Question for mamas with natural birth experience - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-08-2010, 02:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My husband and I are expecting our first child around June 1. I'm planning (hoping!) for a natural birth with a midwife in a hospital here in NYC. From what I've read and intuit about natural birth, I'm assuming it'll be a fairly taxing physical experience! This may sound like a foolish question, but just exactly *how* taxing is it (assuming everything goes smoothly without complications)? What kind of shape were you in when you gave birth? I'm a little concerned about my physical stamina and general fitness because, wouldn't you know, I'm in the worst shape of my life right now (been unemployed for a year now, so I quit my gym membership last year). I've always been thin and since I live in the city (car-free), I walk everywhere, lugging groceries, going up and down stairs, etc. Still, I packed on a few pounds this year and have definitely lost some muscle mass. I'm hoping to start some pre-natal yoga classes soon, but at $17-20 a class, I won't be able to do more than 1 a week probably. What kind of exercise stuff did you pre-birth that you felt was really helpful during labor? Is there anything you wish you'd done to prepare?

(Sorry this is so long but since I'm the first of any of my friends/acquaintances to have a baby, I don't have anyone else to ask!)
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Old 01-08-2010, 03:10 PM
 
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I had a natural (and by that I am assuming you mean completely drug free and not just vaginal) birth with my daughter.

It is really not as bad as it seems, if you have the appropriate emotional support. I was overweight to start with and just gained more and more weight (was 230 pounds at 5 foot 8 when she was born) so obviously I was NOT in the best physical shape but that really didnt seem to have much to do with it at all.

One thing that really helped... kegel exercises! You dont need anything special or to pay to do these, you can find explanations online but they really REALLY do help!

I know what helped me the most was to have the reminder that it cannot last forever and that in the end i would have my baby in my arms... and to have people in the room who were comforting me and seemed genuinely proud of how well I was doing (XH was less than either, as he sat staring at the wall, that was the most negative experience about the WHOLE thing and a large part of why he is XH)

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Old 01-08-2010, 03:16 PM
 
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i'm with you--worst shape of my life and want to do this naturally! (drug free, intervention free)

thought i would share 2 pieces of advice i have gotten:

1) the shape you are in physically isnt as important as your mental state during labor. being relaxed, unafraid, and mentally prepared is most important. trusting your body and midwife and support team. i plan on reading the birth stories in ina may's guide to childbirth literally every day of my 3rd trimester :-)

2) as for yoga and little money...buy 2 dvds and do it at home :-) still fun to go to a class now and then to meet other moms, but that's the most affordable way to practice yoga.

married to DH for 5 yrs, ds born at home 6/26/10
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Old 01-08-2010, 03:20 PM
 
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I was in the worst shape of my life - extremely overweight - and had an awesome natural birth.
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Old 01-08-2010, 03:38 PM
 
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I was in great shape when I got pregnant, but almost immediately I had no desire to exercise. I did teach dance classes and do a fair amount of walking though.

I was in an incredible amount of pain the last 3 hours of my labour. I don't think being more or less in shape would have helped either way. I do think being in shape helps with the recovery process and getting back into shape afterwards though.

Like a PP said I definitely think you mental state is the most important thing. Personally I was totally in control of my pain until I got to the hospital. That is when I started losing it.

Me: Shannon (33) mom to DD Everly born May 9, 2007 and Maisie born May 26
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Old 01-08-2010, 03:40 PM
 
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I was in the worst shape of my life - extremely overweight - and had an awesome natural birth.
I was about 50# overweight with my last birth (6 weeks ago) and it was no problem.

I think pain-relief prep is good but it wasn't "hard" physically for me.

ETA: I think mom having access to food and drink is way more important, stamina-wise.

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Old 01-08-2010, 03:43 PM
 
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We're built to birth babies naturally, no matter how 'fit' you are.

My best advice is to try to sleep as much as possible in the hours/days leading up to active labour (ie. when you're very first contractions/labour pains begin.). Being as rested as you can be is great ... and eat well. Protein rich foods!

I had great plans to drink lots of labourade while labouring and never did.
I had great plans of snacking throughout to keep up my energy and never did.

Look forward to pushing ... when that comes, the hardest part is over (in my opinion). I was so relieved to be pushing!

