Exercise has never been not recommended during pregnancy until unless specified by a doctor. Pregnant moms are especially terrified of working out during the last trimester in fear of going into premature labor or harming the baby. Whereas studies prove that exercise during ninth month of pregnancy makes normal delivery easier and less eventful. A little modification may be required to accommodate normal anatomic and physiologic changes and the fetal requirements during pregnancy, otherwise it is completely safe to exercise during 9th month of pregnancy.
Before we indulge into the list of most recommended exercise during the 9th month of pregnancy, I feel obligated as a doctor to first educate you about the times during pregnancy, when exercise is NOT RECOMMENDED. Once you have ruled out that you do not belong to any of these categories, you are safe to move on and try any of the exercises mentioned below.
When Not To Exercise During Pregnancy
According to the The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), following boxes list the absolute and relative contraindications to exercise during pregnancy.
Benefits of Exercise During 9th Month of Pregnancy for Normal Delivery
- Maintains physical fitness, controls weight gain
- Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women
- Improves psychological well-being
- Facilitates a shorter duration and less painful normal vaginal delivery
- Helps turn a breech fetal position into normal position
- Relieves constipation
- Controls urinary incontinence
- Speeds up postpartum recovery
- Reduces back pain
Precautions During 9th Month of Pregnancy
- Don’t exercise on your back after the first trimester. It is best to avoid exercising while lying on your back, since the weight of the baby may interfere with proper blood circulation. Long periods of standing should also be avoided.
- Don’t hold your breath while you exercise. Proper ventilation is necessary.
- Avoid exercise that involves the risk of abdominal trauma, falls or excessive joint stress. Don’t jump, use jerky or twisting motions to add insult to your already stressed joints.
- Listen to your body. Soon you will have less oxygen available for exercise, so stop when you feel fatigued.
- Prevent dehydration as it can lead to premature labor contractions.
- Avoid hot tub and using any bath salts in your bath at home.
- Do not squat if your baby is breech. This is because squatting will force her to descend the birth canal without giving her the chance to move into proper position. So talk to your doctor to make sure your baby is head down before you try squatting.
How to start an exercise program?
- Always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program. You want to make sure you do not have any medical condition that could be harmful to you or your baby.
- Start with low impact exercises, at a level that does not cause pain, shortness of breath or excessive fatigue. Low impact aerobic exercise like walking is just the perfect way to maintain fitness and induce labor.
- Slowly increase your activity. During the second and third trimester, the body releases a hormone called “relaxin” that loosens the ligaments and joints in preparation for labor. While softer ligaments do facilitate the delivery of the baby, it puts you at a higher risk of falling down when you exercise.
- For your final month, do mini work outs and gentle exercises which do not put undue stress on your joints.
- Drink 2 cups of water an hour before the start of an exercise routine, another cup when halfway finished, and then one more cup after finishing.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Normally during pregnancy, there is an increase in your food requirements by 300 calories a day. Do not over eat.
- When the weather is hot, exercise early morning or late evening to help you avoid getting too hot. If you’re exercising indoors, make sure the room has enough ventilation. Consider using a fan to help you keep cool.
- Wear loose clothing.
When To Stop Exercising?
An expectant mother should stop exercising when she undergoes the following:
- Any sudden or severe abdominal pain
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Contractions that go on for more than 30 minutes after you have stopped exercising
- Chest pain or severe shortness of breath
- Amniotic fluid leakage
- Headache and dizziness
- Muscle Weakness affecting balance
- Calf pain or swelling
The Best and Safest Exercise During 9th Month Of Pregnancy For Normal Delivery
1. Get the Exercise Ball
For a good pregnancy workout after 37 weeks, get the exercise ball. An exercise ball is a safe and effective tool for strengthening core muscles during pregnancy. And it can also provide relaxation and physical relief during pregnancy and labor. Choose a high-quality ball made from burst-resistant material. Be sure to inflate it to the correct size for your height: 55 centimeters for women shorter than five foot three, and 65 centimeters for taller women.
You can never undermine the power of aerobics, whether you are trying to get in shape, lose some weight or just change your mood.
- Walking is one of the best exercises during pregnancy for normal delivery, especially after 37th week. It creates flexibility, relieves constipation, restlessness and high blood pressure. It is easy on your knees and ankles and just plain easy. The side-to-side swaying of your hips will also ease the way of your baby’s head into the pelvis, giving you a leg up on labor. Long walks in the park has actually brought on contractions leading people into a normal vaginal delivery.
- Swimming is best for women in their first trimester, however it can be done in the ninth month as well. It is a good way to stretch and tone your muscles. It regulates heart beat, prevents muscle injury, strengthens your muscles and keeps you fit. Avoid scuba diving and deep sea diving as lack of oxygen can be dangerous for you and the baby.
- Climbing stairs can make your baby’s head drop down into the birth canal opening the pelvic region and pressing onto the cervix to cause dilation. These, all together, begin the contractions and gets you ready for normal vaginal delivery.
Exercises of the pelvic floor are considered one of the most effective exercise during 9th month of pregnancy for normal delivery. It should be done on a pillow, ball or a chair.
- Pelvic Stretch: Keep your feet fixed on the ground, stretch your legs away from each other and keep your back straight. This will then lead to stretching and shifting of your pelvis onward and backward. Depending on your comfort level, repeat at least 20 times.
