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Micky Marie Morrison, PT, ICPFE
Contributing Writer

Activities to Help Induce Labor

Ready for baby to arrive? Probably. But is baby ready to come out? Learn what you can do to help move things along.

The last weeks of pregnancy are often uncomfortable, and most of us get to the point of wishing we could speed things up and get baby out ASAP. With swollen feet, an achy back, acid reflux and sleepless nights, who can blame you? So plenty of about-to-be-moms wonder: What can I do to get this baby to come?

First, try to remember that a due date is only an estimate. Most women start feeling desperate a couple of weeks (or more) before the due date, but baby isn’t considered late term until after 41 weeks and postterm until after 42 weeks. So when you’re feeling like you just can’t go on another day and you’re only 37 weeks pregnant, you may still have a full month to go before baby is ready to come, so be patient!

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists(ACOG), term pregnancy is defined as:

  • