Birth Ball by Fitball, $38,
Labor and delivery is amazing, a miracle, painful, surprising, a little scary if you've never been through it before -- the list goes on and on. But it is also most definitely intensely physical. Your body will be doing some crazy stuff.
And just as athletes prepare for physical challenges through practice, you can prepare for childbirth, too. Here are a few ideas to help you in your final months.
The Mayo Clinic has an illustrated slide show with exercises to help with labor. A few include:
Do your Kegels! -- These will help get you ready "down there." Kegel exercises help tone and strengthen your pelvic floor, which can aid when it comes time to push.
Just tighten your pelvic muscles as if you're stopping a stream of urine. Hold for a few seconds, relax, and then repeat four or five more times. Work up to keeping muscles contracted for ten seconds at a time, then relaxing for a few seconds in between and repeating. Try to do three sets of ten repetitions a day. And you can do your Kegels anywhere -- sitting, standing, lying down.
Tailor sitting -- This position will stretch muscles in your thighs and pelvis. It also keeps you flexible and increases blood flow to your lower body.
Sit on the floor with your back straight. Bring the bottoms of your feet together and pull your heels in toward your groin. Drop your knees and feel the stretch in your inner thighs. Try this position anytime you're able to sit on the floor.
Wall slide with a birth (exercise) ball -- Stand up straight with a fitness ball behind your back and against the wall. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Slide down the wall until you're in a sitting position, then slowly slide back up and repeat. Go for ten repetitions.
Birth balls are used frequently in maternity wards and birthing centers as an aid during labor, but you can use one in advance, too. Exercising with a birth ball will strengthen your lower back and lower abdominal muscles.
Make sure the ball is the right size for you. When you sit on the ball with your feet in front of you, your knees should form a ninety degree angle.
Use it as a chair - sit on it at the computer or in front of the TV. This puts you in a supported squat, opening up your pelvis and aligning your spine.
Rock, sway, or bounce gently on it -- this exercises your thighs and pelvic floor muscles.
And here are more ideas for exercising with a ball.
As always, check with your doctor before exercising to make sure what you have in mind is safe for you, and to get his ideas on physical ways to prepare for labor.
What are you doing to prepare for labor? Are you trying to prepare? Share with other moms here.