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Exercises during pregnancy are good not only to keep you and your baby healthy but also to prepare the body for the rigours of labour. Regular exercising readies the muscles and ligaments in the pelvis to go through delivery with lesser effort. Prenatal exercises also help to position the baby optimally for childbirth.
Exercises to Induce Labour Naturally
Here are 9 exercises that will help induce labour and get your body ready for the baby:
1. Pelvic Tilts
Pelvic tilts are great for strengthening the pelvic muscles and prepping them for labour. It is one of the best exercises to help induce labour naturally and can be started early on during pregnancy. Begin by lying down on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Flatten your back against the floor and slowly lift and push the pelvis up. Hold it in this position for about 10 seconds and release slowly. Exercise twice a day for 10 minutes for pelvic strength.
A variation of the pelvic tilts is called the angry cat or the cat/cow stretch. It is to be done on all fours, facing the ground. It helps in easing back pain during pregnancy while strengthening the abdominal muscles.
Squatting is one of the most natural movements of the body and is among the safest exercises that can be performed during pregnancy. It builds strength in various muscles in the thighs, the lower back and the abdomen while opening up the pelvis. Squats can be performed throughout a healthy pregnancy – doing them is thought to help orient the baby into position for delivery.
Stand with your feet slightly wider apart than your hips, and toes pointing forward. If you need support or stability, hold the back of a chair placed in front of you. Keeping your back straight, go down as though you’re about to sit on a chair. You can either do a full squat- go down all the way – or a half squat where your lower lack doesn’t go below your knees. Hold this position for 5 or 10 seconds, take a deep breath and exhale as you rise back up.
3. Exercise Ball
An exercise ball is a fun addition to your workout routine, and it can double as a chair if you’re a working mom. Sit at the centre of the ball with your feet flat on the ground, and knees bent. Use your feet to roll back and forth, or just bounce up and down gently on the exercise ball. Rolling on the ball and gentle bouncing are some good exercises to induce labour at 38 weeks as the bouncing motion can help position the baby for a natural birth. However, you should take extreme care with this exercise because balancing can be tough during the last few weeks of pregnancy, and there is a risk of falling if not done with help.
4. Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises activate the pelvic floor muscles that support pelvic organs such as the bladder, urethra, vagina, uterus, small intestines, and rectum. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles and gaining good control over them can help during the pushing stage of labour. It is said that by voluntarily relaxing them, you can ease the birthing process.
To find your pelvic floor muscles, tighten the muscles around your vagina and like you interrupt the flow of urine when you pee. However, do not try this while you’re actually passing urine as that can prove to be harmful. If you can do this without constricting the muscles of your thighs, hips and buttocks, you’ve located the pelvic floor muscles. Once you learn how to isolate and control them, practice slow contractions. Contract the pelvic floor muscles tighter for a count of five seconds, hold for five seconds, and release to a count of five. Practice this 10 or 15 times a day.
5. Butterfly Pose
The butterfly pose is a simple exercise that opens up your pelvis and builds flexibility and strength in the surrounding muscles, including the back and thigh. The butterfly pose is easy and can be done from the moment you’re pregnant until the time you deliver.
Sit on the floor and put the soles of your feet together. Pulse your legs up and down like the wings of a butterfly and feel the muscles in your thigh stretch. Maintain a pace and range of motion that feels comfortable to you. A variant of butterflies involves sitting in the same position and gently pushing the knees down to the floor using your elbows and feeling the stretch in your inner thigh muscles.
Lunges are effective in warming up the hips and opening them up to let the baby rotate and descend. They can be used to induce labour naturally. Stand with both the legs together and take one big step forward. Descend your lower back while pivoting on the front knee while you feel the muscles in your back and hind leg stretch. For added safety and balance, push up against a wall while you do it. Alternate the legs and repeat the exercise about 10 times with each leg.
7. Stair Climbing
Climbing stairs requires you to use all your lower back and leg muscles. The stretching and movement of the hips help orient the baby’s head down towards the birth canal. Stair climbing is a wonderful way of inducing labour naturally as it prepares the body for the physical exertion of labour. It also presses on the cervix, prompting it to dilate and open up the pelvic region.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that walking has tons of benefits for your body during pregnancy – this low impact aerobic exercise is a perfect way to induce labour naturally. It is believed that walking helps the baby descend into the lower part of the uterus, and also stimulates the cervix to dilate and get ready for labour. Walking is also known to be helpful in stimulating uterine contractions in women who were advised bed rest during pregnancy.
9. Back Stretches
Back stretches are among the best exercises for labour pain reduction as they help relieve muscle tightness during labour. The following exercise stretches the muscles along the spine, shoulders and the back of your legs. It can also be tried whenever you feel a tension in the back.
Facing a wall, bend forward pivoting at the hips, so your upper body makes a 90-degree angle with your legs. The back should be flat and the legs straight or slightly bent. Now, place your hands on the wall at the shoulder level. Relax your head while you look down, keeping it at the level of your arms. Push your hands into the wall as you lean back from the hips until you feel a stretch in your back and the muscles in the back of your legs. Hold for 10 seconds, relax, and return your hips to a neutral position.
Precautions to Take When Doing Exercise to Induce Labour
Exercising to induce labour is good for both you and the baby. However, since it is a sensitive time, there are some simple precautions that will go a long way. Here are a few things to take care of when doing exercises to induce labour:
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after your exercise. Be sure to keep hydrating yourself.
- Make sure to wear a bra that supports your breasts completely and keeps you comfortable.
- Keep yourself moving constantly. This does not mean that you don’t sit and take rest; it means that you should try avoiding laying on your back or sitting all the time, as it can cause your muscles to stiffen. Constantly moving your legs, arms, and the rest of your body every now and then will also help with your exercise.
Regular exercises throughout pregnancy help prepare your body for a natural birth. They are also a wonderful way to induce labour naturally while keeping you warmed up for the stresses of childbirth. So, don’t hesitate to keep yourself active and watch your birthing process go smoothly!
Resources and References: ACOG