Pelvic Tilt / Pelvic Rocks: At 40 weeks of pregnancy, pelvic tilts are best for turning a breech baby and helps reduce pain during labor. It provides a good amount of power, support and strength to the back muscles.
How To Do: Try kneeling with knees slightly apart and bending over so your breasts touch the floor and your belly nearly does. Repeat three times a day. Another one is to suck in your abdominal muscles and pull the hips in line with your stomach and then release. These are also the safest exercise to reduce tummy after C-section.
- Cobbler Pose/ Tailor Pose: It Is a simple exercise that strengthens and stretches muscles of the back, thighs and pelvis. It keeps your pelvic joints flexible, eases blood flow to your lower body and eases labor. It also helps in building good flexibility and maintaining endurance power.
How To Do: Do this exercise with a cushion below your thighs and back. All you need to do is to sit on the floor with the bottom of your feet together. Then using your elbows, press both the knees gently towards the floor to feel the stretch in your inner thighs. You can use a wall for supporting your back. Remain in the position for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat the stretch 5 to 10 times.
- Kegel Exercises are a must for women all ages as they strengthen pelvic muscles. They are wonderfully effective in inducing labor among pregnant women, especially those who are overdue. Kegel exercises also help fight urinary incontinence, urinary tract infections and sexual lethargy. While these exercises are important during pregnancy, health experts suggest that women do the Kegel throughout their life. Doing the Kegel keeps the vagina tight and the bladder healthy.
How To Do: Release and contract the pelvic muscles, the muscles that are involved in stopping the flow of urine, for about 10 seconds 10-15 times a day is a good way to get the pelvic muscles ready for delivery.
Squatting actually speeds labor because it increases the pelvic opening, providing room for baby to descend. It helps in contraction and loosening of the pelvic muscles during pregnancy which reduces pain during delivery. Squatting during the third trimester also helps strengthen leg muscles which are a must when it comes to labor and the final push to give birth. It also eases constipation and pressure on the pelvic floor which can be a blessing during the last few weeks of pregnancy.
It is suggested that you start working squats at 39 weeks of pregnancy so you’ll be a stronger squatter when the time of delivery comes.
How To Do: Take the toilet position with the support of a gym ball or holder. This will give a good pressure to your pelvic area and thighs. Stand with your feet shoulder length apart. Now lower your body till your hip is just a few inches above the floor.
Take care of your balance during the final few weeks of the pregnancy. You can take support of kettlebell or can also ask your husband to help. Make sure your heels lie flat on the floor while squatting. Now rise back again to the original position. Repeat as many times as you feel comfortable. Just don’t push your body beyond its limit.
This is an ancient form fitness practice with is also a great exercise during 9th month of pregnancy for normal delivery. It gives elasticity and increases the endurance power. With adequate knowledge of yoga postures, you can prepare your body better for normal delivery. Yoga not only reduces pregnancy-related stress, anxiety, and pain, but it also improves the quality of sleep and rest during pregnancy.
It helps reduce aches and pains associated with advanced pregnancy as it stretches muscles, improves breathing and boosts blood circulation. Prenatal yoga helps to fight lower back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and shortness of breath.
Remember to modify intensity of yoga according to stage of pregnancy and the strain it puts on body. Avoid lying down on the floor, doing forward and back bending postures. Stop if you experience strain, dizziness and body aches.
6. Pregnancy Pilates
Pilates is a fantastic way for women to build core stability during pregnancy. The core weakens as the bump grows, and can lead to back pain and sciatica. Classic Pilates mat moves strengthen the deepest abdominal muscle which improves overall posture and can be useful when pushing.
Pilates is a low impact pregnancy workout, involving a series of controlled movements mostly on an exercise mat. It is certainly a very effective workout during pregnancy as it targets the tummy and pelvic floor muscles which tend to weaken during pregnancy. Most Pilates exercises for pregnant women are performed on the hands and knees, which is an ideal position during pregnancy and takes stress off the back and pelvis, and position your baby ready for delivery.
It is extremely important to practice Pilates during pregnancy under a instructor who can guide you on the correct moves. Without straining your abdominal muscles that may cause distress to your baby. At this time, your body tends to become much looser and there are more chances that you can hurt yourself without proper instruction.
The lunges are a great way to warm up the hips and give more room for the baby to rotate and descend. To be safe, you can take as support of your partner when performing these lunges.
How To Do: Stand with your two legs together and take one big step ahead. Position one leg forward with your knee bent while the other leg is positioned behind.
- Lunge and a push up against the wall: With your hands, try to push up against the wall by bending your knee and stretch the muscles as much as you can. Bring back the leg to standing position.
- Vertical lunge: The vertical lunge is also same as the above lunge, but stretches more on the lower back and tail bone. You can refuel your body when doing this lunge as it requires additional energy and push.
Pregnancy is a blessing. It is the time to rejoice in the creation of a new life. But by the end of the third trimester, most women are too tired. The body has grown bigger and heavier, smallest tasks become impossible to do, getting a good night sleep is a challenge and the kicks to the ribs…don’t ask! Labor is a natural process that happens when your baby is ready to be born. That said, if you follow the proper pregnancy advice for normal delivery, eat a well balanced diet during pregnancy and regularly exercise during pregnancy, it will speed things up.
Believe it or not, exercise is the most natural way of de-stressing, inducing labor and easing labor pains. Make sure you have someone with you when you’re exercising, you never know when your contractions may begin.