Could Exercise During Pregnancy Make Labor Harder?

Why a fit pregnancy doesn’t always make for the best birth plan.

Could Exercise During Pregnancy Make Labor Harder?

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I worked out until I gave birth and looked like I had just stepped out of a pregnancy magazine. I only gained weight in my belly and my boobs, and I generally felt good. But my rigorous and rather insane fitness routine came at a steep price: a 42-hour labor.

You see, our society sees pregnancy through Hollywood eyes, in which women display pregnancy with a cute, round bump -- rarely the reality of weight gain, aches and pains, and swollen ankles. To the detriment of my well-being, I strove to attain that publicly acceptable image and was often congratulated for this feat.


But exercising too much, especially at the end of your pregnancy, can do a number on your body’s alignment. It can overly tighten your pelvic floor muscles, torque your pelvic ligaments, misalign your pelvis and constrict your psoas muscles. All of this can end up shifting your baby’s position, ultimately making birth more difficult. Since I was a prenatal yoga instructor, a Lamaze teacher and a doula, I was well versed on the dangers that over-exercising can pose to the pregnant and laboring body, but my body image obsession took precedent. And so I kept on working out until the end of my pregnancy: I took spin class 5 days a week, continued with weight training and kept on going to my advanced yoga classes. The very first time I had missed a spin class was because I was in labor, and it really ticked me off. I wish someone had told me that what I was doing could do more harm than good.

After 20 hours of labor, I knew something was wrong. My son’s heart rate never faltered and my blood pressure remained normal, but my labor wasn’t progressing. Fortunately, my doula, husband, and midwife were very hands-on in trying to help my labor move along. They walked, shifted, and shimmied my body to correct my baby’s position. By the time I fully dilated and started pushing, he was still slightly malpositioned and didn’t correct himself until four hours into pushing. Finally after almost two days of labor, my perfectly healthy baby boy was born. My body, however, had seen better days. I was extremely tired and sore, and my pelvic floor muscles felt defeated.

Sadly, this story of long, arduous labor is not uncommon. Most of the time, it has to do with the baby’s position in the pelvis. Baby needs to be well aligned in what is called “optimal fetal position.” This doesn’t just mean head down. The baby’s spine needs to be towards mama’s belly; its head should be tucked in towards its chest; and the smallest part of the head must be pushing symmetrically against the cervix. Think of how you put on a turtleneck sweater: you wouldn’t look upwards to the opening or tilt your head to the side; you would tuck your chin down and slide the neck opening over your head. The same goes for a baby coming through the cervix.

Many women don’t have a support system during birth to help baby shift and end up with a cesarean section after being pronounced ‘failure to progress’ or ‘baby too big.’

My challenging birth and recovery taught me to remind women the importance of accepting body changes and slowing down. The whole system in which I teach prenatal yoga has shifted to focus on helping women have a functional birth. Students work towards creating balance both physically and mentally and preparation for birth.

For my second pregnancy, you can bet I did things differently. Towards the end of my third trimester, I regularly saw a chiropractor to help align my pelvis, I established a more balanced and appropriate yoga practice, and I traded in my spin shoes for a maternity bathing suit. Then I pushed my daughter into the world in 6 minutes! I learned from my mistakes, and I hope you can too.

Image via George Ruiz on Flickr.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.


Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!


Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.


Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌


Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.


Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.


Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.


Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


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