"The Daily Do"
Daily balancing activities (First Principle) help release tight or short muscles and align your womb and pelvis for the baby. Balancing activities may make your pregnancy and childbirth easier than with tight or stiff muscles.
How to promote an anterior position? Start with these. Want to avoid a posterior or breech position? - add weekly activities to this daily routine.
Daily Self Care
These activities will not make a head down baby turn back to breech nor will they make an anterior baby turn posterior. You can start them as soon as you like. Some women wait for morning sickness to pass.
I don't recommend waiting until late pregnancy. I don't recommend waiting to "see" if your baby ends up in, or remains in, a "malposition." Balance in tone and alignment may increase your chance of an easier birth and better sleep while your pregnant.
Why wait? Improving body balance improves physiologic function - even birth!
Balancing Activities for every pregnant woman
These exercises can be done by all healthy women. These are the activities than could be done daily. Consult your provider before starting any exercise activities.
Blooma Yoga owner Sarah Longacre shows about a dozen recommended exercises while Gail explains the benefits of each. Also, see how to help yourself and your birth with the flashlight game, forward leaning inversion, walking, sleeping tips and more!
After you feel confident with the exercises, Sarah leads you through a separate and luscious yoga flow.
Walk Every Day
Why? Walking briskly with full motion stretches the psoas muscles (a large pair of internal "wings" from spine to thigh). "So -as" I was saying, long, supple psoas muscles give us better range of motion, emotional groundedness and flexibility, better fetal descent, better fetal positioning (with other balanced muscles and aligned spine and pelvis). Walking is good exercise and protects your good health.
Who does this? Everyone unless the doctor says no.
How? In a safe place, without ice, and without pushing a stroller or stopping to window shop. Walk at a pace you can still hold a conversation but aren't dawdling.
How long? Don't start so aggressively that you strain yourself if you aren't now used to walking. Gradually work up to 3 miles, 4-5 kilometers.
How frequent? Every day.
Counter-indications, or don't use this when.... If your provider prohibits walking, such as when a woman is told to do bed rest or to restrict her movement.
If you have pubic symphysis pain, wear a snug pregnancy belt, start slow, or wait to walk until you have done the pelvic stabilizing exercises to restore your pelvis. Then start slow. Avoid walking on icy areas, or in other slippery conditions.
When? You can do these activities once a day in pregnancy beginning as soon as you are aware of these activities. None of them will turn your baby from head down to breech as long as you don't tip yourself upside down and shake yourself vigorously. Be moderate and mindful. These are balancing activities and are non-interventive.
Technique: Forward-Leaning Inversion
Why? The forward-leaning inversion stretches the supporting ligaments in the lower uterine segment, such as the uterosacral and cervical ligaments. A gently stretching muscle relaxes (uterine ligaments have muscle fibers within them).
When you get upright again these ligaments relax.
Repeat the stretch and relax many times to release a possible spasm or asymmetry and allow the baby's head to fit more easily during labor.
Who does this? Use a spotter for the first few tries. Use a reliable surface, like the side of a bed or couch or stairs. Knees are close to the firm and secure edge.
How long? 30 seconds. That's three breaths long.
How frequent? Daily!
Indications, or do this when... Any time in pregnancy. Not during heartburn -or with glaucoma, hypertension, or risk of a stroke! Watch the videos before AND AFTER trying the inversions, mistakes are common!
Thanks to Dr. Carol Phillips, DC, for teaching Dynamic Body Balancing and emphasizing the importance of the forward-leaning inverison.
Note: When we first get upside-down our body signals us (in case we didn't notice) by a throbbing head. After 3-6 times your body will realize you mean to be upside-down and your head won't pound. Just get up early if this happens.
- This is nice for a brain refill, too!
- Do this even if you are also doing "Downward Dog" in yoga. They are NOT the same!
- If you have an inversion board, you can use that instead.
- See more and see the videos on the article about Forward-leaning Inversion.
Counter-indications, or don't use this when: High blood pressure and/or risk of stroke are suspected or known. Amniotic fluid levels are unusually large and the doctors are worried and measuring weekly. If you have a sinus infection going upside down may throb (or may sooth). It may help (use your "nettie!")
Empowering posture is very important, yes, even though our couchs would defeat good posture. Practice good posture every day. Stretching out everyday is good for circulation, metabolism, and comfort.
TMJ (tight jaw) release
Open your shoulders
Daily, lift your arms and make circles. Stand with feet apart and with your arms open wide, breathe in deep, exhale deeply, too. Inhale and lean over to your side, exhale and come back up. Repeat on the other side. Do a set of 5 in each direction.
