Natural Pregnancy, Natural Birth

So, you’d like to run a marathon, you say?  Great.  To do that, the laws of specificity state that to improve performance at a task, you must train correctly, using the muscles you’ll need for the event.  Swimming, while keeping you “fit”, isn’t going to help much.  Cycling, while keeping you “fit”, isn’t going to help much.   You must do with your body, what you’d like it to do.  If you want to run a marathon, you’re going to need to do quite a bit of running for the best outcome.

So, am I hearing you correctly, that you’d like a natural delivery?  Well then, following the science of physiological adaptation, you must train your body specifically.  We need to train for delivery because, while birthing is absolutely a natural event, we have become, it seems, un-natural women.  I know, I know.  You eat organic food.  You take yoga classes and wear Birkenstocks.  You even drive a hybrid car or maybe take the bus every now and then.  Maybe.  And while these are all very eco-friendly things to do, they are for the most part, completely foreign to our animal counter-part, which makes them, completely unnatural.

Natural, in its broadest definition, means “in accordance with nature“.  Well, the last time I checked, nature wasn’t busy designing toilets, or chairs, cars, or shoes.  Nature doesn’t exercise four or five times per week.  Nature doesn’t exercise at all, but rather moves continuously throughout the day.  Nature doesn’t eat foods not available to the location or season, even if they are nutritious.  Nature also doesn’t secrete stress hormone while commuting from one part of the forest to the other, affect metabolism regulation with a flick of a thermostat, or take anti-inflammatory medications at the drop of a “my back is sore”.  We have, within a few thousand years, completely reduced our ability to be “natural”, yet we still partake in these amazing, natural processes of digestion, sensory input, elimination, growth, and of course, birth.

The first thing to understand is, while pregnancy may seem like an unnatural position for your body to be in, it is quite natural actually.  What makes it feel so awkward and possibly uncomfortable is the extreme loading done on an unbalanced, rickety frame.  I once bought a cool table from the Goodwill, even though it didn’t balance quite evenly.  It wasn’t that big of a deal in the store, but once I brought it home and tried to put stuff on it, the lack of stability became more of a functional issue.  It’s the same thing with all of you out there with chronic low back and pelvic pain, feet that are flattening, birthing canals that are narrow, and abdominals that are splitting (diastasis recti).  These are not issues of pregnancy, but issues of pregnancy on an unstable frame.  A woman who wears her pelvis out in front of her (see Mind Your Pelvis for a good visual) is not a Stable Table, if you know what I mean.  Loading her up with 25, 45, or 65 pounds is going to increase the effects of this mis-placed weight and make pregnancy more difficult than it needs to be – way more difficult than it is for other animals.

You’ve come with all the equipment needed for a successful, natural birth – a movable sacrum, a strong transverse muscular system that runs in series with the uterus, and thick thigh muscles that support the entire weight of the torso.  But, guess what?  Poor alignment, especially the forward thrust of the pelvis, turns all of these things off.  The sacrum becomes jammed up and the more mal-aligned the body, the weaker the abdominals.  Thrusting your hips forward also pushes your belly contents right through the wall of the abdomen.  Another Fun Fact:  Diastasis Recti has nothing to do with pregnancy.  It happens in men and women who habitually thrust their hips and have extra stuff in the midsection. Beer or baby belly, it doesn’t matter.  You want to avoid it?  Stop shoving your guts through your abdomen.  Stop thrusting your hips and wearing shoes with heels. If you want stronger leg, thigh, and hip muscles you have to walk…a lot, like animals do.  You have to squat often, like animals do.  If you want to have an optimal natural delivery, you should train with a natural pregnancy.

There are many pregnancy “myths” that have permeated their way into our cultural understanding of birth.  This mis-information makes obtaining the correct birthing mechanics more difficult.  In graduate school I wrote a paper outlining all of the research on what we *think* are birthing truths.  My favorite study was on the pregnancy waddle. You’ve all seen a TV show from the 50s that showed Mom-to-Be in a flowery pregnancy frock with her hands on her back, belly shoved forward, struggling to get up off the couch and walk to the kitchen to get some pickles and ice cream (which I discovered is pretty awesome, by the way…)  Well, that walk isn’t a natural occurrence with pregnancy, but the walk of someone who doesn’t have the strength to carry the additional weight.  My grandpa walked like that too, if I recall.  Yes, your midsection is growing, but if you were in the correct alignment, the glutes, hamstrings, and transverse abdominals should also be growing equal in strength, to keep you walking perfectly upright and not so much like a staggering sailor.

