Just like you can train your body for a marathon, you can train your body for giving birth. The most important conditioning you can do is in your pelvic floor and your hips. Strengthening these areas will help you push the baby out quicker and lead to a speedier recovery.
For greater flexibility, do hip openers in your second trimester: Sit in a butterfly position with the soles of your feet together and your knees open wide in a diamond. Use your elbows to open the hips further and hold for at least 30 to 60 seconds every day.
Other great hip openers:
cow face pose
hip flexor stretch
hip abductor stretch
To strengthen your pelvic floor, try doing kegals everyday. If your not sure what kegals are, they are the muscles that can stop and start your urine flow. Imagine you're drawing your pelvic floor up like an elevator and hold at the top for about 10 seconds, then slowly control the decent as you release the pelvic floor muscles. You can also try quick flicks kegals, which are short, intermittent contractions -- quickly contract and release the pelvic floor muscles 10 times. The pelvic floor muscles, like every other muscle in your body, have slow and fast twitch fibers, so it’s important to strengthen them with different kegal contractions. Slow twitch fibers are endurance muscle fibers, and fast twitch muscle fibers are quick to fatigue. More information is proceeded below on Kegels if you'd like to delve deeper into the subject ;)
What are Kegels?
Kegels are exercises you can do to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles – the muscles that support your urethra, bladder, uterus, and rectum. The exercises are named after Arnold Kegel, a gynecologist who recommended them back in the 1940s to help women with urinary incontinence, or diminished bladder control, which can happen after childbirth.
If you're not already doing Kegel exercises, start them now. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles may help prevent or treat urinary stress incontinence, a problem that affects up to 70 percent of women during or after pregnancy. Kegel exercises may also help reduce the risk of anal incontinence.
Because Kegels improve circulation to your rectal and vaginal area, they may help keep hemorrhoids at bay and possibly speed healing after an episiotomy or tearduring childbirth. Finally, continuing to do Kegel exercises regularly after giving birth not only helps you maintain bladder control, it also improves the muscle tone of your vagina, making sex more enjoyable.
How do I do them?
Start with an empty bladder. Imagine that you're trying to stop yourself from passing gas and trying to stop the flow of urine midstream at the same time. The feeling is one of "squeeze and lift" – a closing and drawing up of the front and back passages.
If you're not sure you've got it, one way to check is by inserting a clean finger into your vagina before doing a Kegel. If you feel pressure around your finger, you're on the right track. Or try a Kegel during lovemaking and ask your partner if he can feel it. If you're doing it correctly, he'll be able to feel you "hug" his penis.
Make sure that you're squeezing and lifting without pulling in your tummy, squeezing your legs together, tightening your buttocks, or holding your breath. In other words, only your pelvic floor muscles should be working.
Though you may have trouble isolating these muscles at first, it gets easier with practice. It might help to place a hand on your belly while you're doing your Kegels to make sure that it stays relaxed.
If you haven't been doing Kegels, start by holding each contraction for a few seconds before releasing, and relax for a few seconds after each one. As your muscles get stronger, you'll want to work up to holding each Kegel for ten seconds, then relaxing for ten seconds after each one. If you're suffering from urinary incontinence, try to hold a Kegel while you sneeze, cough, or lift something. You may find that it helps keep you from leaking.
How often should I do them?
Start doing Kegels a few at a time throughout the day. As your muscles start to feel stronger, gradually increase both the number of contractions you do each day and the length of time you hold each contraction, up to ten seconds. Do them in sets of ten and try to work up to three or four sets about three times a day.
Make Kegels part of your daily routine: For example, you could do a series when you wake up in the morning, another while you're watching TV, and then again before you go to bed. But it really doesn't matter when or where you do them – as long as you do them regularly.
Be patient and keep at it. It may take three to six weeks of regular Kegels before you notice an improvement in bladder control.
How long should I continue doing Kegels?
Don't stop doing Kegels! You have to continue the exercise to maintain your strength and ward off incontinence as you age. So make doing Kegels a lifelong habit.
Working to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong may also help guard against pelvic organ prolapse, a common condition among older women. In pelvic organ prolapse, relaxation of the pelvic muscles and ligaments allows the uterus, bladder, and rectal tissue to sag and protrude into the vagina. This may cause incontinence, as well as other symptoms including a sense of pelvic heaviness, low back pain, and discomfort during sex.