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4 Exercises to do Every Day in the First Trimester - and Beyond!

This is the second post (Weeks 9-10) in the series "What you don't expect when you're expecting".


“I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired!”


I uttered this phrase somewhere around week 9 for both my pregnancies. Beside the pregnancy confirmation via bloodwork, I remember feeling like there wasn’t any “proof” that I was pregnant yet. No bump, no ultrasound picture. Just feeling like garbage - exhausted and nauseous. I didn’t get that first ultrasound picture until almost 10 weeks. Having that tangible proof made things a little better - at least there was visible evidence as to why everything was a struggle.


So if this is you, I understand how you feel.


And as much as you may not want to hear it, I found that a little bit of movement every day really made a difference. And the habits you set up now you will carry with you throughout pregnancy, birth, and beyond.


Yes - I am suggesting that you should start training for birth.


Think of it this way -

If you want to learn how to do a pull up, a Couch to 5K program isn’t going to help you. It’s based on the Principle of Specificity.


In short, the Principle of Specificity says that the training you do should be relevant and appropriate for whatever it is you’re training for. When you perform a specific skill, you get better at that specific skill. You stop having to think about it so much, and “muscle memory” takes over.


If you want to give birth in a squatting position but you currently can’t squat, you won’t magically be able to 30ish weeks from now. If you want to tap into intuitive birthing positions, your body will only intuitively go into positions it has stored in its muscle memory bank.


So you start practicing!


But before you do, I want you to spend some time thinking about your pregnancy and birth goals. No, not your birth PLAN (there’s plenty of time for that later) but your GOALS.


How do you want to feel during your pregnancy?

Why do you want to feel this way?


When you look back on your pregnancy in 5 or 10 years, what do you want to remember?

Why?


I encourage you to pause reading this and go figure this out for yourself.


Why?


Because there are going to be days in the future (or even at this very minute) where you don’t want to do these exercises for yourself. But if you are solid on your WHY, you’ll have an easier time convincing yourself to not only do them, but enjoy them.


No matter your birth HOW or WHY, the following movements will help make pregnancy and birth a bit more comfortable.


These four exercises can be done in a few short minutes a day. They are about connection and mobility - two things that are very important for birth. Yes, I’ll get into more strength specific exercises in the coming weeks but what your body needs for strength in pregnancy isn’t the same as everyone else. For example, clamshells are a typical prenatal “go to” but if you’re suffering from SI (sacroiliac) joint pain, that exercise may be a literal “pain in the butt.”


1. Upright breathing

Sit crisscross applesauce on a big pillow or bolster. Make sure your knees are lower than your hips. This will pull your pelvis into a more optimal position. In our day-to-day lives, we frequently sit with our hips “tucked under” (posterior tilt) especially if you’ve got tight hamstrings. This can lead to a shortened, tight pelvic floor - not great for giving birth. Yes we want a STRONG pelvic floor but not a TIGHT one. (Side Note: if you’re scratching your head, don’t worry. I’ll be covering pelvic floor mechanics later in this series).


Back to the bolster.


Sitting with your knees lower than your hips ensures you’re actually sitting on your sitz bones.


Now, spend a few minutes doing the deep breathing from the 5-8 weeks post:

  • Sit comfortably somewhere you won’t be disturbed for few minutes

  • Place your palms in your lap and relax your shoulders

  • Inhale through your nose for a slow count of 5. Get as much air in as you can.

  • Hold for 2-5 counts

  • Exhale through your nose for a slow count of 5. Again, get out as much air as you can.

  • On your exhale, encourage some gentle pelvic floor and transverse abdominis activation, aka “Hug the baby” with your belly.

  • On the next inhale, release that PF contraction and “Release the baby”

2. Quadruped pelvic tilts

You’ve probably seen and read all about these many many times before, but I’m going to suggest a slightly different focus than usual.


This exercise may look like a slow motion Cat-Cow but the internal focus is different. While a traditional Cat-Cow is for spinal mobility, we are focusing on pelvic mobility, specifically the sitz bones.


Did you know they can move?! I’m sorry to say I didn’t know this until I went through my comprehensive Pilates training at the age of 28.


Let’s Go:

  • To begin, get into all 4’s and find the longest spine you can. If your sitz bones were lasers, they would be pointing to the wall behind you.

  • Aim the lasers to the floor as you tuck the pelvis (posterior tilt). Let that contraction ripple through your spine to your head if it feels good.

  • Again starting at the tailbone, slowly aim your lasers towards the ceiling. Let that extension ripple through your spine to your head if it feels good.


Once you get the feel for this articulation, let’s add a challenge…

  • Next time you aim your lasers towards the floor, can you aim them TOWARDS each other too?

  • When you aim your lasers towards the ceiling, can you aim them AWAY from each other?

  • TIP: You can encourage this a bit more by externally rotating your femurs (thigh bones) when aiming TOWARDS and DOWN and internally rotating when aiming UP and AWAY.

I want to hear all about how this goes and feels as your pregnancy progresses! Comment below or DM me on social.


3. Supine Knee Fans

I LOVE this one. It’s great even if you aren’t pregnant. There are so many wonderful components:

  • Inner thigh stretch

  • Pelvic floor stretch

  • Obliques stretch (they start working overtime as pregnancy progresses - more on that in upcoming weeks)

  • Strengthens the glutes which will stabilize the pelvis. This is super important because when the Relaxin kicks in, it’s gonna get real loosey goosey in a few months

A little word before I set you up for this -

Yes you can lie on your back for as long as it takes to do this one (as long as you are considered healthy and low risk by your doctor).


Let’s Go:

  • Lie on your back, knees bent, legs squeezing together.

  • Start to press into your left foot, so much that your left hip starts to lift and your right knee fans down towards the ground.

  • Double check your shoulders haven’t rotated, too.

  • Using your obliques, bring the pelvis back to center, knee lagging behind and coming up last.

  • Repeat to the other side.

  • Notice which side feels easier.

  • TIP: The more your press down with the foot, the more back body engagement you’ll get.

  • If it feels good, end by letting both knees fan out to the side. Use a bolster under your head, neck, and ribs if that feels better.

4. Supported squats

This final exercise has a lot of similar benefits to #3 but this is a great option if being on your back is uncomfortable at any point. These squats aren’t about how low you can go - it’s about using the movement of the thigh in the hip joint to encourage pelvic motion. Remember how turning in and out helped with lasers together and lasers apart in Pelvic Tilts (#2)? Same thing here.


Turning out will draw the sitz bones together and open the pelvic inlet (top of the pelvis). Parallel will separate the sitz bones and open the pelvic outlet.


And don’t worry - you’re not going to induce labor with these. It’s again about muscle memory. Whenever you are in labor, if your baby isn’t descending, turned-out is what you need so baby can drop into the pelvis via the pelvic inlet. When you’re in the pushing phase, parallel is what you need to make space between the sitz bones. Practicing these positions will give you a better chance of having muscle memory kick in.


There you have it. Four exercises to do every day in pregnancy. I really hope you take the time to figure out your pregnancy goals. It’s okay (and NORMAL) to not feel like a magic vessel for the entire 40 plus weeks of your pregnancy, but I encourage you to spend some time figuring out what makes you feel good and do lots of that!

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