Practicing regular prenatal exercises during pregnancy will not only keep you feeling fit and healthy but also build strength and endurance for labor, and help prevent complications after birth.

Even if you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, engaging in some light prenatal workouts and stretching can help you prepare your body for labor and have an easier, and sometimes quicker, birthing experience.  

Which exercises are best to prepare for childbirth and beyond? Below, we’ve outlined the most effective prenatal exercises for staying fit, improving hip mobility, strengthening the pelvic floor, and perineal stretching.    

The Best Exercises to Stay Fit During Pregnancy and Get Strong for Childbirth

Exercise that improves the cardiovascular system, gently works the muscles, and moves the joints is ideal for staying fit during pregnancy and building strength for childbirth. If you jogged, swam, or did regular Pilates or Yoga before pregnancy, the chances are you’ll be able to continue, albeit a little gentler, right up until labor.  

If you didn’t engage in much exercise before pregnancy, try the following to prepare your body for labor and childbirth. 


Whether brisk or a little slower, walking is a low-impact cardiovascular exercise that can help keep the body fit for an entire pregnancy and build stamina for childbirth. In addition to strengthening the heart and respiratory system, walking for 20-30 minutes per day boosts blood circulation, gently exercises the muscles and joints, and helps you to feel happier.  

Gentle Swimming

Gentle swimming provides a workout for the joints, muscles, and lungs before childbirth without putting any pressure on the physical body. Besides being a gentle full-body workout, swimming also provides weightlessness that can feel great for a pregnant body. 

If you don’t swim, try floating, threading water, or walking in the pool for some resistance training. 

Kegel Exercises 

Kegel exercises keep the pelvic floor muscles toned during pregnancy.The intentional contraction and release of these muscles during Kegel exercises can help ease the pain of childbirth, improve bladder control, and prevent complications like pelvic organ prolapse after birth. 


Squatting is a great way to stretch the perineum, relax tight hips, release a tight lower back, and lengthen the pelvic floor muscles, and it can be practiced multiple times per day. 

To get into position, stand with the feet just a little wider than your hips and bend the knees to slowly squat down, bringing your hands to the floor in front of you for support. If your heels are up off the floor and most of the pressure is on the balls of your feet, place a cushion under the heels for more support.

Once the weight is displaced through each part of both feet, press your hands together at the center of your chest, or if it’s more comfortable, leave the hands on the ground for added support. Breathe consciously for 2-5 minutes, feeling each inhale and exhale relax the body more and more.  

Side Leg Lifts

Side leg lifts help to tone and strengthen your core and hip muscles for easier labor and childbirth. This repetitive exercise can be practiced in sets of 10 on both sides a few times a week. 

To practice, begin laying on your side, propped up by your elbow and lower arm. Keeping the upper body still and relaxed, slowly lift the top leg toward the sky as you inhale. As you exhale, slowly lower the upper leg back to the lower leg with control. Practice in sets of 10 repetitions 3-5 times per week. 

Is Prenatal Yoga Good for Pregnancy & Labor?

Yes, prenatal yoga is beneficial for pregnancy and labor as it enhances physical and mental well-being. It helps improve flexibility, strength, and balance, which can ease common pregnancy discomforts and prepare the body for childbirth. Prenatal yoga also promotes relaxation and stress reduction, which can lead to a more positive labor experience.

Additionally, the breathing techniques and mindfulness practices learned in prenatal yoga can be valuable during labor for pain management and focus. Here are some great stretches you can do during pregnancy.

Child’s Pose

Although a strong pelvic floor is important during pregnancy, it’s also important to learn how to relax the pelvic floor for labor and childbirth. Practicing child’s pose throughout pregnancy helps to ease pelvic discomfort, gently stretch the hips, and relax the pelvic floor muscles. 

To get into the pose, come to all fours, spread the knees a little wider than the hips, and sit back toward your heels using an exhale. If it’s not comfortable to sit fully back onto the heels, place a pillow or two between your bottom and the heels to sit up higher. 

Slowly reach the arms along the floor in front of you to feel the stretch in and around the pelvis. Breathing consciously and noticing each inhale and exhale will help the body to relax more and more with each breath. For more ease, you can also rest your elbows on the floor in front of you and allow your hands to support your head. Practice for 2-5 minutes at least three times per week for best results. If it feels good, it’s safe to practice for longer and more frequently. 

Cat Pose

Cat pose, which is another stretch derived from yoga, can release tightness in the back muscles and general discomfort along the spine. 

Start by coming to all fours and on an exhale, arch your back up toward the sky, while you let your head fall and tuck your chin toward your chest. You’ll feel the stretch along the length of your spine and the weight coming off your neck as your head relaxes.  

You can stay in the pose for a few breaths. Then, on an inhale, bring your spine back to a neutral position, and repeat a few more times, focusing on your inhales and exhales for more relaxation.  

The counterpart of this yoga stretch is called a ‘cow pose’, where the back arches downwards and the chin and hips lift. However, this is not recommended during pregnancy as it puts too much strain on the spine and pushes the belly too far forward. Practice for 2-5 minutes at least 3 times per week. 

Perineal Massage & Stretching

Perineal massage and stretching during pregnancy help improve the elasticity of the perineal tissues, reducing the risk of severe tears and the need for episiotomies during childbirth. It enhances blood flow to the area, aiding tissue health and recovery, while also potentially reducing pain perception and labor duration. This practice can also help pregnant women feel more prepared and relaxed for childbirth, contributing to a smoother delivery experience.

To help this part of the body stretch easier during labor and childbirth, perineal massage and gentle stretching are highly recommended for 5 minutes 3-4 times per week after week 34 of pregnancy. Stretching this part of the body can also prepare expecting mothers to breathe through the stinging sensation experienced as the skin stretches during labor. 

Prenatal Exercise Tips

It’s important to listen to your body when performing prenatal exercises and not push it too far. Take things slow to begin with, build up gradually, and take breaks if you need to. Although gentle prenatal exercise and stretching are highly recommended, each body is unique, so it’s always a good idea to check with your OB/GYN that it’s safe for you to perform the above-mentioned exercises before beginning.   


Staying active and practicing gentle prenatal exercises will help both you and your baby to stay healthy while also preparing your body for labor, childbirth, and recovery afterward. 

Regular and gentle cardio will keep you fit and build endurance for labor. Kegels will strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and perineal massage can prevent third and fourth-degree tearing as well as postpartum incontinence. Some tender yoga stretches will open the hips and pelvis for childbirth while relieving tight back and hip muscles.

Scroll up for a full list of the best prenatal exercises to prepare you for labor, childbirth, and beyond.  


Pregnancy, Birth & Baby - What Happens to Your Body in Childbirth -

American Pregnancy Association – Pregnancy Physical Therapy -

Pregnancy, Birth & Baby - Anatomy of pregnancy and birth - perineum and pelvic floor -

Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists - Perineal Tears During Childbirth -

Back to blog