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The Secret To Easing Labor Pain

-- By Sara Hambidge, Physical Therapist

Why is it that some women experience a labor that lasts two hours when others are in labor for 14 hours? How do some women go natural despite the potential intense pain involved? Why do some women tear when others do not?

Is there a way to ease the delivery process? Research says YES - through exercise, especially routines involving the pelvic floor.

In a recent study cited in the British Medical Journal, researchers noted that of the 300 women studied, those who did intensive pelvic floor/kegel exercises in the last few months of pregnancy had an easier time giving birth. Most affected was the second stage of labor-- the pushing stage-- where the study found that women who had done the exercises were less likely to spend prolonged time. Having a shorter pushing stage is extremely beneficial, since a longer pushing phase can lead to a tear or episiotomy, as well as increased chances for bleeding or requiring Cesarean delivery.

Kegel Exercises
It’s been known for a long time that kegel exercises also decrease urinary incontinence, a problem in late pregnancy and postpartum.

And there is no excuse to not do them, since they can be done anywhere without anyone knowing you are doing them! You can do kegel exercises in all positions: sitting standing, lying down. Just tighten the muscles of the pelvic floor (the ones that start and stop the urine flow). Do sets of ten, holding for 5 seconds, 10 times per day.  Click here for step-by-step instructions for doing Kegels.

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Member Comments About this Article
"I had Ray in 2 hours, Kevin in 1.5 and Russell in the car! I exercise now, at 27 weeks, about 5 days a week. A 90 minute line dance class on Friday, 2 days I do Chalean Extreme weight lifting videos, one CafeMom video a week and one baby yoga a week. I will be 50 when we deliver and was running 7 miles before our baby was inserted August 3. So far so good!" -- ANITAREDD
"I slacked off on exercise during my last 2 pregnancies after a miscarriage - didn't want to risk it! (and was too busy working and studying during my first). My longest labour has been 13 hours start to finish, my shortest 9 hours. The hard work part has been about 90 mins to 2 hours each time, and the pushing has been just 1-6 pushes. I've never taken any medication during labour and my first was painless. I've never torn at all. I know I'm very lucky, but I think mental attitude has a lot more..." -- CATHY_T
"I don't know. I exercised consistently all the way through my last pregnancy and still got stuck at 8 cm for an awful ~20 hours. However, if I hadn't been in such good shape I probably wouldn't have been able to push the baby out after all of that (no meds)! In fact the doctor didn't expect me to be able to finish the job and was planning a c-section." -- KSUCNTRYGRL
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About The Author
Sara Hambidge
Sara, a graduate of Saint Louis University's Physical Therapy Program, practices at a sports medicine clinic in Cincinnati. A certified prenatal and postpartum exercise instructor, Sara is also a proud mother of one.
Sara Hambidge


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