Exercises for childbirth

by Kaiser Permanente
Active pregnant woman holds a squat position while exercising in her home.

In your second trimester, it’s a good idea to start a fitness routine to help your body get ready for birth. These exercises help strengthen muscles in your lower abdomen and back.

Strengthening exercises build core strength, improve posture and stability, and support your pelvic floor. This can decrease back pain, pelvic discomfort, and general aches and pains.

Strengthening Exercises


Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and turn them in an outward direction to maintain your balance. Lower yourself into a squat position. Only go as far as you’re comfortable while keeping your back straight and your weight in your heels. Return to the starting position, squeezing your glutes on the way up. Perform 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.


Stand with your feet 6 inches apart and your toes pointed forward. Step forward with one leg, then lower your body to 90 degrees at both knees. Keep your weight on your heels and don’t allow your knees to cross over your toes. Push up and back to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times on one leg, then repeat on the other leg.


Stand with your feet apart and broaden your shoulders. Bend forward and put your palms on a chair seat, a stool, a yoga block, or the floor at a level that keeps your back straight. Inhale and lift your hand on one side up over your head and follow your hand with your eyes by turning your head as you exhale. Then switch to the other side. Work up to 10 repetitions on each side.

Yoga/Exercise Ball

Sitting and engaging in soft movement on a yoga ball can strengthen your core, improve posture, and encourage your baby to turn head down. Try using your ball for gentle bouncing, rocking back and forth, pelvic floor exercises, and other strengthening exercises.

Pelvic rocking

If you’re familiar with yoga, you probably already know this exercise. Similar to the “cat and cow” yoga pose, this stance helps relieve back pain and strengthens your abdominal muscles.

First, get on your hands and knees while keeping your back straight. Take a deep breath and tuck your head to your chest. Arch your back like a cat, holding for six seconds. As you then breathe out, bring your head back up and release your back so that it’s straight again. (Don’t curve your back toward the floor as you would for the “cow” pose.) You can repeat this move as often as you’d like.

Tailor stretch

This exercise can help strengthen your thigh muscles. Start by sitting on the floor with the soles of your feet touching. Relax your knees toward the floor, gently stretching your thighs. Hold the stretch for about five seconds, then release. Try to do five to 10 tailor stretches at least twice a day.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Often called Kegels, these exercises strengthen your pelvic floor. To perform pelvic floor exercises, firmly tighten the muscles that you use to stop the flow of urine for 3-5 seconds. Try to perform Kegels 10-15 times at least three times a day. Kegels can also help with bladder control problems after you give birth.

Other exercises

Prenatal yoga can be a great way to learn relaxation techniques that can help you stay as stress-free as possible during your birth. Yoga can also teach you breathing techniques and improve your flexibility. If you’re interested in yoga, consider a prenatal yoga class.

As a Kaiser Permanente member, you can get unlimited on-demand video workouts at no cost, plus reduced rates on in-person fitness classes through ClassPass. Visit our fitness deals page on KP.org to sign-up and learn more. Be sure to follow your clinician’s guidelines as to which classes and workouts might be best suited for you.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.