Leg Muscles Are Key in Labor
When you think of labor, you probably have a television version in your mind. You might envision contractions and bed rest, coupled with funny breathing and screaming nasty things at those around you. Labor is much more than what you're shown on television. It's a combination of physical, mental, and emotional work.
During labor, it's clear that your uterus and abdominal muscles are working. What most pregnant women do not realize, however, is that their legs do a lot of work as well. We have learned about different positions that can be used to help facilitate an easier labor. Many of these positions require strong leg muscles to help support your body.
The Role They Play
During labor, your legs will carry you as you walk around to facilitate labor's progress. Your legs will help you assume positions to encourage your baby's descent into the birth canal. They will rock you in a chair and carry you to the shower or bathtub.
You will actually use your legs to assist you in pushing. While you won't actively push with your legs, you will have to hold them in different positions and use their force to assist you. Having strong muscles that are stretched and ready to go will be most beneficial. Using the muscles during pregnancy and actively preparing them for birth will give you the added benefit of stamina during labor.
Squatting, which really requires practice and leg strength, opens your pelvic outlet by an additional 10 percent. This position facilitates the birth of your baby and is often jokingly called the midwives' forceps. Practicing this position during pregnancy will help you to use it more effectively during birth. It also helps prevent the need for episiotomy and/or tearing of the perineum.
While you are in labor and you come to the second stage, or pushing phase of labor, you can also enlist the help of others around you in holding your legs in certain positions. While you can't get a lot of leg support while squatting, your partner, doula, or nurses can help hold up your body. They can also help hold your legs, particularly if you are very tired or have had epidural anesthesia.
Basically, any fitness program you do should include leg work. Both your legs and glutes will play an important part in your labor and recovery. They will also help you recover more quickly once your baby is born.