Congratulations, you are embarking on a life changing journey! This journey is filled with changes in pretty much everything, the size and shape of your body, how your body works, emotional changes and more. What many forget to consider in the beginning, is that at the end of this journey you are facing an endurance event. It is named labor, because that is the best description of the process. It is work. This work typically lasts from 12 to 24 hours for your first baby.
So how does one prepare to face labor and give birth? Facing an endurance event behooves us to increase our stamina and condition our body for the event. Stamina is built through consistent routine exercise. As a bare minimum it is important to move your body for 30 minutes each day for at least five days a week. So what constitutes moving your body? If you have not identified the movement you enjoy most, this is a great time to start. However, this is not a time to begin activities that jar your body, such as skiing, horseback riding, etc. Also, as the pregnancy progresses, it is important to avoid lying directly on your back. Some excellent forms of movement are walking, swimming, dancing, yoga and Pilates. Naturally these exercises can be done by yourself or in a group activity. It is important to be honest with yourself on which of those two choices you will more likely do regularly. Certainly group activities give you the opportunity to share experiences, making prenatal classes very desirable.
How you fuel your body is also vital in training and during the endurance event of labor. While it was formerly believed the baby would be able to take from the mother’s body whatever it needed, we now know the health of your baby is dependent on your intake. In pregnancy you need extra calories and protein intake each day. A diet rich in fresh vegetables, a couple of fruits and including 2-4 ounces of protein each time you eat for a total of 70-90 grams of protein intake a day is the best way to increase your intake by the necessary 500Kcals/day. Avoiding processed foods is always advisable because there is little to no nutrition in them and the preservatives, colorings, flavorings, etc., are not healthy for you or your baby inside. In addition there are high levels of salt and sugar which are also not healthy for your pregnancy.
What you eat and drink during labor will be greatly influenced by where you choose to birth. If you choose a hospital you may be limited to clear fluids or ice chips.
This recommendation is based on the concern that if a Cesarean section becomes necessary it is the best way to protect from developing the complication of having some stomach contents getting into the lungs. There is often a different viewpoint in the recommendations for birthing outside of the hospital, where the emphasis is on you following your own body in regards to food. In both cases it is important to maintain a healthy balance of electrolytes so find the sports drink you like best to have on hand.
The best drink for the health of our bodies is water. Fruit juices are a better choice than sodas but are loaded with sugar and do not have the necessary fiber, so it is best to eat the fruit instead. If you do not like water, please experiment to find ways to make water more appealing to you because it is vital to your health. The temperature of water actually changes the flavor. Other ways to change the flavor are with citrus, lemon or lime, adding a therapeutic grade essential oil or small amount of juice. If you routinely include caffeinated drinks like tea or coffee, you will need extra water. Making sure your urine looks clear, outside of the time you take vitamins, is one good way to determine you are drinking adequate water.
Conditioning your body for the work of labor is often a part of childbirth preparation classes. Tailor sitting, pelvic rocks and squatting are a few of the specific exercises taught and practiced.