My paper also called for this information to be taught to birthing professionals, fitness professionals, nurses, and doctors, to pass on to moms-to-be, to optimize their mechanical ability to birth easily at home.  General pre-natal fitness has very little to do with real birthing mechanics, as required by the laws of specificity.  It’s kind of like swimming to train for a 25-mile hike.  The swimming isn’t bad for you, but isn’t the best program design.

Some training tips:

  • Get to know the geometry of the body.  I’ll continue to post which markers to look for.
  • Get out of positive-heeled shoes.  It will make all the difference in the world!
  • Squat, a few times every day. See Squat Blog: http://nutritiousmovement.com/2010/06/02/you-dont-know-squat/
  • If your body is already too damaged to squat, follow the more basic, non-squat exercises until you are strong enough to handle the full range of motion.
  • Walk, walk, walk.  Work up to 5 miles a day, if possible, broken up throughout the day if needed.
  • Minimize sitting in chairs and change up your sitting postures often.
  • Find your Transverse Abdominals and see if you can fire them. See TVA Blog: http://nutritiousmovement.com/2010/06/22/what-a-waist/
  • Stop tucking your pelvis, right now.  In fact, stick your butt out while you’re reading this.

Midwives: What if you could help prepare your mommy’s mechanics?  Moms, Midwives and Every Woman is invited to take this course that will walk you through the exercises you need to know for optimal delivery, pelvic floor health, and knee, hip, & low back longevity.  Now offering 1.95 CEUs to midwives (email me for more information).  And, for those of you post a comment in the next 5 days, I’ll send you a discount code to save $10.00 off.  Read more about the course here:  http://www.restorativeexercise.com/2010/no-more-kegels Please note:  YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ATTEND THE LIVE COURSE!  You can watch and follow the course on your own time frame, in your own time zone!  Course is six 45-min lecture sessions (recorded and ready to watch as soon as you register) and Four Exercise Classes and Lecture sessions (75-minutes) with Q and A, to follow along for thirty days.  Regular course is $99.  With discount, $89.  Register soon to receive your equipment in time!

And, for those of you who want to see some serious natural birthing going on, check out this elephant birth:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llIv20mScP8

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24 thoughts on “Natural Pregnancy, Natural Birth

  1. Loved this information. Love the way you write! You always make sense! You are A-mazing! I always share your information with my fellow mother friends. After a cesarian, a sucessful VBAC (with an epidural though) I’m ready to start preparing for #3 with a natural body structure so that I can avoid the past experiences. (at least i’m going to try). Thanks so much for sharing your much needed knowlege that I hope will someday be common sense. Keep it comming.

  2. Blogging while in vacation? Brains of the “naturally” intelligent never take time off. Good job. If I have a baby in my old age, I will be coming to you for sage advice.

  3. Completely correct on all of this. Natural labor is the biggest most important race any of us will run as women and physical and mental preparation is really key. I walked, belly danced, and weight lifted through my pregnancy up until the day I delivered my baby and people kept going, “Um, should you be doing that? What if you hurt yourself?” I also practiced relaxation DAILY for 30-40 minutes from month #3 on so I could stay calm and focused during labor. Those hospital half day classes where you get the visit from the epidural guy and they throw a few breathing techniques your way aren’t enough. Katy…I’m a psychotherapist that helps prepare sexual abuse survivors for childbirth and I also work with childbirth trauma…maybe you could also offer CEUs through the CA BBS? I’m just saying…;-)

  4. Is it too late for this class to help me? I am 6 months pregnant now. Currently I am working on the “You Don’t Know Squat” exercises because I cannot squat.

  5. Thank you for writing this!!! I can attest to the information presented here. I became aware of my incorrect pelvic tilt after my third child, and really worked on it before and during my fourth pregnancy. He was 10lb 4oz, born at home after a very easy labor that was less than 2 hours total. I can’t wait to see what the next labor will be like after implementing all the other suggestions on your blog. I’m stretching every day, and trying to correct my gait and hopefully this will help me to have a more comfortable pregnancy next time around in addition to another easy labor. I share your blog with anyone who will listen – especially young women of childbearing age 🙂

  6. Great information, I wish more “medical” prenatal care providers would use this type of information. When I did my thesis (Exercise During the Childbearing Year) I decided that I would NOT waddle when I got pregnant…now it’s come full circle and at 31.5 weeks, I have yet to waddle and I try to keep moving ALL the time.

