You’ve probably heard the old wives’ tales about eating spicy food or having sex to get labor moving along. And if you’re nearing the end of your third trimester, you’re probably ready to try anything.
We asked an expert, Amanda Holbert, a certified prenatal yoga instructor and founder of Renew Mama Studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for input on workouts and exercises you can do at home to help prepare your body and promote labor. Full disclosure: Amanda was one of my first prenatal yoga instructors during my second pregnancy, and I’ve personally benefited from her expertise.
Every pregnancy and every woman is different, so Amanda always stresses the importance of listening to your body. Check in with yourself on a regular basis, and if a movement doesn’t feel right, avoid it. If you’re trying prenatal yoga, it’s important to work with a certified prenatal instructor who can provide safe poses and appropriate modifications if something doesn’t feel right. Of course, before beginning any exercise routine, be sure your prenatal care provider has cleared you for activity.
If you’re near the end of your pregnancy, here are a few exercises that could naturally help speed up the process.
1. Squats & Lunges
Squats are a great way to prepare for and to promote labor. “Squats allow gravity to open your pelvis,” says Amanda, “giving your baby more room to descend further into the birth canal.”
Lunges are another good exercise to help bring on labor. They help open your pelvis as well. Plus, both exercises strengthen your legs to help during labor if you’re planning to give birth vaginally.
2. Butterfly Pose
Butterfly pose (sitting with your feet together and your knees “butterflied” outward) is a good way to stretch your hips and thighs to ease pregnancy pains. The pose also helps strengthen and tone your pelvic floor muscles that are used for labor and are essential in postpartum healing.
The butterfly pose is safe for all trimesters of pregnancy.
3. Cat & Cow Sequence
Though one of the easiest yoga sequences to move through, cat and cow work together to strengthen your deep core muscles while lengthening your spine. The gentle back-and-forth motion relieves the lower back by shifting the weight of the baby away from the spine.
In addition, the sequence opens the chest and lungs to allow for easier breathing and can help get the baby into the optimal position for birth. This pose can be used to try and turn a breech baby too if recommended by your prenatal care provider.
4. Use a Birthing Ball
Amanda recommends replacing your desk chair or dining room kitchen chair with a birthing ball. By sitting on the ball with wide open legs, you can help encourage the baby to descend. A birthing ball can also be used to relieve pain during labor and in exercises for postpartum healing. (Plus, your new baby will love to play with it in the future.)
5. Take a walk
We don’t mean a high-intensity walk full of hills. Just by using the power of gravity and the moving of your hips, a walk can help your baby descend.
Of course, no exercise, orgasm, or walk around the block is a guarantee to induce labor, but you can feel good knowing any of these activities can benefit you and your baby regardless.