Keeping your body healthy during pregnancy is important for both your health and your baby’s, and as you approach your due date, daily habits can help to prepare your body for an easier childbirth experience. Here are some evidence-based doula tips to incorporate into your birth prep routine. Stay until the end to download our printable Third Trimester Habit Tracker.
Hydrate: Drink 8-12 cups of water a day to keep your body hydrated and prepared for your big day.
During pregnancy, your core temperature is elevated by 0.4 degrees. While this may not seem like much, it can lead to more sweating, which means you also need to drink more water than usual to keep your body running for two. It is recommended that you drink 8 to 12 cups of water (64 to 96 ounces) a day during pregnancy. (1) The recommendation increases to 13 cups a day while chestfeeding!
Drinking enough water helps your body better absorb nutrients and vitamins from the nutritious food you are eating and from your prenatal vitamins. Not only that, but staying hydrated can help ease a lot of the common pregnancy symptoms that you might struggle with; such as swelling constipation, headaches and can even fatigue. If you are pregnant during a hot summer, or if you are continuing to exercise into your third trimester, make sure you are replenishing fluids often and paying attention to how your body feels.
If you don’t love the thought of drinking 10 cups of water a day, here are some doula tips to help make it a little bit easier:
If you struggle with nausea, drink your water slowly and avoid gulping. Help your body stay hydrated by consuming other easy-to-digest and hydrating foods like soups, smoothies and fruits!
Get a large water bottle or straw-cup and keep it next to you at all times! Fill it up with water in the morning and sip throughout the day. Getting a water bottle with cup measurements can be really helpful for tracking your water intake.
Flavour your water naturally by adding frozen fruits, cucumbers, lime or lemons and herbs like mint or rosemary.
Make sure to hydrate, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Thirst is not a reliable indicator for how hydrated (or dehydrated) your body is, and many people don’t feel thirsty until their body is already lacking fluids.
Staying hydrated continues to be important once you go into labour, as contractions are hard work! And you need to replenish your body by drinking water, clear fluids like coconut water and/or ice chips.
If you already struggle to even remember to take your daily prenatal vitamin, then you are probably thinking how you will also remember all these new habits… I have designed a Habit Tracker to help you remember these daily habits in your last trimester. This tracker is especially helpful in those last weeks of pregnancy, where it can feel like you need to be doing something and you are counting down the days to meet your baby. You can download the Third Trimester Habit Tracker and printable guide of Daily Habits at the end of this blog.
Eat Dates: 7 Dates a day can help prepare your uterus for childbirth and help you avoid an induction.
Dates contain a high amount of carbs and fats, and 15 different types of proteins, minerals and vitamins, like vitamin B1, B2, B7, Vitamin C and folic acid. These are essential to a healthy pregnancy and fetal development. (2)In the Quran, dates are written to be one of the best foods to eat for childbirth. Studies show that eating 7 dates daily (65-80g) leading to birth can help dilate the cervix before childbirth, shorten early labour, decrease the need for labour induction and/or augmentation with pitocin and increase the chance of having a vaginal birth after induction. There is preliminary data, based on a small study, that shows eating dates immediately after labour can help to minimize blood loss after birth which may reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.(3)
Eat your dates by adding them to smoothies, with almond butter, in “Date Bites” or straight out of the package for a nutritious pregnancy snack. Dates are often grown with few or no pesticides, so don’t worry about buying organic.
If you have gestational diabetes, consult your doctor about the safety of consuming dates, as they have a high sugar content.
Have a cup (or three) of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea: RRL can prepare your uterus for birth and improve birth outcomes.
Red raspberry leaf contains Vitamin A, C, and E, calcium, iron and potassium. You may have heard it as a recommendation for inducing labour, but RRL is actually a uterine tonic, it helps to prepare your body for birth by increasing blood circulation to the uterus and preparing the pelvic muscles for contracting during labour. (4) The recommended amount is 1 to 3 cups of tea a day during pregnancy.
Throughout history, Red raspberry leaf (RRL) has been used as a pregnancy tea to aid morning sickness, and to prevent miscarriage and post-dates pregnancies and we have science to back-up this ancient knowledge.
A 1999 study showed that RRL can help to shorten labour, and decrease the likelihood of a premature birth, postdates pregnancy (going past due date) and the need for medical interventions (like artificial rupture of membranes (AROM), forceps, vacuum or cesarean birth. (5)
Keep an eye on the sugar! When having 3 cups of tea a day, sugar can add up quickly! Consider replacing honey or agave as your tea’s sweetener. If you're pregnant during the summer, iced raspberry leaf tea with lemon, mint leaves and honey can be refreshing and hydrating (and a favourite of mine during my pregnancy).
