Women who exercise during pregnancy have a 75% decrease in the risk of C-section. C-section will usually happen due to a cascade of events in the hospital. Modern birthing unfortunately is often set up for surgery. There are a few events that usually lead up to having a C-section.
One: Unfit Mom and Hospital Time Tables
The sequence that commonly occurs in hospital births begins with the pressure of time. Hospital staffs have a protocol that is time-based with the suggested timetable for dilation of 1 cm every hour after she reaches 3 cm. This gives only 7 more hours for mom to have a natural birth. The average first time mom takes an average of 12-24 hours. Laws in most states also say that a birth must occur within 24 hours after the water breaks.
If mom enters the hospital too early, her chances for delivering naturally are in trouble. If the pregnant mom is sedentary, she may gestate longer or fatigue sooner then one who exercises, again requiring more time. The staff usually becomes more worried as things are not progressing on schedule and as the process unfolds mom now begins to feel pressure of time, and will elicit the same stress response that is proven to slow labor further.
Two: Hospital Mindset for Drugs
Most nurses expect to administer drugs for childbirth. So if these nurses do not practice allowing natural births, how could they be expected to coach one? Mom is usually offered drugs before she is offered help choosing appropriate birthing positions and other traditional natural guidance.
If dilation is not on schedule, Pitocin usually enters the picture. Pitocin quickly overrides the body's natural oxytocin contractions and forces contractions that are more intense. The intensity is often much more then normal contractions with lack of normal break times. The pregnant mom's ability to handle this drug depends on her emotional and physical well being. She needs determination, relaxation and physical endurance to continue through labor.
Four: Epidurals Please!
Once the new pitocin contractions roll in, epidurals are usually next on the list due to how much pain the drug causes. Epidurals are administered on average, 80-90%, according to the CDC. Epidural statistics include 61% in all vaginal births and 100% in all C-sections in 27 states in the USA. Epidurals are medication administered into the spine to reduce the pain of contractions. However, it also may slow labor, baby can become lethargic and have trouble getting into position for delivery and you may find that your epidural makes pushing more difficult and additional interventions such as pitocin, forceps, vacuum extraction or C-section may become necessary.
In the midst of an artificially-hurried pitocin contractions and an epidural-induced numbing, mom loses much control over the birthing process.
Exercise Can Stop the Cycle!
This sequence of events can be stopped before drugs and surgery take over. Moms who exercise spend less time in labor, minimizing the race against the clock. Moms who have exercised handle the physical challenge of labor better, reducing exhaustion by 75%. Exercise cuts the use of pitocin by half. Exercise reduces a moms need for epidural pain relief by 35% and drops the chance of C-section by 75%!
Regular moderate exercise daily improves function without risk to baby and will play a direct role in the majority of pregnancy and delivery-related complications. Exercise can include walking, prenatal yoga or pilates, exercise classes, pelvic floor and core strengthening, functional training and labor training. A little bit, will go a long way!
Contact Christina Trautman, DPT and Women's Health Physical Therapist for more information and how to stay fit and healthy during your pregnancy!