When it comes to birth preparation and natural birthing, a lot of attention is given to your mental state. In other words, preparing yourself mentally for the challenge ahead.
In my case, I read a lot (for both pregnancies) and was very interested in the whole hypnobirthing approach. It's very much about preparing your mind: getting yourself into a positive 'state'; being relaxed; and repeating various visualisations daily in the run up to your birth to keep you on track.
Not a lot of discussion is made of how to prepare yourself physically for labour.
I'm no expert and all I can share is my own experience. But when pregnant with my first child, I swam a few times a week, walked a lot and did prenatal yoga once a week. Inbetween classes, I would practice my yoga poses at home a few times a week and I felt physically 'right' and prepared for birth when it came.
With my second pregnancy, I am trying to replicate my first program but have had some issues with the swimming side of things (the haze in Singapore makes outdoor activity a loser at the moment) but I am doing prenatal yoga classes twice a week and a few times at home. And once the weather is better I will be swimming too.
I don't think you can do enough stretching throughout your pregnancy (whilst being mindful not to hold poses too long or to over stretch, which is easy to do during pregnancy due to relaxin coursing through your body).
In our yoga classes we focus a lot on stretching hamstring, calf and pelvic muscles which makes a lot of logical sense. I am told by my obstetrician (whom I trust) that the key is to find balance in your exercise, to make sure that your body is aligned and therefore baby is evenly supported during pregnancy (by your many muscles and ligaments) to aid a straight forward (pardon the pun) labour and birth.
When the body is physically imbalanced, it might tilt to one side which can make your birth canal literally not so straight forward!
He gave me a useful article, from his partner midwife, at Spinning Babies that I wanted to share:
To read more about Spinning Babies and their approach to preparing your body for a natural labour click here!