Walk: A daily walk during pregnancy has many benefits for your body and for your baby
Adding a short walk to your daily routine can help keep your body healthy during pregnancy and help your baby get into the best position for birth. Walking is a safe and beneficial form of exercise for late pregnancy and it’s benefits are well-backed by research. Walking during pregnancy, particularly at a brisk pace, decreases the risk of complications; like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and excessive weight gain during pregnancy and postpartum. It also benefits your baby by contributing to healthy birth weight and reducing the risk of preterm birth. (6, 7, 8)
When taking your daily walk, you are also helping your baby become positioned for birth by taking advantage of gravity. Being in an upright position, while alternating your legs as you do with walking, helps the baby to get head down and into the pelvis in preparation for birth.
During my pregnancy, I dealt with severe nausea (hyperemesis gravidarum) and any kind of physical activity that I enjoyed pre-pregnancy, like going to the gym or pilates, felt impossible to do. Throughout my whole pregnancy, walking remained one of the few things that I was able to do without discomfort and I enjoyed daily walks up to the day my son was born.
If you feel like you don't have enough time for a daily walk, consider multitasking: do your daily phone calls while walking or walk alongside your partner or a friend to turn your walk into quality time. If you have other children, take them along on a pregnancy-safe carrier or stroller.
If the weather does not permit a walk outside, try a fast-paced walk on the treadmill or some other gentle movement like yoga. And remember, it is perfectly ok to skip a day (or three).
Keep your walks interesting by listening to relaxing music or a podcast like “The Birth Hour”, “Birth Stories in Colour” or “The Fourth Trimester Podcast” are some of my favourites.
Take it slow, listen to your body and avoid overheating. Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during and after your walk.
If walking is uncomfortable for you, swimming, cycling on an elliptical, dancing and yoga during pregnancy has been proven to have similar benefits to walking.
Breath Deeply: Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing daily in preparation for labour.
If you take prenatal classes, you will likely learn breathing techniques to help you cope with labour contractions. Don’t just learn about them and forget them! These exercises are helpful at easing relaxation, reducing perception of pain in labour and shortening the duration of labour. (9) Practice through pregnancy, every day if possible. As a birth doula, this is one of the first things that I recommend my clients to do; take a few minutes every day to just breathe.
Practicing deep and slow breathing during pregnancy ensures a plentiful oxygen to your baby and helps to regulate stress levels. Studies have shown that 30 5-minute sessions of deep diaphragmatic breathing can decrease anxiety in pregnant persons experiencing preterm labour. (10) Breathing exercises can help you stay present during your pregnancy and labour, and are an important part of preparing your mind for birth.
If you haven’t attended prenatal classes yet, I’ve got you. Here is a super helpful video by HomeVeda Parenting on how to do diaphragmatic breathing exercises.
Stretch your body: Keep your muscles relaxed as you approach childbirth with gentle stretching.
During pregnancy, your body produces the hormone relaxin which softens the ligaments of your pelvic, allowing more movement in the pelvic joints. This change helps to prepare your body for birth, but it may also cause pain and discomfort in your pelvis/lower back. The added weight during pregnancy and the need for your body to accomodate for your growing baby add on to the body aches, and this can increase as you approach your due date. Incorporating gentle stretches into your routine can help to loosen and relax your muscles, help ease pregnancy discomfort and lengthen your pelvic floor in preparation for birth.
Warm up and move slowly. Move your body before stretching and stretch slowly and never until the point that is painful.
If you have any medical conditions; make sure to consult with your doctor if these exercises are safe for you.
Try adding one to three of these gentle pregnancy stretches into your daily routine:
Bhadrasana or Gracious Pose: This pose helps to strengthen your inner thighs and pelvic floor. Avoid this pose if you suffer from knee problems (11 )
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out.
Bring the soles of your feet to touch each other and the knees spread far apart. If you need to, use your hand to bring your feet closet to your body. Do not lean forward.
Place your hands on your feet or on your thighs. Relax your shoulders and have slow deep breaths.
Stay in the pose for as long as you feel comfortable.
Deep Squat: Deep squats with pelvic contractions can help to strengthen your pelvic floor and to engage your baby into your pelvis. (12 )
Stand facing a wall, with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, with your feet pointing outward. Keep your chest open and look straight forward.
Squat as far down as you can. Down to the ground, if you are able to, but be careful not to overstretch.
Hold on to the all in front of your for balance, if necessary.
While at the bottom of your squat, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles for 10 seconds (as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine).
Use your glute muscles to lift yourself up. Repeat 5 times. Listen to your body and don’t do anything that feels uncomfortable.
Balasana Child’s pose: For 9 months, your pelvic floor muscles work hard to hold the weight of your uterus, containing your baby, the placenta and amniotic fluid. This restful pose can help to stretch these muscles to ease discomfort and to prepare your body for birth. (13)
Kneel on the floor, with your feet together and sit on your heels. Then, while keeping your toes touching, separate your knees as wide as your hips.
Exhale and place your torso and belly between your thighs. Lengthen your spine, point your tailbone away from your body.
Rest your hand on the floor on each side of your body with your palms up and relax your shoulders.
Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. For as long as it feels comfortable for you.
To pull yourself up, lengthen the front torso and as you breath in, push your tailbone down into the floor and bring your body.
