Who doesn't love a good squat? It is one of my favourite movements to do. But I am always asked about squatting in pregnancy. The most common questions I am asked are usually:
''Won't the baby fall out?''
''Will it induce premature labour?''
''Is it safe?''
It is better than safe, it is beneficial!! Of course there are some situations in which we should avoid squatting when pregnant but more on that later.
So let's just clarify something first ok.... if you squat your baby will NOT fall out. Unless your vagina resembles the Channel Tunnel. In which case I cannot imagine the conception being much fun at all. In all seriousness though the pelvic floor muscles are many and are super supportive. They keep everything where it should be during pregnancy.
It will not induce premature labour. If it is going to happen then it is going to happen. Whether you did a few squats or not in the gym that day is of no significance.
But don't people suggest squats for inducing labour?? Well.... It is an anecdotal tip. When you are full term and your cervix is preparing itself for labour (becoming thinner and softer) then yes, it can help kickstart things.
Ina May Gaskin (A very famous Midwife for those of you who are not Midwifery nerds) once said “Squat 300 times a day and you are going to give birth quicker.” Now whilst I think 300 is slightly excessive Ina May knows what she is talking about!
Squats are one of the best functional exercises out there, There are many benefits to squatting in pregnancy and labour.
Squatting promotes mobility and balance: This can help you carry out those daily Mum activities without throwing out your back (such as picking up toys, clothes, babies off the floor).
Pelvic floor activation: Performing squats correctly can help you engage your pelvic floor muscles, preparing you for pushing out that baby. And a strong pelvic floor can help with urinary control (less chance of you peeing when you sneeze or laugh too hard).
Prevent and manage lower back pain: A good squat engages the glutes, legs, core and pelvic floor muscles. Activation of these muscles encourages maintenance of good posture and prevents an excessive anterior pelvic tilt (your pelvis tipping forward with the weight of your bump) which are the things that lead to lower back pain in pregnancy.
Encourages baby's decent in to the pelvis: Squatting can help encourage the baby to move down in to the pelvis. The pelvic outlet is actually widened in the bottom of certain squat positions and this is why it is perfect for labour too! A widened diameter can only be good when you are trying to push something the size of a melon out of something the size of a lemon....
Aids optimum labour positions: If you have a strong lower body and good posture (which we already know can be facilitated by squatting well in pregnancy) then you are more likely to be able to mobilise yourself in to many different positions and take advantage of gravity instead of being stuck to the bed!
So these are some pretty solid reasons as to why you should be squatting! If you are already participating in regular exercise then ask your trainer to incorporate them in to your workouts! But bear in mind as your bump grows you may have to adjust the way you squat. Remember that there is more relaxin and progesterone making you more mobile than normal and you are at a higher risk of injury if not being sensible (so this doesn't mean you have to have your ass to the grass).
Just in case here are some tips based on your trimester:
Trimester 1 - Keep your feet hip width apart, feet planted firmly on the floor send your bum back (as if you are sitting on the toilet), keeping your chest up, squat down as far as is comfortable or until hips are parallel with the ground. If you are used to squatting below parallel and can maintain this with good form then by all means continue!
Trimester 2 - This is generally the best trimester when it comes to exercise, so maintaining the same good squat technique as above maybe try adding in 3 pulses at the bottom position before standing up!
Trimester 3 - This is when you are at your biggest and your center of gravity feels like it is 3 feet in front of you. So remember your balance may be a little off. If this is the case then you you do not have to squat as low, reduce that depth but maintain good form. Or you can squat down to a chair or bench. Lastly you can always use the wall as a support!
In Labour - There is research to suggest that when your feet are almost parallel, with knees parallel too then there is a wider transverse diameter at the pelvic outlet (where your baby comes out). So if you assume this position then do it with your partner or a birthing ball behind you as you may not have the most stable base.
Alternatively there is a the common prenatal yoga squat but this has actually been suggested to reduce the pelvic outlet but can widen the pelvic inlet. Which means it is ideal for trying to encourage your baby in to the pelvis to engage!
There are a few instances where I wouldn't advise a pregnant mum to be squatting. For example, if her baby is breech and she wishes to use other exercises to encourage baby to turn before it engages in the pelvis (if you are going for a vaginal breech birth then squat away). Or perhaps you have placenta praevia and have been advised against squatting by your doctor. If there has been recent vaginal bleeding. Or if there is pain. None of this should be painful. If it is you should stop and refer to a prenatally qualified PT to ensure you are performing the move correctly and inform your Doctor/Midwife/Physio.
So after all that.... get squatting ladies! You won't regret it!