I recently saw a shark on t.v. birthing her pups with ease. Not more than a minute after she delivered, she swam away, appearing not to be in any pain, nor slightly disfigured. I thought, Great Scott! What if it were that easy for humans?!
I began to ponder if all animals seemingly pooped out their young and moved on with their day as if it was all effortless. I began researching this topic and it turns out that birth isn't always a walk in the park for every animal. Hyenas for instance, give birth through an extended clitoris (a pseudopenis)-OUCH! If a baby porcupine is facing in the wrong direction in the birth canal, the quills can scratch and damage the inside of the mother. This list goes on.
Humans can endure extended periods of labor and may even experience Braxton Hicks contractions days before they actually go into labor. While it seems beyond unfair that some animals suffer with ruptured uteruses or even death, luckily many humans have access to a medical team to assist them during this magnificent experience of child birth.
While I don't know much about the anatomy of animals or what could potentially ease the pain and damage associated with delivery of their young, I do know that humans do not have to stand by idly, simply expecting and dreading the birth of their child. While there is no way to know for sure what your birthing experience will be beforehand, there are actionable steps that can and should be utilized by all pregnant women.
It has been said that only 15% of pregnant women exercise. Although this doesn't surprise me (because of many misconceptions floating around), it is upsetting to me as a professional. Multiple studies show how women who exercise throughout their pregnancy reduce time spent in labor, require less pain medication, require less labor inducing drugs, are less likely to require a C-section, and rebound much quicker than women who don't exercise throughout pregnancy. To give an example, a friend who delivered her daughter at age 35 (same friend who had visible abdominals only after 4 months postpartum), exercised throughout her entire pregnancy and was in labor for only one hour.
Exercises such as squats and lunges encourage the baby to assume ideal positioning for delivery. Women who have trained for the big event (delivery), are stronger and therefore are able to push their baby out faster, which reduces time spent in labor. Many women who haven't exercised during pregnancy sometimes suffer with continuing to look pregnant after delivery because their abdominal muscles are so stretched and weak.
Additionally, think incontinence is normal? Incontinence is very common but it is not normal. Women who exercise during pregnancy have stronger pelvic floor muscles, which helps to prevent urine from escaping during regular activities.
There are examples of situations that cannot be influenced by our healthy practices, such as a pelvic opening too small to deliver the head of the fetus. Child birth may not be easy but any action you can take to help in the process is one I would argue is totally worth it. Do yourself a favor and exercise throughout your entire pregnancy. You may find that you are thanking yourself for it on the other side.
Julia Broome is passionate about health and exercise but is most excited about educating women concerning the short and long term impact of exercise on pregnant women and their baby.