Newbie question-How important is physical fitness to having a natural childbirth? — The Bump
Natural Birth

Newbie question-How important is physical fitness to having a natural childbirth?

I have been thinking of having a natural childbirth or at least attempting it and people keep telling how important it is to be physically fit. Granted, I am no where close to being as physically fit as I was prior to becoming pregnant, but is this really a dealbreaker? I just hate for people to keep tellling me that I might not be cut out for it. It's probably too late in my pregnancy to take any addtional natural birth classes(Bradley, etc), but I really want to see how far I can progress in labor before I even consider the thought of medicine. Thoughts?
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Re: Newbie question-How important is physical fitness to having a natural childbirth?

  • I think labor in general is a lot of hard work for your body and it *helps* if you are physically fit. I don't know that natural labor is any different than that. For me, mental & emotional preparation were the most important thing. I don't think you have to run a 7 minute mile to have an unmedicated birth :)

    Also, why do you think it is too late for a class? It might not be. I would check around before you count yourself out. There are also lots of other great resources for NB that aren't classes (books, movies etc).

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  • I was very physically fit prior to getting pregnant and during pregnancy.  I ran until I was 30 weeks, and then continued to walk 3-5 miles a day, even after I was overdue (I even did a 3 mile walk while in labor).  That being said, I ended up with a c-section after 65 hours (first 50 without drugs) of labor and 2.5 hours of pushing.

     I think that taking care of yourself physically is important during pregnancy regardless of how you want to give birth.  I also think that every labor (and person) is different so it is hard to say that being fit = easier labor.  The best thing that you can do is to eat well and do some light exercise (short walks, etc) after getting the ok from your midwife/ob.  

    The other suggestion I would make is to familiarize yourself with ways to relieve pain naturally.  This could be through relaxation, breathing, massage, heat/cold therapy, focusing, etc.  You don't need a class in order to learn how to do these things.  Make sure that you have a good support system.  This might mean making sure your SO knows your goals and how to support them, or by hiring a doula.  Good luck!   

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  • I am not, nor ever have been, in great physical condition.  I think it is important to stay active, however, because that helps keep you "low-risk," so drs. don't want to start intervening.  I think it is important to educate yourself and agree with PP that if you cant get into a natural birth class, it would be helpful to get some books.  I didn't go to any classes but reading helped me prepare.
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  • image frostnoel:
    I am not, nor ever have been, in great physical condition.  I think it is important to stay active, however, because that helps keep you "low-risk," so drs. don't want to start intervening.  

    This for me. I got pg in the middle of a Texas summer and just could not make myself go jogging in 105 degrees. Or even 90 degrees in the early morning or late evening. So when it got cool, my belly was just big enough to be really uncomfortable to run with.

    So I walked a good bit, but not like miles (okay, maybe two miles. It goes by when you're with your DH!). I did my Bradley exercises as much as I could remember. I had a great, natural birth. I only pushed for 17 minutes. It can be done!

    I'm not saying you are guaranteed to have an easy time; labor is laborious! But it's not like physically running a marathon. Your hormones honestly do a good bit of the work for you (I don't think you can make your uterus contract harder, nor will you want to!). Most of the strength required, IMHO, is mental.

    I'd definitely recommend looking into either some classes or getting Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and Natural Birth the Bradley Way. Both good. Both favorites! 

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  • Bradley and Brio are 12 weeks long and Hypnobabies is 10 (I think), but other classes are shorter. i teach HypnoBirthing and it's only 5 weeks. you have plenty of time to prepare!

    i think physical fitness plays a big role in childbirth. moms endurance and stamina as well as her strength play a physical role. but mom's general health impacts blood pressure and cardiovascular health, the quality of her placenta and amniotic sac and the health of the baby, all of which can reduce the potential for childbirth complications.

    this is not to say that it is impossible to have a natural birth or an easy birth if you are not physically fit, or that you will have an easy natural birth if you are physically fit. there are so many factors (some that are just out of our control). however, staying fit or getting fit may help you during pregnancy, childbirth and post partum.

    additionaly, staying (or getting) fit while pregnant can reduce general aches and pains, shorten the post partum recovery period and help you get your body back faster after the birth.

    i just created a handout for my HypnoBirthing students on prenatal fitness, with the assistance of a trained prenatal fitness educator. i'd be happy to share it with you off the board. you can email me at Lindsey AT sunflowershealingandwellness DOT com.

    [color=purple]Wife ? 9/18/04Mommy ? DS - 2006 (C/S) & DD - 2010 (HWBAC)Wellness Provider ? Birth Doula - Hypnotherapist - HypnoBirthing - Reiki Master/Teacher[/color]Natural/Unmedicated Childbirth FAQs
  • Thanks ladies for your input and also for the book recommendations. We are planning on hiring a doula and I really hoping that I can do everything in my power to prepare physically and mentally for a natural birth. :)
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  • I am overweight and although I am active and do make an effort to work out, I am hardly what you would call fit. 

    That said, I carried my DD for 43 weeks, went through 40 hours of back labor and pushed for 3 hours- giving birth to a nearly 10 lbs baby.  Yes, it was hard, but I did it.  ::shrugs::  It is what my body is designed to do.

    I am about the same size this time around and feeling really good so there is no reason to think that I can't do it again.

    Yes, I think it might be easier if you were more fit, but that doesn't mean you can't do it.  


    Lilypie - (ZESJ)Lilypie - (QAi1)

  • Education and mental preparation will take you much farther than being physically fit. Don't listen to the naysayers!

    If you can't take a class, read a book- or 10. :)

    Good luck!

  • I wasn't in phenomenal shape when I had DD (med free, hospital birth) and it was just fine.  With DS I was 10lbs overweight and was not in as good shape as I was with DD and still had a successful med free homebirth.  I'm sure being in good shape wouldn't hurt, but I found labor to be much more of a mental challenge than anything.
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  • I was 15 pounds over my ideal weight when I got pregnant with DD. I gained 40pnds over pregnancy.  I literally did not do anything that could be considered "exercise" throughout my pregnancy (unless waddling from the couch to the bathroom might count)

    I had a relatively easy and quick labor and birth completely unmedicated in a birthing center. It was no piece of cake, but it was certainly not impossible

    While I wouldn't recommend being as lazy as I was, it's completely possible to have a natural birth without being a triathlete

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  • I'm not a particularly fit person (cardiovascular fitness that is, I am reasonably strong and very flexible) and was around 20 pounds overweight pre-pregnancy.

    However, I did remain active throughout my pregnancy. I walked our dogs, gardened, and being a drama teacher I was constantly getting up and down off the floor and moving around.

    I had an "easy" labour. I had a day and a half of regular contractions but 7 hours of active labour, including and hour and a half of pushing.

    I used gas, but no drugs, and had an easy recovery. 

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