ETA: I'm laughing to myself because I just remembered that my partner slipped a glorious piece of dark chocolate into my mouth at just the right time, when I needed a burst of energy. OOOhhh, it was heavenly!

dust.gifFour-eyed tattooed fairy godmother queer, mama to my lucky star (5) and little bird (2.5). Resident storyteller at www.thestoryforest.com. Enchanting audiostories for curious kids. Come play in the forest!
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Old 01-08-2010, 03:49 PM
 
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I've never been in great shape but have had two natural births. I don't think you need to worry about it, honestly. Adrenaline etc. really pulls you through. I mean, some underlying amount of stamina and health is a good thing, but I think you'd have to be pretty weak or out of shape for a natural birth to be too much for you.

With my first natural birth, twins, I had to push 3+ hours to get our first son out. That was tiring. But just as the books tell you, your body gives you a break when you need one. Right before I pushed him out, my contractions slowed and I actually took little catnaps beween contractions.

And it's funny...no matter how exhausting it was to push out those babies, and really---I was awake for 24 hours before each birth with sleepless contractions, your body STILL finds enough energy to be awake for quite a while after the birth. Not just awake, but wonderfully awake/aware/alive. It's sort of unbelievable.

The only exercise I got while pregnant was walking. I did A LOT of walking in the final weeks of the pregnancy, especially, trying to encourage baby(s) to stay in the right position and to bring on contractions.

RedOak ~ Momma to DS (8) , DS (4) , DD (3) , & DD 9/10 ~
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Old 01-08-2010, 03:50 PM
 
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Look into a prenatal yoga video. For the price of one class, you can buy one. I had one by Shiva Ray?Rea? and one by Gumurkh... and I loved them both.

My second was a natural child birth in Brooklyn. I'm not in fabulous shape... and I was fine. If you can, do some squats.. either on a stability ball.. or holding onto a chair. It will help.

I also walked a lot (living in NYC)... and that was great.

If you can, try and get a copy of the book "Active Labor". It may be at the library... or is available on Amazon. It will give you lots of great ideas on positions and stuff.

The one thing I wish I'd done is pack a cooler with snacks for the hospital. I did it with #3 (said they were for my husband...as hospital policy did not allow them)... but they were for me. Made a big difference.

Mom to DS(8), DS(6), DD(4), and DS(1).  "Kids do as well as they can."

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Old 01-08-2010, 04:01 PM
 
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The only exercise I got while pregnant was walking. I did A LOT of walking in the final weeks of the pregnancy, especially, trying to encourage baby(s) to stay in the right position and to bring on contractions.
lol same here... if it was too hot out we would go to walmart and wander around (I liked that better because they have benches in areas you tend to wait around... pharmacy, automotive, photo lab) so I could sit if I got horribly worn out.

the day before DD was born I walked 2 miles at the park before it got to hot out, walked around walmart for a couple hours, walked around the house, stood up as much as I could, kept moving... then that night with no contractions I gave up, got some movies... and laid down (exhausted!) to watch them.

Never slept, contractions started fast and got strong quickly... 1am i realized i was in labor, 3 am i made XH drive me home (we were in a city 45 minutes north of my town, staying with my gramma who was planning on taking DS during the labor anyway) 4am, home, called the hospital they said come in when you think you are ready... 5am I was ready... lol... she was born at 8am after ALL that walking and NO sleep. But it was a lovely experience! And I was not tired at all when it really mattered.

I remember after she was born I started crying and couldnt stop saying SHES SO PRETTY! SHES SO PRETTYYYY!

Also, I tore (I had no interventions at all) and did not realize this until afterward when they told me they were going to sew my tear up.

But I adore that hospital for how very sweet and supportive their ENTIRE staff is. Even if they have not met you before, they know that you are why they have a job and try to make your experience as nice as they can...

Really everyone else is saying it too but I cant stress enough... it is the mental and emotional that are the hardest parts. The physical labor is not that bad if you can keep your mind off of it and your mood positive!

Artist, photographer, stay-at-home-mom and Marine wife. Mom to 4; a boy and three little girls.
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Old 01-08-2010, 04:09 PM
 
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Moved to Birth and Beyond.

