You are already fit enough for birth.
Read that again. A healthy birth and positive birth outcome are not reserved for people with the privilege of exercising their way through their pregnancy
Sure, there are benefits to exercising during your pregnancy- and we can talk about those, but let’s also acknowledge that exercise during pregnancy is not going to guarantee you an easy, efficient or pain free vaginal birth. And plenty of people who don’t so much as lift a dumbbell during their pregnancies have very healthy and efficient labor and delivery experiences.
Worrying about exercise during pregnancy is absolutely a privilege. It comes after worrying about good health, adequate health care, job and finances, nutrition, a safe living environment, childcare for other kiddos, dealing with pregnancy symptoms and a host of other things I’m probably missing.
Let’s not for a second suggest that if you don’t have the luxury to engage in a pregnancy fitness program that you won’t be ready for birth.
Or that if your birth deviates from plan, that you are somehow responsible because you didn’t move enough or in the right ways during your pregnancy.
People have been giving birth for a long time. And if it was so complicated, really, there wouldn’t be so many of us on this planet.
Perhaps this perspective is surprising coming from someone who makes their living as a pregnancy and postpartum fitness coach. And look, there are plenty of reasons to exercise during pregnancy… if you have that luxury. If you care to. And certainly, it’s something I enjoyed and it’s something I’m happy to guide you through. But let’s call it what it is.
Exercise can make your brain feel good. It makes your body feel good and ease some of the physical discomforts of pregnancy. Maybe your sport or your exercise is a huge part of your identity, your social life or your professional life. Maybe you just like to exercise for some other reason. For sure, exercise has been shown to have positive benefits for maternal and fetal well being. And yes, exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on a birth outcomes by a few measures. There are reasons to exercise during pregnancy.
If you were athletic before your pregnancy and you maintain your fitness routine into your pregnancy, you don’t get extra credit for being extra fit on your birthing day (sorry!). Instead of worrying about increasing your “fitness” for birth, consider learning safe strategies and modifications to approach or maintain your chosen mode of exercise through your pregnancy, adjusting your athletic mindset to better align with the realities of labor and delivery, and develop strategies to manage tension in your pelvic floor.
Intentional movement and exercise may help stack the deck in favor of certain outcomes, but ultimately childbirth is unpredictable and its course depends on a lot of factors that are outside of your control.
To be clear, exercise does not guarantee an easy birth. And not exercising doesn’t doom you to a tough birth. You don’t have to earn your positive birth experience.
If you are an athlete, active womxn, or otherwise place a high value on your physical fitness and long term pelvic health, download this guide to learn 4 key considerations to guide your childbirth preparation.
My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Contact me if you have questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I work with people locally (Seattle’s Eastside: Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland and surrounding areas) and online to develop personalized pregnancy and postpartum personal training plans. I also offer labor support (doula services) within the greater Seattle-Metro Area.