Step the ball of your foot onto a rolled towel or half foam "tube". Make sure your heel is grounded on the floor. Stand straight but with a slight bend in the knee. Straighten and bend the knee slightly, not that much, a little. Change to do the other foot. Then do both at once. 5-10 times each set. Daily. This gives length to your hamstrings so your sacrum and buttocks muscles are more mobile when you need your pelvis to open for your baby during descent in labor.
Thanks to Katy Bowman, Bioscientist, who taught me the importance of doing the calf stretch everyday, a few times a day, to ease pushing a baby out and make squatting easier. Your hamstrings will love you and you will love your hamstrings!
Follow the Calf Stretch with Lunges. Forward lunges do their part to "free the sacrum" by lengthening hamstrings and giving the tuberosities more give.
Follow the Lunges with Squats. Or do squats separately as you go from your living room into your kitchen, do 3 squats coming and going. Use the wall to support your back if you are beginning. Feet are flat on the floor. Go down only as far as you can keep your heels down. Toes point forward, not out. Katy Bowman will show you more.
Use a sturdy set of door handles to an open door if you have a strong, heavy door available to hang from the door handles. Its a great way to squat. Toes forward, heels down. Don't worry about how far down you can go, pay attention to your knees being right over your ankles so your calves are straight up like a tree from foot to knee. Make sense? Try it. Swing your bottom way out behind you and let your buttocks free, don't tuck.
Squat on the pot. Build a sturdy stool in a "U" shape around the toilet or buy a Squatty Potty® Better yet, import the type of "toilet" used in Okinawa, Japan, old France, and other places where you put one foot on either side of a plumbed, porcelain trough and go. You can create a market in the States, I'll advertise on my site! Be mindful of your abilities when you squat, brace yourself on a trusted surface and don't fall. Take responsibility for your ability and be safe. Your colon and your perineum will appreciate it!
Technique: Psoas Release
Why? A tight psoas (so-as) muscle pair keeps baby high. A long labor can relax the psoas, as may an epidural, but why not improve your body's balance by relaxing your psoas in pregnancy.
Who does this? The mother herself.
How? Lie on your back with your feet on a chair so that your calves are at a 90 degree angle to your thighs. Thighs are straight up and down and calves are horizontal. After five minutes, roll to your side and get up slowly.
One day you will notice that your lower back relaxes enough so that the space between your lower back and the floor disappears. Don't force your lower back to touch the floor, wait till it happens on its own. Then repeat this technique occasionally. Before that, do it daily as much as you can, but for five minutes at a time.
How long? 5 minutes.
How frequent? Every day.
Indications, or do this when...you walk upright. Constipation, lack of engagement of baby's head after 38 weeks. Previous long labor. First time mother. History of sexual or emotional abuse. Desk work or lots of sitting.
Counter-indications, or don't use this when.... Any time on the back is not possible. Roll over to your side if you feel unwell while doing this.
Remember, you spend 5 minutes on your back for a prenatal exam. This 5-minutes will be ok.
Can't lay down? Your lunges, when done properly, will help your psoas, too. As will daily, brisk walking. As will, breathing deeply and letting your belly relax. Kneeling lunges, standing forward lunges, and sitting with your knees lower then your hips help lengthen your psoas. Activities that arch yourself backwards from your leg socket, so to speak. Drink water to hydrate your psoas or the stretches won't find a muscle with mobility.
A longer, more supple psoas is one of several factors helping baby engage at 38 weeks gestation.
Technique: Hands through the hole
Why? Balances the pelvis and "opens" the hips, allowing easier descent of the baby in labor.
Who does this? Women themselves. Learn this "pose" at yoga and from a physical therapist.
How? Lay on your back. Bend both knees with your feet flat on the floor. Breathe a few times.
Lift one leg, lets say your right knee, and put that ankle above the bent knee of the other leg.
Put one hand through the hole your right leg makes and grab the thigh or shin of the other leg (left).
Lift the left leg to grab it.
Hold the pose for a bit, and stretch your lifted knee, in this case, the right knee, away from your head. You will feel a stretch. Don't hurt yourself. Take a few breaths.
Put both feet down again and breathe a breath. Then do the opposite leg in the same way, opening the left knee, this time, away from your head.
How long? This may take two minutes to start with, and longer as you get more comfortable with it. Give yourself 5 minutes to do both legs by the third week into it.
How frequent? Daily when you can, but three times a week for your body to respond.
Indications, or do this when... Everyone benefits. All pregnant women can benefit.
Counter-indications, or don't use this when.... When lying on your back is impossible.
Start in symmetry. Then put your "hand through the hole" and grab either your thigh or your shin as you are able. Relax your back. Rest in symmetry. Switch legs and repeat.