Pelvic Tilt: Pelvic tilts can help improve stability by stretching the back muscles and strengthening the core. (14)
Position yourself on your hands and knees. Breath in, breath out and use your abdominal muscles to bring your pubic bone forward with a “scooping up” motion.
Then, breath in and rock your pelvis in the opposite direction to create an arch in your low back, working within a range of motion that is comfortable and pain-free for you. Repeat.
Do 1-3 sets of 3-10 repetitions each.
Quad Stretch: Tight quadriceps can affect the tilt of your pelvis and the alignment of your back. Stretching these muscles, supports a balanced pelvis for an easier birth! (14)
Stand next to a wall or chair for support.
Keep your thighs together with soft knees.
While keeping your back straight and tightening your core*, grab your left foot with your left hand and pull towards your buttocks.
Keep focused on maintaining good posture and getting a good stretch on your quad muscle.
Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other leg.
Birth Ball: Practice exercises on your birth ball during pregnancy and reap the benefits during labour.
Yoga ball, Physio ball, Birth Ball… It goes by many names, but really it should be called Magic Ball, because it does magic for your birthing body. Evidence shows that using a birth ball during labour can reduce the perception of pain, stress, anxiety and the use of pain medications. (15, 16)
Practicing birth ball positions and exercises during your pregnancy, will help you feel more comfortable and confident using the ball during labour. You don’t want the first time to ever sit on your birth ball to be after checking in to the hospital. Using your ball, should hopefully become a daily habit. Here are some things that you can try during your pregnancy, but especially during the thirds trimester, to help you get on to your birth ball more often!
Put your birth ball in the living room and practice sitting on it and doing hip circles while watching tv instead of sitting on the couch.
Lean over your ball to gently stretch your back muscles and sway side-to-side and front-to-back to stretch your pelvic floor muscles.
Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing and pair it with pelvic tilts while sitting on your birth ball for a super-powered birth prep exercise.
If you want to be extra intentional with your time on the ball, practice birthing affirmations and get your mind and body prepared for birth at the same time. Here are some of my personal favourites:
My mind and my body are prepared to welcome my baby earthside.
I am ready to give birth to my baby.
Every week is a step closer to meeting my baby.
I release the discomfort of pregnancy. I let go of the worry, tension and fear of birth. I am focused on the joy of meeting my child.
If you want to make sure you remember to do these habits daily, download the printable Third Trimester Habit Tracker and Pregnancy Healthy Habits e-guide by clicking the link below.
Every pregnancy is beautifully unique. These recommendations will not work for everyone. This blog is a collection of my personal opinions and a presentation of my interpretation of evidence, research and studies. It is not to be considered or meant to replace medical advice.
Ask ACOG: How much water should I drink during pregnancy?. 2020. ACOG
LAcey, J., How Important are B Vitamins During Pregnancy?. 2015. Healthline.
Dekker, R., Natural Labour Induction Series: Eating Dates. 2017. Evidence-based Birth.
Mallory. J., Raspberry Leaf: Postdates pregnancy. 2018. Integrative Medicine. Fourth Edition.
Parsons, M., Simpson, M. and Ponton, T. Raspberry Leaf and its Effect on Labour: safety and efficacy. 1999. Australian College of Midwives Incorporated Journal.
Cooper. D. and Yang L. Pregnancy and Exercise. 2020. StatPearl.
Berghella, V. and Saccone, G. Exercise During Pregnancy. 2017. AJOG.
Connolly, C., Conger, S., Montoye, A., Marshall, M., Schlaff, R., Badon, S. and Pivarnik, J. Walking for Health During Pregnancy: A literature review and considerations for future research. 2019. Journal of Sports and Health Science.
Yuksel, H., Cayir, Y., Kosan, Z. and Tastan, K. Effectiveness of Breathing Exercises During the Second Stage of Labour on Labour Pain and Duration: A randomized controlled trial. 2017. Journal of Integrative Medicine.
Chang S.-B., Kim H.-S., Ko Y.-H., Bae C.-H., An S.-E. Effects of abdominal breathing on anxiety, blood pressure, peripheral skin temperature and saturation oxygen of pregnant women in preterm labor. 2009. Korean Journal Women Health Nur
Health Benefits of Bhabrasana (Gracious Pose). 2018. Arogya Yoga School.
Flannigan, J. Squats During Pregnancy: 5 ways to perform squats safely during pregnancy. 2017. Healthline.
Child’s Pose (Balasana). 2007. Yoga Journal.
Nine pregnancy stretches for the whole body. Ontario Chiropractic Association.
Leung, R-W-C., Li, J-F-P., Fung, B-K-Y.,Fung, L-C-W., Tai, S.M., Sing, C. and Leung W-C. Efficacy of Birth Ball Exercises on Labour Pain Management. 2013. Hong Kong Medicine Journal.
Gau, M-L., Chang, C-Y., Tian S-H. and Lin, K-C. Effect of Birth Ball Exercise on Pain and Self-Efficacy During Childbirth: a randomized controlled trial in Japan. 2011. Midwifery.