Prepping for birth can be overwhelming. While you may find yourself reading books and listening to podcasts on what to expect during labor & delivery, it is important to prep your pelvic floor for delivery too… Read to learn the top 5 labor prep tips from a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist to optimize your labor experience.
Tips to Prep for Labor
1. Reduce the Risk of Tearing with Perineal Massage
Your perineal body is a group of muscle attachments that live between the vagina and anus, which stretches during birth in order to make room for the baby. This is a common place for a tear during childbirth when there is not enough room for the baby’s head. To reduce the risk of tearing or reduce the degree of the tear, you may perform perineal massage. Either by yourself or with a partner, use a lubricated finger to stretch the bottom half of your vagina in order to improve tissue pliability and reduce the risk of tear or a degree of tearing during birth. Picture your vagina as a clock and apply downward pressure to 6 o’clock, 4 o’clock, and 8 o’clock. Consider seeing a pelvic floor PT with your partner to be trained in the correct technique.
2. Practice Pushing
Your pelvic floor muscles need to be strong in order to support the growing baby and added weight during pregnancy, however, you must also be able to relax to allow the baby to easily pass through during delivery. Practice pushing ahead of time, so your muscles have practiced getting out of the way for the baby. Grab a mirror and find your perineum (the space between your vagina and anus). Inhale and make your belly big and hard, exhale as if you are blowing out a candle across the room, and relax your pelvic floor as if you are passing gas or having a bowel movement. You should see your vagina widen and your perineum descend. You may also see a pelvic floor PT to assess your technique.
3. Stay Active Throughout Your Pregnancy
It is important to stay active throughout your pregnancy in order to maintain endurance for labor. Labor can be long, and you need the endurance to maintain stamina throughout labor and delivery. It is also essential to stay active during the early stages of labor in order to allow the baby to engage and encourage the baby to descend into the pelvis. Try walking, using stairs, and performing deep squats to open up your pelvis and encourage the baby to descend.
4. Practice Comfort Measures
Whether you have medication or not, your support person can assist in pain management with comfort measures such as applying sacral or pelvic pressure. It is important to maintain a relaxing environment during labor. Discuss and prepare various strategies prior to going to the hospital such as prepping a relaxing playlist, using warm compresses, and words of affirmation that are helpful to you.
5. See a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, 6 Weeks Postpartum
It is important to be evaluated by a pelvic floor physical therapist after your 6-week check-up with your OBGYN. A pelvic floor assessment is a good way to assure proper scar healing, assess pelvic floor muscle strength and coordination, and screen for dysfunction in order to safely return to running, exercise, or caring for a newborn. Please reach out to a local pelvic floor PT for any questions or concerns you may have.