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Old 01-08-2010, 04:24 PM
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Get a doula. Seriously. Well worth the money. And get the book "Birthing From Within." Again, well worth the money.

My first birth was an epidural; my second birth was completely drug-free. Yes, going natural was hard during labor, but AFTERWARD I felt immediately great. Because with an epidural with my first, I had no idea how hard I was actually pushing, so I pushed too hard and was completely worn out afterward. But with a natural birth I was so much more in control of my body and, although it was tough, it was actually easier on my body in the long run.

(And apparently a natural birth at that hospital was, um, unique, because at one point I looked up and said, "Who are all these people standing around watching me!!" But I was too busy to care.)

"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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Old 01-08-2010, 04:26 PM
 
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Since you are in NYC you probably have a pretty high standard for what "being in shape" means. The folks around you are the thinnest people in the entire US. So, don't be too hard on yourself during your pregnancy.

Agree with umsami on getting a prenatal yoga DVD. I had one (produced by Yoga Journal), got my own mat and block and did it 2-3x week in my living room. It is the best possible preparation for natural birth because you practice getting relaxed and calm as well as physically limber, and the stretches and poses can help address some of pregnancy's aches and pains. My DVD also included a section of doing Kegels! And a section of just relaxing meditation (which echoes the Bradley method for natural birth I used).

Also, agree with Maeryn and RedOak. Just keep walking and walking, its great gentle exercise for your mind and body.

My natural births were definitely somewhat physically challenging, but overall more important was mental commitment, inner strength and my birth preparations (knowing what to expect during labor, having lots of techniques to use in managing pain, having practiced relaxation).

Good luck to you
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Old 01-08-2010, 04:29 PM
 
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And apparently a natural birth at that hospital was, um, unique,
The nurse attending my second had never seen a drug free birth before. She was completely blown away by it. Her first question afterwards was, how did you do that - do you do yoga or something?
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Old 01-08-2010, 05:07 PM
 
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Congrats!

First, you don't need a gym membership to be in shape! You might want to spend some cash on resistance bands! Many of them even come with DVDs.

Libraries also have exercise DVDs to loan for a cheap fee. I'm sure you can find prenatal yoga DVDs there too.

Finally, if you have cable TV, you can find "on demand" exercise programs.

I'm a professional fitness instructor & certified as a personal trainer (although fitness isn't what I do full time.) During my pregnancy, I continued to teach yoga, step aerobics & cardio kickboxing 2X per week, do boxing class that includes hitting & kicking heavy bags 1X per week, and lift weights heavy (no playing around with pink plastic dumbells!) around 2X per week.

I was in excellent shape & I do feel this contributed to my relatively quick & easy birth! 1st stage was under 5 hours from the first, "Oh, yeah, that was a ctrx!" to the urge to push. Pushing DS out took about 45 min. Of course, I also did optimal fetal positioning exercises too.

And this isn't just my personal observation based on my own experience. Dr. Clapp conducted extensive research on it & wrote a book, "Exercising Through Your Pregnancy." Sure enough, the exercising mamas had faster labors, less use of epidural, less instrumental deliveries, and fewer CS! They even found benefits for the babies years down the road! I found the book to be a fascinating read, but then again, I find physiology interesting.

To qualify as "exercising" mamas, they had to exercise a minimum of 3X per week, for at least 20 min, at "moderate to hard intensity." So, unfortunately, walking doesn't count unless you're doing speedy power-walking, or going up hills, stairs, etc.

Finally, to answer your question of 'how taxing is it really?" Well, it varies so much. Baby's position helps - a baby that is, for example, occiput posterior ("sunny side up" - facing your belly) will result in labor that most say is more painful, and is also longer because that alignment is not as efficient at dilating the cervix. Both 1st and 2nd stages can be longer & tougher in this case.

For me, the first hour of labor was just cramps. Even the rest was sometimes painful, but manageable. Pushing was actually kinda fun & even though I'd barely eaten all day (just had no appetite), I don't remember feeling tired. As a matter of fact, DS was born at 6:50 PM and I was so HIGH on endorphins that I had trouble getting to sleep that night. I kept reliving the birth in my mind.

