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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more

Preparing Your Body for Labor and Delivery

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4.  Kegel Exercises: Contract the muscles around your vagina as if you were stopping the flow of urine. Hold this for 3 seconds, then relax until it feels as if you are going to gently push out a little bit of urine. Repeat; holding for 5 seconds this time. Relax and repeat, but try to hold it for 10 seconds. Do 1 set of 6-10 repetitions (holding for 10 seconds), 3 times a day. This exercise strengthens the pelvic-floor muscles and teaches you how to relax them during the pushing phase of labor.

5.  Stand facing the back of a chair with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed outward. Hold on to the back of the chair for support. Squat toward the floor as though you were going to sit down on a chair. Contract your abdominal muscles, lift your chest, and relax your shoulders. Most of your weight should be on your heels. Return to a standing position. Repeat 10 times. This exercise strengthens your thighs and helps open your pelvis.

6.  Sit on the floor straight against a wall with the soles of your feet touching each other. Pull your feet in towards you as much as you can. Gently press your knees down and away from each other - but don't force them apart. Stretch as long as you're comfortable. This exercise will help open up your pelvis and loosen your hip joints in preparation for birth, as well as improve your posture and ease tension in your lower back.

Perineal massage is another good way to prepare your body for labor and delivery. It conditions the perineum for the baby's head and prevents tearing. Begin performing daily massages approximately five to six weeks before your due date. To perform the massage, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water and make sure your fingernails are trimmed. Sit comfortably with your legs spread apart. Apply K-Y jelly or other lubricant to your thumbs and insert them in your vagina. Press downward toward your rectum, until you feel a gentle stretching. You may feel a slight burning or other discomfort; this is normal. However, stop immediately if you feel any sharp pain. Hold this stretch until the tingling subsides and gently massage the lower part of the vaginal canal back and forth. Repeat the massage daily for about 8 to 10 minutes per session.

In addition to the specific exercises suggested here, general fitness increases your energy level and endurance, and maintains muscle tone and strength - all very important during labor and delivery. However, check with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen to be sure it is safe for you and your baby.

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