The countdown is on for you to meet your baby! The last twelve(ish) weeks of pregnancy can both feel like an eternity and that all of a sudden there isn’t enough time to prepare.
I remember being hyper focused on what things I needed for my babies – did I have the right diapers, how many onesies, the best car seat, the hospital bag packed up ready to go.
My second pregnancy I was worried about my toddler – how would he adjust, would he be ok at night on his own, can I potty train him in time!
My first and second births were completely different experiences but those weeks leading up to “birth day” primarily centered on my baby or my kids each time.
What about me?
What about YOU?
Here are the biggest 3 things I wish I would have known (although there is a long list of more!) during the homestretch that would have benefited me not only during pregnancy and delivery, but also in the immediate postpartum!
I wish I would have known that it’s ok for me to adjust how I exercised.
Sure I modified some movements because of my baby belly, but many of us don’t understand why we should adjust and learn strategies that can support our bodies for long term function.
Exercise can still be a part of your routine and there are many benefits to staying active including those that are physical and emotional. During this time though, exercise and movement may look a bit different compared to what you have been doing the previous two trimesters.
And that’s ok.
It’s meant to be different. We are different – structurally, hormonally, and mentally – and that needs to be reflected in the what and how we move.
Many women that I work with (and I, myself was worried about this as well) don’t want to put on extra weight because society tells us 25 pounds is the acceptable amount. So we push ourselves through pain, fatigue, and more at the gym or out on the trail running. Or we may be afraid that we will lose our athletic skill or capacity.
Or we are afraid that someone will compare us to Karen who is also pregnant and doesn’t seem to be tired at all and still doing all of the things and we think they think we are lazy. (Get what I’m putting down? Let me tell you – Karen is probably thinking the same thing and is also probably feeling fatigue or other symptoms!)
This last trimester of pregnancy is just that! A short chapter in our overall story. Find movement that supports you right now. Not what you were doing 6 months ago. Find movement that will support your labor and postpartum recovery including dialing in breathing, positioning, and strategies in understanding your pelvic floor and core.
There is no one size fits all regimen for pregnancy because each of us is different in what our goals are, what we love to do, and how our bodies respond. Prenatal yoga may work for you and it may not. Going to CrossFit and adjusting movements in load, volume, and range of motion may be right for you. Switching from running to walking or adapting to a more low impact form of cardio like rowing, swimming, or biking may be right for you.
My point is that your exercise routine can and should look different. There is nothing to prove to anyone! Move to feel good, build strength and function that will support you in the recovery to get you back to doing what you love to do.
If you need help finding someone who specializes in prenatal fitness and who can safely and effectively help guide and support you during this time check out the following as a great starting place! Brianna Battles
2. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
I wish I would have known about pelvic floor physical therapy. I didn’t have vaginal births but I still had incontinence. I did have Diastasis recti. I did have a cesarean twice which results in a fairly large scar across the abdomen and without massage therapy can lead to scar tissue with potential for additional problems. I did have severe pubis symphasis pain in pregnancy that made it painful to walk but was told was normal and to tough it out by my doctors.
First, I didn’t even really consider any of these things until they came up. Second of all it sure would have been nice to know that there is a professional out there who can help with all of this and so much more!
You may want to consider working with a pelvic floor physical therapist during pregnancy who can help you with common issues such as pubis symphasis dysfunction, SI pain, bowel movements, and also how to breathe with considerations around ways to relax your pelvic floor during labor.
Often times, athletes (I am considering this to be anyone who exercises or who even used to!) carry tension in the pelvic floor meaning that it can be hard to relax these muscles. Knowing how to relax the pelvic floor is very beneficial in the delivery process as well as the recovery process when reintroducing those first bowel movements (if you don’t have a squatty potty yet add that baby to the registry – game changer!)
If you don’t visit with a pelvic floor PT before birth set up an appointment for after the 6 week visit with your physician. This is an important step to the recovery process that should not be bypassed. Think about tearing your ACL – you’d always follow up with a physical therapist to help with your healing and rehab. Well your pelvic floor should follow up with one also (regardless of vaginal or cesarean birth).
Pelvic floor physical therapists can assist with assessing overall strength and function of your pelvic floor (your doctor or midwife usually are not trained for this), assess and provide help with diastasis recti, c-section scar therapy, pelvic organ prolapse, perineum tears during delivery, bowel movements, pelvic pain and so much more.
Game changer. Plan ahead and get the help you deserve.
Need help finding a PFPT? Check out www.pelvicguru.com to find one near you.
3. Educating Yourself on types of births = Empowering Yourself
I wish I would have educated myself more on birth and labor.
Yes, I took a birth class but when the time came to talk about c-sections our whole class said we preferred to skip over the material quickly. Insert face palm emoji here.
If you are only planning for a natural labor, I encourage you to read up on epidurals and c-section procedures and recovery. It’s important to know more
In my experience (and many other women that I have worked with) we become fixated on having a certain type of birth. That’s not wrong but educating yourself “just in case” is so beneficial!
Many of us train for birth mentally and physically and we can certainly utilize strategies both mental and physical that can help in the delivery room. But we cannot train for unexpected outcomes. We cannot fully control these experiences no matter how badly we want to.
The baby could be in a stressed position. Something with your health could unexpectedly appear when you start labor and all of the things in between. We can’t control that. We can control what we know to help empower us in those situations and to help heal afterwards. You may even want to ask for a therapist to talk about your birth if it did not go the way you planned.
I personally was not prepared beyond my perfect looking birth plan paper. I planned for a natural birth and mayyyyybbbeeee an epidural.
I understand my experience may be significantly different but realizing that one option was to be completely put under anesthesia to save my life hadn’t crossed my mind until I was in the operating room wondering what was happening and if I would see my baby.
I don’t write this to scare anyone, but to EMPOWER you.
If I had educated myself it may not have made the situation any less intense or scary but on the other side perhaps it might not have been as shocking? My husband may have been more prepared to help as well.
It can be a sensitive, uncomfortable and very personal topic to discuss but you should be aware of all of the options. I wish someone might have told me “hey Kate, you should know more than just what you want to hear.”
Things to potentially consider:
Be aware that if you have to have a c-section… What does recovery look like? What items might you need?
If you have a perineal tear and need multiple stitches how does this impact recovery now and moving forward?
If you pushed for a long time or there was intervention what symptoms should you be aware of immediate postpartum and thereafter?
Ask the questions and empower yourself with knowledge, whether you need it or not, and then share with your sisters and friends!
Here are some amazing resources to start empowering yourself with more knowledge! We deserve to know and understand more.