Exercises can induce labor, but only if your body is ready for birth. Learn more about practical exercises to induce labor.
By 39 weeks, you have reached what is officially considered a full-time pregnancy and are probably more than ready to meet your baby. Even with your due date, it does not matter when your baby decides to make his big entrance, which is why many expectant mothers, eager to put their pregnancies behind them, try to take matters into their own hands and help move the birth. A tactic? Do specific exercises to induce labor.
But do they work? They can, but only if your body is getting ready for birth. If a woman’s cervix is not mature – which means soft and ready to be enlarged by her contractions – then no exercise in the world will lead her to childbirth. In other words, if your body does not begin to prepare for birth by itself, exercise ball, squats, and forward bends will not start the contractions. But if your cervix is beautifully mature and soft and stretchy, exercises can help you begin contractions.
When you breathe normally, you usually contract the abdominal muscles when exhaling – but if you are trying to induce labor, you will engage the core and diaphragm while inhaling through the nose and try to squeeze the baby with the abdominal muscles. Take a moment to hold your breath, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. You should feel relaxed on the breath and imagine your baby pushing himself down. Practice breathing so that you can feel the pelvic floor muscles relax. You can do this exercise on an exercise ball in a child position. And in a supported squat.
Exercise ball bounce
Bouncing gently on an exercise ball to induce birth not only encourages the baby to move down and, in turn, helps with the expansion of the cervix, but it can also soothe the baby. Start sitting on an exercise ball with your legs wide apart. Then move your hips up and down. The movement encourages the pelvic floor to contract and relax. Gentle bounce also allows the spine to decompress, giving a little more space between the vertebrae. It also can relieve tension in the lower back. Bounce for a few minutes during the day.
Doing certain prenatal yoga positions to induce labor, such as butterfly pose, can be especially helpful when your body is transitioning to the main event. Sit on the floor with your knees wide and the soles of your feet together. While inhaling, sit up high so your lower back has a natural curve (like the Cow Pose), and extend your chest forward and up. As you exhale, lower your chin, lean back, and round your back (like Cat Pose). Repeat this move five to ten times, or as long as it feels good. Both movements are essential for pushing. When you find the lower back’s natural curve, you get access to more power as you carry it down.
Supported forward bend
Find something solid you can hold on to, like a wall, kitchen counter, or stairwell. Place your legs parallel, hip-width apart. Hold on to the support, bend your knees and stretch your hips backward, and also push the top of your thighs back. Stick your butt out to fit in the pelvis where the baby needs the most space to get out. Please do this as long as it feels comfortable. Move your hips from side to side. Then, take long, deep breaths as you lengthen your spine and extend the back of your pelvis.
Supported squats help strengthen the gluteal muscles and legs, stretch the pelvic floor, and encourage the baby to move down. You can spend up to five minutes a day on squats when the baby is upside down. The full squat position allows the baby to engage more profound into the pelvis.
If you want to help move early birth, this can be an excellent exercise to induce active labor. Have your arms around the neck of your partner, and let yourself lean on them and relax. Swing your hips from side to side. Swaying your hips invites you to the open feeling you want in your pelvis. This exercise can help you find a natural rhythm and support the downward energy flow you wish throughout the birth. Also, if you make this move with your partner, it releases the connection to someone you love, oxytocin, a natural hormone that is said to help you stay calm and better cope with pain.