I think your best bests for a good birth experience are to choose a good HCP & good provider, take a good class (Bradley or Hypnobabies) & practice your method, eat a healthy diet & keep a positive attitude. Personally, I don't think you need to be in marathon-runner shape to have a good birth & have enough energy for a drug-free birth, so I wouldn't stress.
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Old 01-08-2010, 05:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for the advice and reassurance! I feel like mentally/emotionally, I'm in great shape (emotional equivalent of washboard abs, haha). I've been reading lots of Ina May and the positive birth stories on MDC and we're getting ready to choose a doula, so I feel pretty confident and excited about giving birth medication-free. I hadn't thought much about the whole physical aspect until the other day when I looked down at some birthing position illustrations in the book I was reading and thought, oh my gosh, will I be able to manage some of these when I'm huge and going through contractions?! First birth jitters, I guess.
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Old 01-08-2010, 06:33 PM
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wit what you do living in NYC plus prenatal yoga, even if only once a week (and you can do it on your own at home as much as you like), you should be fine.

i can't really say how tiring or taxing it as. i had a pleasurable birth, but i was rather tired at the end. maybe like running a 5 k or so?

oh, and my guy was occiput posterior (we are fairly certain; we UCed, so we weren't looking at that per se when he came out). the labor was exactly 24 hrs. 8 hrs of orgasm/tickling, 12 hrs of quiet, meditative/hugging feeling, and 1-2 hrs of chatting with DH about nothing, and then 2 hrs of sounding and ecstatic movement.

i did the movements to help get good position, but he prefered where he was. LOL came out fine though. no problems.
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Old 01-08-2010, 06:48 PM
 
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I'm sure you're in better shape than I was both times, just b/c you live in the city and walk so much.

I was in the worst shape with my first, until I had my 2nd - never lost weight with breastfeeding and never weaned, so I had most of my first pgcy weight when I had my 2nd baby

It just wasn't an issue for me. Most important things to do - get as much sleep as you can, especially before you go into labor. First labors are frequently pretty long so you need to be rested up. Eat nutritious food and have good snacks handy (fruit and cheese were my favorite) for labor to keep up your energy. Emotional support - plenty of the good, and keep anyone with a negative attitude away.

You'll be fine your body will take over and do it for you if you can relax and let the natural process happen

WAHMama to Allen (2-10-05) and Alexa (6-27-08)
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Old 01-08-2010, 07:11 PM
 
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You are already in much better shape than I have been for my last few pregnancies.
My last? I had hyperemesis and had a zofran pump and PICC for the first 17 weeks. then spent a week in the hospital with mysterious heart problems. At 25 weeks my BP started rising and I was on 'take it easy/chair rest' for the rest of the pregnancy. I spent 90% of my time for 9 months on the couch, a good part of that malnourished. I was induced for PIH. I had a heavy epidural and managed to get my son out in three pushes (from -1 to birth). I was completely fried from the birth but ONLY because he was a 3AM birth and had a rough first 36 hours which had me standing next to a NICU warmer or pumping for the better part of that. Lack of sleep and emotional stress were the exhausting factors, not the physical act of giving birth.
I had a similar pregnancy with #7. Gave birth to her sans epidural but with pit and mag and I felt pretty darn good (except for the icky mag). If I can give birth before midnight and get through the post birth adrenalin rush and get a few hours of sleep in those first 12 hours I'm pretty golden.
Eat well, keep walking, do some prenatal exercise/yoga/dance-check your local hospital there may be some really affordable classes-and enjoy being pregnant.

Karen, homeschooling Catholic mom to 8. #9 due 6/10
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Old 01-08-2010, 07:55 PM
 
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I had two long-ish (24 hour or so) births, and one 3 hour birth. All of my births happened in the wee hours of the morning, so I had been without sleep for at least a day by the time each arrived. (Well, I take that back - I slept for 4 solid hours in the midst of my second birth so I would feel more energetic to play with him when he arrived.) Anyway, I found that by using Hypnobabies (I did the home study, but there are classes in many places, too), I stayed so relaxed and comfortable that I was energized by the process, rather than exhausted. It helps that birth creates endorphins and using Hypnobabies skills creates even more, so I was floating on a major "runners high" the whole time and for hours (days?) afterwards.

