How to keep yourself in tip-top shape for delivery

While labor and delivery can be intimidating, they're a part of life and should be as natural as breathing. That doesn't mean that the process won't be without some level of pain and toil, however. In order to make sure your delivery goes smoothly, it's important to keep yourself in fighting shape so that you're ready for the big moment in both body and mind. Here are a few tips for staying in top condition throughout your pregnancy and delivery.

Keep your body limber with a daily stretching routine
It's important to keep your body limber during pregnancy, especially as you near your delivery time. Flexibility, especially in the hips and thighs, can help you have a smoother delivery and will facilitate your recovery after the fact.

Many physicians and pregnancy experts recommend that women engage in prenatal yoga specifically for this purpose. If you live near a yoga studio, check its schedule of classes -  it probably offers special prenatal sessions. If this isn't a possibility, you can rent or buy yoga videos and practice at home.

Get the recommended amounts of calcium, folate, iron and protein
The American Pregnancy Association recommended that women take in additional amounts of these essential nutrients while they're pregnant in order to ensure healthy baby development. Calcium will help your baby develop strong bones and teeth. Folate, or folic acid, is crucial in staving off major birth defects such as neural tube defects like spina bifida. Iron is essential in building healthy blood volumes, which you'll need to ensure good placenta health during pregnancy. And protein helps build fetal tissue and fosters healthy brain development.

Take daily walks or try a light exercise routine
Many women aren't sure whether they should exercise while pregnant, but the answer is an unequivocal 'Yes!' Participating in light-to-moderate exercise will keep you in peak physical shape for giving birth.

Studies have also shown that women who exercise while pregnant also feel better about their bodies and are more confident that they'll be able to get their pre-baby bodies back after they've given birth. In addition, it will boost your serotonin levels, making you feel happier.

If you practiced a regular workout routine before you became pregnant, you're in a good position to keep it up. Just make sure to talk to your doctor about your activity, and to listen to your body when it feels overtired. If you don't already have a regular fitness program, it's not too late to start. The trick is to take it easy and not push yourself to the limit. You can try running or work with a fitness instructor to develop a safe prenatal routine. Even something as simple as taking daily walks can help.

Make time to relax
While it's important to stay fit and active in order to keep your strength up during pregnancy, it's equally important to make time for rest and relaxation. The National Center for Biotechnology Information suggested that too much stress can be harmful for baby development as well as the health of the mother. Finding time to reduce stress and instill calmness will help you be healthier for your delivery.

There are a number of things you can do to achieve this. Pamper yourself by taking warm baths, indulging in a spa session or even practicing meditation. Activities like reading or watching a favorite TV show with your feet up are beneficial as well. Just make sure you do something you find relaxing.

What other activities do you feel are important during pregnancy? Let us know in the comments section!