Dr. Bradley described birth as more of an “athletic event” than a medical one, and compared labor and birth to playing a full game of football without any substitutions.
Just like any sport requires months of training, so do labor and birth. The pregnancy exercises below are those you will learn in Bradley Method® classes. In class we teach you more of the “why” and “how” for each one, but this will get you started as a “warm up.”
If you have any medical concerns during your pregnancy, please consult with your physician or midwife before beginning any exercise regime.
Start with just 10 minutes a day if you are not accustomed to cardio exercise, and slowly build up.
You should maintain a confident but easy pace during which you could carry on a conversation.
Sit on the floor with feet crossed near hips. Keep the back tall and lean gently forward.
Use as a replacement for chair-sitting whenever possible.
Place feet hip-width apart, keep knees over the toes and gently lower to a deep flat-footed squat. Hold on to a counter top or a partner for balance if necessary. Return to standing by coming up “tail first” and roll the spine up.
Use squatting in place of bending over.
On hands and knees, forming a box with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips, begin with your back in a neutral, level position. Gently relax the lower back, keeping your upper back still. As you return the spine to neutral, pull in your abdominal muscles, thinking “belly button to backbone.”
This is my hands-down favorite exercise for relieving back discomfort, and a host of other pregnancy-related discomforts. Begin with four sets of ten, spread throughout your day, including a set immediately before bed.
Sit on the floor, leaning at about a 45-degree angle against a firm support with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Have a partner assist you by kneeling in front of you and applying mild resistance to the outsides of your knees as you separate your knees and lower them to the floor. Release the resistance and return to starting position.
This exercise strengthens the abductor muscles, making it easier to maintain a good birthing position for second stage.
Tone the pelvic floor by contracting and releasing the pelvic floor muscles as if you were trying to start and stop the flow of urine.
Do several sets of 10-20 throughout the day to reduce urinary incontinence and tone the pelvic muscles that encourage proper fetal position during birth.
A portion of every Bradley Method class is devoted to learning relaxation techniques for labor. You can get a head-start by side-lying with a pillow tucked under your head and chest, and another pillow supporting your upper leg. Then consciously think through every part of your body from head to toe and let go of any tension you find. Relax your breathing, and if you can prevent yourself from falling asleep, go back through each part of your body, physically relaxing even more deeply.
In class, you will also learn mental and emotional relaxation in addition to more advanced physical relaxation techniques.