    Great info, keep it up!

  7. To all expectant mothers: may your birth experience more closely resemble what’s depicted in that awesome video than the “Hollywood” version. I mean the relative ease and calm, not having a baby elephant :o) Spot on info and presentation, as is your custom. Gee, what can we men do to prepare for fatherhood……..?

  8. So glad that you’re continuing to post on this subject. I’ve been following the exercises in the Down There video (no legs on the wall, but there’s plenty of time for that post-partum), staying barefoot and pregnant, trying to figure out how to adjust my gait and posture–and doing poorly, squatting, and I still feel weak and off-balance. I would love to attend the class and would appreciate the $10 discount. I’m hoping it will help me post-partum, since my baby was born today.

    Elisabeth

    1. Elisabeth – CONGRATULATIONS! I love that you read my blog on baby day…seems like there might be something more important to do, but if you’re reading, I’m writing 🙂 – What’d you have? How big? Good birth! – Katy

  9. Loved this post! Katy, thank you for helping me love my butt. Let’s just say I’m well endowed in the thighs and gluts. When I danced in high school, I was often accused of sticking my butt out. I’ve been told I have a hyperlordotic lumbar spine, making my ample posterior even more ample. Since reading your blog, I’m starting to think that perhaps these things are the reason why despite lots of running in the last 12 years, including training for and running a marathon, I have zero knee & back problems (Chiropractic helps with the low back a lot too!)

  10. My five pregnancies were the most wonderful times of my life! I delivered all of my children “naturally”. It was AWESOME! i hate to her young woman say “never again” when they talk about having children. It should be a natural, enjoyable, awe inspiring time in your life. Childbirth and pain are temporary! The amazing experience is everlasting! Embrace the experience and give to your child the beginning that they deserve. You’ll both benefit from the experience! I promise!

  11. So true Katy! Plantar fasciitis forced me into Birkenstocks early in this pregnancy, plus I’ve been continuing my running and boot camp fitness class (which includes a ton of squats & lunges) and my back and pelvis feel better than they have with my 2 previous pregnancies. Although my last two births were natural and easy (read: 3.5 hour labours), I bet this one will be even easier!

  12. I want to tell all my pregnant firends about this! Thinking about a baby shower gift? I think this would be the most useful thing to get anyone….

  13. As a midwife this research is just absolutely fascinating! I’m giving this info to my clients, especially those with a history of difficult deliveries or organ prolapse. Not sure if the discount still applies but am very interested in taking this course so I can teach others. Just got the aligned and well DVD “Down There” and thought it was great.

  14. Hi Katy,
    (Hope it isn’t too weird to comment on such an old post but it’s relevant to this post rather than your most recent)
    I love this blog, I have self diagnosed & corrected my “dropped” hip thanks to you (missed by both physio & chiro!), & doing the squatting lead to my first pain free periods EVER! Now i am pregnant again & PGP is showing up (specifically my SI joint – which is hyper mobile without pregnancy hormones). I am walking, squatting & doing TVA exercise – is there anything else I can do? I have a toddler to run about after so the physio advice I was given last time (basically to wear a belt & try not to move the joint because it was too mobile) is not possible this time 🙂

    Are there any other exercises I should be doing? (& does this course address PGP? I would love to do all your courses but aformentioned toddler prevents!).

    Thank you! Fiona
    P.S. Please write a book!!! I’m in the UK I can’t find anyone working in the same field here.

  15. LOVE this post, LOVE you Katy!! After 5 years pelvic girdle pain, 2 kids, and 1 unnecessary Fenton’s Procedure later, I found your book, Alignment Matters. It’s changed my life. As a Yoga, Pilates & Somatics teacher, you’ve also changed how I practise and how I teach. My students approve! Love the way you write, so funny and makes so much sense. Have been doing the stretches in your book Alignment Matters daily for the last month and the changes in my body and the pain-free movement I am experiencing are amazing. Thank you so much. I HEART Katy Bowman!!

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