Walking is about the best exercise you can do while pregnant, so you're doing great! Add in a bit of yoga and some pregnancy-specific exercises like those taught in Hypnobabies and Bradley, and you'll be all set!
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Old 01-08-2010, 07:59 PM
 
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Welcome to MDC.

You don't have to be a marathon runner or yogi to have a drug-free, vaginal birth. Some people who are in great shape also do not have the birth they hoped for.

I personally think that as long as you're in reasonably good health, you can do it.

Mental health and a good attitude, while they do not guarantee a "natural" birth, are far more important than a few pounds or that many more yoga classes, for most women.

It's not that the stay-at-home-parent gets to stay home with the kids. The kids get to stay home with a parent. Lucky Mom to DD1 (4 y) and DD2 (18 mo), Wife to Mercenary Dad
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Old 01-08-2010, 08:12 PM
 
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I know people say "labor is like a marathon" but I think that's more like because it's long and you have to sort of pace yourself mentally and expect it to be long and tiring.

I was in the worst shape of my life when i gave birth the first time. Your daily walking for transportation is almost definitely putting you in far better shape than I was in (i wasn't overweight, just pretty out of shape - hadn't gotten much exercise in about a year) for my first birth. The next day I was mildly sore around my body - arms, legs, etc. and pretty sore on my bottom (had a small episiotomy, plus pushed for 2 hours) but it was all in all better than I had expected.

My second child, I was in even worse shape, because it's not that easy to get yourself into shape with a baby, and beyond that my baby was only 9 months old when i got pregnant with the second so my abs were a MESS by the end of my second pregnancy. It was definitely easier than the first, and the next day I was shocked how I was not sore *at all*... my butt has felt worse from riding my bike when I wasn't used to it than it did from giving birth to my second child

Jenna ~ mommy to Sophia Elise idea.gif  (1/06), Oliver Matthew  blahblah.gif (7/07) and Avery Michael fly-by-nursing1.gif(3/10)

 

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Old 01-08-2010, 09:39 PM
 
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A birth ball/exercise ball was great for me. I did walk lots during the entire pregnancy and think I got my legs in better shape than they were before, but the last month and a half was tough to go out. The birthing ball kept my hips loose and pelvic muscles going (i agree about the kegels!). I did yoga 1x a week and found myself in a great place for laboring... Then I had a baby who never wanted to come out and ended up being induced w/pitocin. I didn't go for pain meds though and that is where my mental state needed to be fit as well... I was in good enough shape to do the squats and laboring, but it was keeping focused on each wave without panicking about the next that helped me through. And, of course, I knew w/pitocin that the baby was coming soon and that was thrilling!!!

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Old 01-10-2010, 03:43 AM
 
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Walking is great exercise, and it's free! I have a dog and live in an apartment (so no yard) so we walk several times a day. It was the only real exercise I got, as I worked full time up to the end of my pregnancy.

One thing I'd recommend...as I'm staring down a prolapsed uterus...ugh! I would have done some Kegels religiously! I have no idea if it would have helped, as I think they are mainly for pelvic floor muscles, but my uterus is currently at the opening of my vagina and I'm off to the dr on Monday.

Aside from that, my natural birth was incredible! I would do it again in a second...it was amazing and empowering and surreal and lovely.

Mama of 2 sweet boys, Miles (Jan 3/07) and Avery (Nov 28/09) My fast and furious HBAC
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Old 01-10-2010, 06:41 AM
 
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I have 3 different experiences.

First baby wasn't natural but I went from 9 stone 5 lbs to 17 stone 5 lbs so packed on more than a few lbs and it was hard going but I was stuck to a bed etc etc etc.

Second baby went from 11 stone 5 lbsish to 18stone (so yup, again, more than just a few lbs) had a home birth, it was hard work, I mean, hard work.

Third baby, I put on 4 and a half stone, went from 9 stone 5 lbs too about 14 stone. Birth was easy peasy.

The main difference in all the births was my eating and exercising. With my third I ate well (not lots but mostly healthy).

With all births I walked a lot but with my third I also did prenatal exercise DVDs for the first 25 weeks and then moving house kinda got in the way and then I used a mini stepper, every night for 2500 steps, it was the only thing that helped my SPD.

