How Exercise Helps You Have a Healthy Delivery


During my first and second pregnancy, my babies were “head down” by the third trimester without any major effort on my part (so I thought). The experience of my first birth and my second birth were worlds apart. My first birth was a record for a first-time mom. My oldest daughter arrived with such speed even our birth team was surprised. My second birth experience, however, was considerably different with my labor stalling and stopping throughout the night and my body was seemingly taking “breaks.” After many hours, active labor finally began and my second daughter arrived in a similar fashion to my first, but after the birth, I began to ponder the difference between my two birth experiences.

Now, this is speculation, but I believe it is backed with a level of insight and understanding of the human body. As I compared my pregnancies between my first and my second, I thought about the time I had given to preparing my body for labor. I realized my first pregnancy was stocked full of hours of walking and intentional exercise that was gentle on my body. I was in the process of getting my Pilates certification as well as learning and practicing Pilates exercises specific to the prenatal period.

My second pregnancy was a bit of contrast. I had a 2-year-old, and my husband and I were launching into new phases of our family business. Although I knew the importance of prenatal exercise, the demands of my day had me spending more time sitting and less time actively pursuing the needs of my pregnant body. Could this have been a contributor to my longer labor for my second pregnancy? There are some that have made the case and say, yes.

Midwife Gail Tully has been practicing midwifery for over 20 years and is the founder of 'Spinning Babies.' She observed that even though women were relaxed and fully dilated, sometimes labor was still not progressing to delivery. Gail often discovered the reason was due to the baby not being in an ideal position for birth. The potential cause being related to the shape of the uterus that either assists or hinders the baby from getting into the best alignment for delivery to occur.

What determines the shape of the uterus?

According to Gail Tully, it is a body imbalance of the muscles and ligaments that attach to and surround the uterus. Body imbalances occur for many reasons but most likely are the result of our sedentary habits and poor postures we have developed due to our modern lifestyles. We used to walk everywhere, but now we drive door-to-door and try to exercise when we can, spending the rest of our time sitting either at a desk or in front of a TV for the majority of our waking hours.

The idea behind 'Spinning Babies' is that the baby will conform to whatever space it is given. Some ligaments and muscles could be too tight while others could be too loose. 'Spinning Babies' is about creating an ideal body balance for the muscles and ligaments surrounding the uterus creating optimal space for the baby to achieve ideal alignment in the uterus.

Gail Tully’s philosophies behind 'Spinning Babies' completely aligned with my understanding and training of the human body from both a Physical Therapy and Pilates perspective. Looking back, I believe I had been doing all the right things in my first pregnancy without fully realizing it. In my third pregnancy, I practice many of the 'Spinning Baby' specialized techniques, and I found the suggestions for daily exercises were already incorporated into my prenatal Pilates repertoire.

With regular and correct exercise that is gentle and safe during pregnancy you are assisting the baby's chances of getting into an ideal birth position. Starting an exercise routine in pregnancy is essential early on as you set the stage for the coming birth. However it is not too late to start even if you are getting closer to baby's arrival.  If you are facing pressures for a planned cesarean because the baby has not turned head down by 37 weeks, I highly recommend their website and educational DVDs. It is a great resource for pregnant mothers who are looking for natural alternatives to help baby align in the womb and really for anyone wanting to experience natural labor free of interventions, expedited by simple methods done at home.

If you are local to the Kansas City area, we would love for you to join us at the Whole Pilates Studio where we offer Pre & Post-Natal Pilates classes. Our classes focus on safe movements that protect the pregnant and postpartum woman. Unfortunately, with improper exercise or none at all, we often see mothers developing abdominal diastasis, prolapse, and malalignment of the body that could ultimately affect the alignment of the baby in the womb. Exercise during and after pregnancy is extremely helpful for a healthy delivery and strong recovery, but it needs to be done correctly.

Watch our video on a few of my favorite prenatal exercises that promote strength and flexibility of the hip and pelvic joints to optimize your birth experience.

Jennifer Lawrence