the soft space between your top sits bone and your bum hole. Once you have found this space feel the area under your fingers and familiarize yourself with how it feels to touch. Then, take a deep breath in. You should feel tissue moving into your fingers. These are the pelvic floor muscles. When you breathe out, the pelvic floor will move away from your fingers. Take several deep breaths, feeling for the movement of the pelvic floor.
If you have trouble reaching to this area, try using a hand towel rolled long ways and placing that between your legs in the area that would touch a bicycle seat. You can feel the movement in this way even if you cannot reach!
Ideally, you should be able to do this breathing, feeling your ribs expand in all directions, belly rising, and belly moving in all positions, walking, and working out. This breathing will not only help your core work optimally to prevent leaking, pain, and prolapse, but it will help you to learn how to relax your pelvic floor to prevent perineal tearing with a vaginal birth.