Personally, I think both your mental and physical shape are incredibly important, your body uses loads of calories and loads of muscles when you are in labour and the best thing is to have those muscles working as efficiently as possible.

The other thing is, keeping your muscles etc fit and healthy can help with the aches and pains of being too flexible due to relaxin during pregnancy (being way to hyper mobile myself but all the time, I can vouch for this).

Another thing you want to think about is after the pregnancy, after births 1+2 I was a mess and the weight took ages to come off. At least 2 yearsish.

After birth number 3, I was much fitter and healthier and at a year postpartum I am only a half a stone over my pre-pre-pre pregnancy weight (I am 10 stone) and it has made my life a hell of a lot easier.

Obviously, this is all my personal experience. I am a big weight gainer in pregnancy and after my 3 babies I am absolutely positive that exercise made a huge difference in the 3rd pregnancy.

As for my mental state, I am totally bull headed these days anyway (wasn't during the first pregnancy which is why I ended up in hospital) and as long as baby and me are ok, I will be damned if I am going into hospital or being pushed into anything I don't want to do. I find the most important thing is to not fight the pain, fighting makes it worse.
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Old 01-10-2010, 07:02 AM
 
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Your life doesnât change by the man whos elected. If your loved by someone you can't be rejected... decide what to be and go be it! If your a caged bird brake in and demand that somebody free it.
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Old 01-10-2010, 07:22 AM
 
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My first, high intervention, birth was MUCH more taxing than any of my natural births. And most of the mamas I know who've had vaginal and surgical births had a much harder recovery with the c-section.
Stay home as long as you can. You can rest, move, and eat the way you want. IME that, and good mental prep, are the best ways to keep up your energy in labor. I loved prenatal yoga. Yogic breathing and relaxation were great for me. I highly recommend a class if you can find it, a video if you can't.

Mom of 4 aspiring midwife "Friend"ly seeker
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Old 01-10-2010, 12:14 PM
 
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2 years before I had my first baby I cycled Cape Breton Island. It was all hills and mountains. Every single mountain I went up I kept thinking, 'okay this is preparing me for childbirth. If I can do this, I can birth a baby!' That thought got me through til I went into labour with my DD.

Turns out, cycling up and down mountain after mountain was WAY WAY harder!!! The pain of labour is just not comparable to a big workout. Yes, it can be very physically taxing, but in such a different way than can be likened to anything else. And of course, everyone experiences it differently, too. So, it's such a subjective thing to try to explain.

I do think it's important to keep in mind you physical health, but the great majority of women do during pregnancy. Even if it's just eating basically healthy and getting your heartrate up slightly a few times a week, enough that you're comfortable with.

I agree, mental and emotional are most important. And it sounds like you're on a great path for that. Can't wait to hear your birth story!
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Old 01-11-2010, 12:00 AM
 
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I was in the worst shape I'd ever been in. I gained 85 pounds in my pregnancy and felt exhausted and sick all the time, so I didn't excercise much, the very occasional yoga DVD and a mile walk everyday for the last 2 weeks b/c she was so overdue. I gave birth to my beautiful 10 lb.11 oz. DD all natural, no drugs. I think its about determination, feeling prepared, and knowledgeable. My husband and I took Bradley classes for 12 weeks before the birth. While, I wasn't good about doing my excercises or using any of the visualisations and calming techniques, the information I learned about the entire birth process made a huge difference. I wasn't scared. I felt secure. i understood what my body was going to do and did. i understood all my options and what the impact of the choices I made would be. Honestly, although it was painful, it was the most amazing and empowering experience of my life. I highly recomend it to other women. And see if the hospital has one of those special tubs-I spent a good part of my labor in one and it helped immensly.
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Old 01-11-2010, 12:11 AM
 
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Hi there,

Congrats on your pregnancy! During my first pregnancy I walked a bit, not a whole lot, and also did pregnancy pilates. Mostly mat work and it was very helpful for visualizing my cervix, etc. We focused so much on breathwork also, which reallllly helped me relax. I did Jennifer Gianni's fusion pilates, and I'm pretty sure you can find it on netflix if you do that. Yoga was also very helpful! Good luck! Mary

Mary, Mama to 3 boys! 9/05 & 8/08 & 7/12
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