The Best Exercises to Induce Labor Naturally

Looking for a safe and natural way to induce labor? Squats, pelvic tilts, and other low-impact exercises may help you kick start the process.

By the end of the third trimester, most parents-to-be are pretty anxious to get the show on the road. "[Many people] feel uncomfortable being pregnant and want to be un-pregnant," explains Joyce Gottesfeld, M.D., OB-GYN for Kaiser Permanente in Denver. If their due date passes without any hint of labor approaching, some consider taking things into their own hands by trying to induce labor themselves. In fact, at that point, many pregnant people are looking for ways to go into labor tonight. And one popular "induction" method is physical movement: many pregnant people turn to exercise to induce labor. But does is it safe and does really work?

Here's everything you need to know about using exercise to induce labor, plus seven things you can try at home.

When Is It Safe to Use Exercise to Induce Labor?

While you may be anxious to meet your little bundle of joy (or to end your pregnancy), you shouldn't try to induce labor too soon. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the risk of adverse outcomes is lowest when baby is born between 39 and 41 weeks. But if you are 39 weeks—or more—you may want to talk to your doctor, midwife, or health care provider about the potential benefits of using exercise to induce labor.

"It's important for every pregnant person to discuss labor induction and plans to attempt it at home with their physician," says Ilana Ressler, M.D., a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist with Illume Fertility in Connecticut. Dr. Ressler also adds that anyone who has increased pregnancy or medical risks should avoid trying to kick-start labor themselves altogether.

What Are the Benefits?

In addition to potentially inducing labor, there are some other benefits to prenatal exercise. Namely, exercises which are aimed to induce labor can also encourage baby into position and can improve the alignment of the pregnant person's body.

"For a low-risk person, exercise (or movement in general) and paying attention to your posture and alignment is one of the most important things you can do," explains Ashley Brichter, founder and CEO of Birth Smarter, a company that offers in-person and virtual childbirth classes for expectant parents.

Ilana Ressler, M.D.

It's important for every pregnant person to discuss labor induction and plans to attempt it at home with their physician.

— Ilana Ressler, M.D.

She adds that, for labor to start off well and continue to progress, it's best for the baby to be in the optimal position (head down and ideally facing your back with their chin tucked). Pregnant people should also encourage proper body alignment to achieve more space in their lower back, which allows the baby to rotate and descend. "What I would look for is just postural work, and trying to bring some balance into the body and pelvis," says Brichter. The following movements might be able to help prime your body for labor.

Pregnant woman on a birthing ball

Inuk Studio / Stocksy

The 7 Best Exercises to Induce Labor

Let's be clear: There is no proven method for safely inducing labor at home, but there are some things you can do to help prime your body for labor and encourage your baby to get in the optimal position. Will it happen tonight? Maybe, maybe not, but trying out these exercise to go into labor can help prime your body for the real thing.

And as always, be sure to talk to your prenatal care provider before you try any type of labor-inducing activity at home. When you're ready and you've been cleared, here are some activities you can try to get ready for delivery.

1. Parallel your feet

"A lot of pregnant people splay their feet wide, but bringing their toes parallel can help separate the sitz bones," says Brichter. This finds more space in their lower back, which makes labor and delivery easier.

2. Maintain alignment

Instead of pushing your belly forward when standing, stay aligned with your hips over your ankles. This stance—which is easy to take while doing dishes, standing in line at the grocery store, etc.—encourages the baby to move into the proper position. Similarly, try not to slouch when you're sitting down, says Brichter.

3. Sit on a birthing ball

According to Brichter, sitting on an exercise or birthing ball in neutral wide-legged positions prepares the body for labor by increasing blood flow, opening the pelvis, and encouraging cervical dilation. You can also try birth ball exercises such as circular hip rotations, rocking, and gentle bouncing.

4. Do pelvic tilts

During vaginal delivery, your pelvic bones pull away and separate to accommodate your baby's head. Keep the joints loose by completing pelvic tilt exercises.

Here's one way to do them: Lying on your back, place your feet flat against the floor and bend your knees. Slowly lift the pelvis until it becomes parallel with your torso. Hold for 10 seconds, return to your starting position, and repeat several times.

5. Assume the butterfly pose

You might recognize the butterfly pose from dance or yoga class, but did you know it can increase flexibility in your pelvic joints, improve blood flow, and make childbirth easier? To get into the pose, sit upright on the floor, and bring the soles of your feet together while bending the knees. Pull your feet toward your body to feel a stretch in your hips and inner thighs. Don't forget to breathe into it.

6. Go on a walk

Maintaining a regular exercise routine, including low-impact cardio like walking, has many benefits throughout pregnancy. But walking can also be used as an exercise to induce labor since it helps with cervical effacement and dilation and allows the baby to drop in the pelvis. Walking might also ease some of your anxiety surrounding labor and delivery.

7. Perform lunges

Lunges stretch the hips and open the pelvis, which helps the baby move into the ideal birthing position. Here's how to do them: Stand up straight, then take a big step forward with one leg, keeping your knee over your ankle. The other leg should drop so it's parallel to the ground. Push back up to starting position, then repeat with the other leg.

Who Shouldn't Use Exercise to Induce Labor?

While experts often recommend regular exercise for low-risk pregnant people, the ACOG suggests discontinuing if you experience certain symptoms while exercising, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fluid leaking
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness affecting balance
  • Regular, painful contractions
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vaginal bleeding

Always talk about your plans to induce or encourage labor through exercise with your health care provider, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy. Consider discussing your plans with a physical therapist as well.

"Midwives and OB-GYNs are very good at keeping pregnant people safe, but they aren't necessarily experts at the body's structure," says Brichter. "Somebody thinking about using movement and exercise in labor might want to talk with a physical therapist."

The Bottom Line

Although exercise can prepare the body for labor and delivery, it's not a well-proven method of induction. "If someone is interested in attempting labor induction, it is best to discuss this with their physician," adds Dr. Ressler. What's more, its important to know your limits. "If your body is not ready for labor, don't push it," says Dr. Gottesfeld. Rather, be mindful. Be patient, and be present. Your baby will arrive when it's ready, whether you do exercises to induce labor or not.

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  1. Exercise During Pregnancy, ACOG, 2022

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