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Maintaining strength and flexibility throughout pregnancy forms the key to an easier labor and delivery, and a speedier postpartum recovery. In this article, we share eight exercises you can practice at home.

Pregnancy is a time like no other: a time of great joy and anticipation. Have you noticed those familiar butterflies in your stomach when you see your baby's picture on the ultrasound monitor, when you shop for tiny little clothes, or when you feel your baby kick? Moms start loving their babies more and more, from the time they find out they are expecting.

There is one thing a pregnant mom may not look forward to, and it's the very process that will allow you to finally meet your precious baby — the process of labor and birth. Labor and birth are frightening new concepts that are also absolutely inevitable (OK, unless you have a planned c-section, but that brings its own hurdles).

Fortunately, you can do many things to make childbirth easier. Educating yourself on the physiology of labor and birth is one, and choosing a good and supportive healthcare team is another. Exercises and meditation are two other powerful choices pregnant women can make to set themselves up for an easier childbirth. Do you want to give birth with less fear and pain, and more “zen” and even joy? Yoga unites the concepts of exercise and meditation.

Attending a prenatal yoga class allows you to learn useful and relaxing techniques, and to meet other moms to-be to share experiences with. But not every woman has access to this type of class. Thankfully, you can do most of the exercises you would learn at a prenatal yoga class at home as well.

Kegel Exercises During Pregnancy And Beyond

Kegel exercises are a good place to begin, as they target the pelvic floor muscles. Having strong pelvic floor muscles will help prevent hemorrhoids and incontinence during pregnancy, encourage a faster postpartum recovery, and decrease your chances of suffering from postpartum incontinence. They'll also help you during labor and birth. Why? Stronger muscles will certainly help you practice the endurance sport labor is, and knowing how to tense your muscles up will teach you how to relax them too.

Here's how:

Another exercise combines Kegel exercise with relaxation; something all women who go through a natural labor will benefit from. You can repeat the exercise as many times as you like, and can listen to relaxing music at the same time:

Kegel exercises are suitable for all people — men and women — in all health conditions. These little hidden exercises strengthen your bladder control, and many people report that their intimate life improves with the amount of Kegel exercises they perform. To reap the benefits, it is important to keep on doing Kegel exercises throughout your pregnancy as well as soon after delivery.

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