At 2 years old, my nephew is nothing but adorable. But when he was ten days past his original mid-June due date, my sister had some other choice words to describe him. She loved being pregnant, but towards the end of her third trimester, she couldn’t wait to get things moving (and meet her firstborn son). Like many moms, her due date came and went without a contraction in sight. And though that extra time is totally normal, it can feel like your baby will never come. Luckily, there are safe and effective ways to help naturally induce labor—exercise being one of them.
Now, before we dive in, there’s something you should know. “There aren’t any exercises that have been shown to cause women to go into labor if your body wasn’t already starting the process,” explains Dr. Heather Irobunda, MD and board-certified OB/GYN based in New York City. It can, however, help prepare your body for what’s to come. “Usually, exercises help your body transition from the early labor process into more of an active labor process.” Basically, that means it can help encourage labor by properly adjusting the baby’s positioning as well as improving the mother’s alignment by “causing more weight to be placed on the cervix, which increases the cues to the body and, more specifically, the uterus.” Light cardio, like walking, is one way to help progress this process along. If you feel comfortable, she also suggests engaging in some low-impact movements like squats and lunges. You can also sit and roll around on an exercise ball to help open up your hips and “allow for the baby to sit lower in the pelvis, helping the body know that it’s time for labor.”
We know what you’re thinking…but is it safe? The answer is yes. In fact, it’s safe to do exercise in general while pregnant, “as long as [the movements] are not more strenuous than your level of fitness prior to the start of your pregnancy,” Dr. Irobunda says. Your second trimester is no time to start training for your first marathon, and the final trimester is no time to try a new Zumba class. Stick to the low-impact movements your body is used to and always make sure you’re in an environment where you can safely engage in these exercises. Having a workout buddy is a good idea, too. “Make sure you have someone nearby if you need help moving around,” she cautions. “If it’s not possible to have someone present while you’re exercising, make sure your phone is handy in case you need help.” And before you even purchase that big bouncy exercise ball, always discuss any labor and delivery plans with your doctor. Exercise might not be recommended for women with certain medical conditions or high-risk pregnancies.
If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, here are eight OB/GYN approved exercises to try now, all provided by Brooke Cates, a pre and post-natal exercise specialist as well as the founder of The