I've seen this article and info circulating in birth and pregnancy circles recently and so many folks commenting "oh I'm on day 2 and this is killing me" or "I could barely get past day 4". Have any of you done this? Tell me your experience, I'm honestly curious.
It appears this article was written in 2016 and so is probably just making a resurgence as of late due to someone finding it on Pinterest or Instagram. I gotta say, as a prenatal yoga teacher and someone who has been pregnant myself, I have a BIG problem with this challenge for many reasons.
Reading through the article that is part of this challenge, the author quotes Ina May Gaskin saying "Squat 300 times a day and you will give birth faster." I flipped through my copies of Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth and Birth Matters to try to find the context for the quote and couldn't find it.
What I can say, having read all of Gaskin's work is that I highly doubt she was encouraging anyone to do 300 squats a day, particularly right before going into labor. In much of her work, she talks about the differences between other cultures and other time periods from the current western approach to birth. One thing she talks about repeatedly is how in the modern west we no longer encourage women to squat, but if you go back in time or to other cultures at this time, you see women squatting not only in childbirth, but also as a regular part of their days.
My guess is she was probably alluding to the fact that in the west we have a tendency to sit in chairs all day (not great pelvic alignment for baby or pregnancy) and doing our bodies a disservice as we prepare for labor. Squatting does help open the hips and pelvis and her insistence that we would birth faster if we squatted 300 times a day most likely comes from the fact we could all benefit from sitting less, and squatting more and thinking about how we're moving in our daily life (i.e. rather than bending over, squat instead). While I can't speak for her, I would hazard a guess that Ina May Gaskin was not encouraging a prenatal squat challenge. That being said, here's my problem with the challenge...
Two weeks before your due date, really?
First off, the timing on this is ridiculous. I like to think about labor like a marathon, and you wouldn't start training two weeks before and expect to be able to be run a marathon, right? Labor is the same way. If we are going to train for labor, beginning two weeks before is silly. We should begin at the start of our pregnancy and gradually and safely build strength and stamina from there. Practices like prenatal yoga are the perfect way to do that.
Second off, the few weeks leading up to our baby's birth should be a time we are slowing down and conserving our energy, not pushing ourselves to the brink of our body's capabilities. Going back to the marathon analogy, no professional athlete in their right mind is going to do extreme work outs right before their competition. Doing a challenge like this before labor is not going to prepare you for labor, if anything its going to make things more difficult:
Want to prepare for labor? Start the day you find out you're pregnant, not two weeks before.
The faster labor myth
Over the years I have heard all sorts of things claim to "speed" up labor. You also hear the same kind of things about what can help start labor. In both regards, some things do help, but it all depends on the person and the circumstance AND its all relative.
The amazing thing about birth is that it is a mystery, there's no hard and fast rules. Our water doesn't break and we know from there that baby will be born in x number of hours. We simply know that baby will come at some point, and a shorter labor for someone who had a 7 hour labor versus someone who had a 2 day labor is all relative.
There are so many factors that can cause labor to take longer and in many of those cases we have the power to change those and these would be the ways I would say we could "speed" up labor (when in reality its more of keeping it from dragging along):
If you really want to prepare the pelvic floor and the pelvis
The point the author makes in her article is that doing squats like this help prepare the pelvic floor, strengthen the glutes and legs and opens the hips in preparation for birth. I agree that these muscle groups are crucial in labor and childbirth, but in case you hadn't noticed, I vehemently disagree with application of this challenge.
First of all, an exercise like simply doing squats will not strengthen your pelvic floor unless you are actively focusing on engaging the pelvic floor. If anything , this late in the game, doing tons of squats like this will put undue burden on your pelvic floor because let's face it, we can do maybe 10 squats with an actively engaged pelvic floor but by 120 we probably aren't thinking about the pelvic floor. As a a result, we are squatting, opening the pelvic outlet, and adding the increased weight of baby and body at the end of the pregnancy and we are putting a lot of extra load on the pelvic floor. If anything, this will weaken the pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor tone is incredibly important in pregnancy, during labor and postpartum, but doing its safely and effectively is the number one priority.
Glutes & Legs
Strong glutes and legs can be incredibly helpfully in the last trimester of pregnancy to help support back and hips as baby gets bigger and the load on our low back increases. Because of this, don't wait! Start leg and glute strengthening at the beginning of pregnancy to ensure you have the support in the end, it shouldn't just be about labor, strong legs and glutes will serve you through out!
Open hips can help baby find a better position for labor, but squats are only one of the many ways to do that, and if we are squatting without a mind to what we're doing (see pelvic floor above) we may be doing ourselves a disservice. We can be super mindful at squat 5, not so mindful at squat 75. Plus when we do this many squats and create muscle fatigue, we may create the counter of what our hope is. Ever done a hard workout and woke up tight the next morning? This may end up being the case.
All in all this many squats will create muscle exhaustion, build up lactic acid in the muscles and create general fatigue. All bad things right before we go into one of the hardest physical challenges we've ever faced. What I would offer as a challenge two weeks before baby is born? Read on...
Ready to take that prenatal challenge to prepare for labor? I hope you'll join me!
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.