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Essential Exercises for Expecting Mothers: 5 Must-Try Moves

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      These expectant parents movements will assist in preparing you for the delivery, so when the time comes, your physique will be equally ready as your nursery.

      Embrace Your Infant

      BodyLove Pilates

      This is one of the most crucial exercises to engage in during your pregnancy, states Ali Handley, New York–based pilates specialist and founder of BodyLove Pilates, a prenatal and postnatal online studio. “This exercise fortifies the transverse abdominis (TVA), which envelops the midsection of the body like a pair of Spanx,” she explains. “When activated correctly, it tightens, elongates, and — importantly during childbirth — it compresses,” adds Handley.

      During the pushing phase of labor, this motion aids the uterus in the final contractions to deliver your baby. It’s also the initial exercise you’ll need to practice postnatal to restore your abs, says Handley.

      A. Sit comfortably in a neutral position — on an exercise ball, yoga block, or chair (just ensure it’s on the sit bones).

      B. Inhale through nose, allowing belly to fill up with air and stomach muscles to completely relax.

      C. Exhale a long, gradual, even breath out of mouth while envisioning TVA enveloping the baby and embracing them toward spine.

      Tip: “I prefer to place one hand on top of my belly just below my sternum, and the other just below my belly button,” says Handley. “Focus on pulling your belly away from your bottom hand, but keeping your top hand where it is so you’re not rounding your spine as you do the exercise,” she notes.

      Labor Preparation Squats

      BodyLove Pilates

      Squats are one of the most accessible and functional exercises, even as your due date approaches. They’re an exceptional way to fortify your legs and butt — and if you’re planning a natural childbirth, you’ll need a strong lower body to sustain some suggested birthing positions.

      “The movies have unfortunately made us believe that women still labor on their back with their legs in stirrups when, in fact, the squatting position is an awesome way to give birth,” says Handley. “The birth canal is in better alignment, and there is an added bonus of gravity to assist in delivering the baby,” she adds.

      A. Stand with both feet evenly on the ground, hips-width apart. Inhale through the nostrils while hinging at the hips, then bend at the knees and sit into a crouch. Visualize extending the bones of the buttocks backward as if descending into a seat.

      B. Exhale a long, slow, even breath out of the mouth while picturing the TVA encircling the infant and embracing them towards the spine.

      C. Press through the feet, raising the pelvic floor, to rise back up.

      “The crouch is a splendid spot to test your psychophysical control and muscle stamina,” says Handley. Attempt holding the crouch for five to 10 breaths, focusing on the breaths rather than your muscles, she suggests. “Your uterus contracting during labor to expel the infant is similar to any other muscle contraction — you need to rehearse breathing through it,” adds Handley.

      Pelvic Floor Elongation

      BodyLove Pilates

      “The pelvic floor muscles are an incredible framework comprised of three distinct layers and are required to perform significantly more than simply a kegel compression during pregnancy,” says Handley. When you reach your third trimester, it is crucial to truly elongate these muscles to facilitate the exit of the baby.

      A. Place a yoga block or stack of cushions against the wall. Stand with the back against the wall with feet extended in front of the body.

      B. Inhale through the nostrils while gradually sliding down the wall. Exhale a long, slow, even breath out of the mouth while continuing down the wall, allowing the pelvic floor to completely release until reaching the yoga block/cushions.

      C. Once down, open the knees like a butterfly and gently apply pressure just above the knees for an additional elongation. Hold for 90 seconds. Close the knees and repeat.

      “I recommend incorporating pelvic floor elongation into your daily routine in the weeks preceding your due date,” says Handley. “You want to have an awareness of what it feels like to truly stretch and release these muscles you’ve been diligently strengthening,” she explains.

      Reverse Respiration

      BodyLove Pilates

      “During labor, you’ll require the power of your exhale to fully release the pelvic floor muscles and deliver your baby,” says Handley. “It takes some practice, but with a little training, you’ll excel at this exercise,” she encourages.

      A. Sit comfortably on the floor or on an exercise ball. Inhale through the nostrils and feel the pelvic floor elevate. While inhaling, the diaphragm will push down simultaneously.

      B. Exhale and produce a hissing sound out of the mouth to envision fully releasing and letting go of the pelvic floor muscles. The hissing sound aids in using TVA to collaborate with the uterus in its final contractions as the baby emerges.

      Suggestion: Give the reverse breathing technique a try while doing a few sets of squats. “As you squat down, exhale and relax the muscles of the pelvic floor. When you stand up, inhale and engage the muscles of the pelvic floor,” advises Handley.

      The Standing Swan

      BodyLove Pilates

      According to Handley, “This exercise is like the ultimate preparation for giving birth. It involves strengthening your core, improving endurance in your lower body, increasing spinal flexibility, stretching your pelvic floor, and allowing you to practice the reverse breathing technique.”

      A. Begin by standing with your legs wide apart and turned outward. Place an exercise ball in front of your body.

      B. Inhale through your nose, nod your chin, and start rolling down your spine. As you roll down, place your hands on the ball and begin pushing it out in front of you.

      C. Exhale slowly and evenly through your mouth while continuing to push the ball. Hinge at your hips, bend your knees, and extend your tailbone behind you until your arms are straight and your body is nearly parallel to the floor. Inhale through your nose and hold this position.

      D. Exhale slowly and evenly through your mouth as you draw your belly towards your spine, lift your pelvic floor, round your lower back into a C-curve, and use your feet to push yourself back up to standing. Use the same controlled movement to articulate your spine on the way up as you did on the way down.

      Suggestion: While in the swan position, Handley suggests trying reverse breathing for five breaths. This will challenge your legs and stretch your pelvic floor.

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