Exercising to Prepare for Labor and Delivery

Pregnant woman practicing yoga with a personal trainer.

Your body will work hard during delivery — especially your lower back, lower abdominal, and vaginal muscles. We recommend doing special exercises to build endurance and help those muscles get ready. Think of it as training for the marathon known as childbirth!

Kegel exercises

Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles — one of the best ways to help your body prepare for delivery and recover after childbirth. We recommend doing them daily, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, and right up until delivery day. The best part about Kegels? You can do them anywhere, anytime. No one will know what you’re doing except you!

How to do Kegels

  •  Locate the proper muscles. Tighten the muscles around your vagina, like you’re trying to stop peeing.
  • Squeeze those muscles and hold for 3 seconds, then relax for 3 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times per session, and at least 30 times every day.

The tailor stretch

The tailor stretch will help stretch and tone your inner thigh muscles. To practice:

  • Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together.
  • Gently let your knees move toward the floor until you feel a mild stretch.
  • Relax. Hold the stretch and slowly count to 5.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times, twice daily.

Pelvic rocking

Pelvic rocking can help relieve back pain and improve your abdominal muscle tone. If you practice yoga, this move should feel familiar — it’s like the cat-cow pose, minus the cow part. Many women find it very helpful during labor.

  • Get on your hands and knees with your back relaxed and straight.
  • Think of your spine as a line connecting your shoulders to your hips.
  • Breathe in deeply. Tuck your head downward and arch your back like a cat. Hold this position for a count of 6.
  • Breathe out slowly and bring your head back up. Relax, keeping your back straight (don’t allow it to curve toward the floor). Hold this for a count of 6.
  • Repeat 8 times, or whatever feels comfortable.