Thanks to doula, Evelyn Hernandez for taking these photos. Find Evelyn at Everyday-Miracles.com
Thanks to Colette Crawford from whom I first learned this from her yoga video for women's health.
Technique: 3 Hip Openers
Why? Hip flexibility and pelvic balance
Who does this?The woman herself. She learns this at yoga class.
How? There are three steps. Using a rebozo in this picture, the pregnant model wraps the scarf around the ball of her foot. She could use a pilates band or a belt. I use my sock because I can usually find it.
The first, both hands hold the belt. The right leg is straight, but not locked. That takes awareness. Lift the thigh muscle towards the hips to make the leg "active". Relax a bit while keeping your leg active. Notice your breathing. Let it be free. Then lift your leg towards your head. Don't hurt yourself. Give yourself some weeks to get more flexible.
The second, transfer the "belt" to your right hand (the picture doesn't show this with the right leg, but shows it with the left leg. Oh well, you will do both.) Let that leg open and rest on the wall. Again, the leg is straight but not locked. Breathe freely. Relax your leg into this while keeping your thigh muscle lifted towards your hips.
The third, cross your right leg over your body and rest it on a wall (or chair). Now the picture shows the right leg again. Sorry to confuse you. But read the directions again and you will get it. Let your leg rest, supported like that.
Switch legs and begin again.
How long? A minute or two for each step, or shorter and then repeat both sides again.
How frequent? 3 times a week or more.
Indications, or do this when... Everyone benefits.
Counter-indications, or don't use this when.... Again, only if someone can't at all be on their back.
Thanks to Clare Welter, CNM, who taught me this and to use props at her Sunday prenatal yoga class now at St. Paul Yoga Center on Selby and Dunbar. Using the props helps immensely!
A folded yoga pad or quilted blanket, rug or folded towel protects knees and wrists. Leaning over a birth ball or couch seat can be done if your wrists are too tender. Or go down on your elbows for "cat cow" and undulate that spine! Don't sway your back much, so really its "cat-table top" so the back goes straight and then arches up (cat).
Its good to rest on your belly in child's pose, on hands and knees, but don't expect that pelvic tilts will be the one technique to turn a baby. Solutions rarely work in isolation. Pelvic tilting works better with contractions to turn baby. Do in pregnancy to keep your sacrum flexible and your spine comfortable. Windmills are another helpful exercise for back comfort!
Crawl around a while. Use knee pads for crawling.
Do pelvic tilts at the end of each day for comfort and to enhance flexibility.
Why? Loosens the hips and sacrum. Relaxes the lower back and soothes an achy back at the end of a long day.
Who does this? No professional help is necessary, but a yoga teacher or physical therapist can give advice about technique.
How? Hands are under your shoulders, knees are under your hips. Knees are a little apart, not touching. Focus on your lower back.
Your back starts flat (not sway back!)
Lift your lower back
Flatten your back again.
This is like "Cat Cow" yoga pose.
How long? Do 20-40 pelvic tilts for comfort, usually about 2-3 minutes.
How frequent? Daily for comfort, or as needed. In labor, for 20 minutes.
Indications, or do this when... the lower back is tired or achy; or the hips are stiff. After balancing techniques to help baby swing to the anterior, or during labor through several contractions for the same aim.
Counter-indications, or don't use this when.... Wrists or knees are too weak or damaged. Use a cushion for your knees and lean over a birth ball or soft chair so you aren't resting on your wrists, if that's better.
Thanks to Penny Simkin, PT, who taught all of us doulas the importance of the Pelvic Tilt. And to my sister, Kathy, who taught me this when I was 17 years old while she was helping me prepare for a natural birth.
Thanks: to Katie and Jesse for sharing their photos with us here at SpinningBabies.com
Continue to Relax the abdominal muscles and ligaments and moving the pelvic joints
Relaxation doesn't only mean taking a deep breath. Breathing evenly and deeply is important, however. But for good fetal positioning and labor progress the ligaments, joints and fascia (the membrane surrounding our muscles, organs and bones) need to be relaxed and symmetrical.
What else you can do:
Got a helper today?
The 3 Sisters of Balance
When you are doing these by yourself, start with a short forward-leaning inversion (30 seconds).
There are professional body work techniques that will also help with Optimal Fetal Positioning using Spinning Babies first principle, Balance.
For breeches, add the Breech Tilt after the Forward-leaning Inversion.
I'll leave this template here in case I add more on this page. But those are most of the techniques that I suggest for Balance.
Who does this?
Indications, or do this when...
Counter-indications, or don't use this when....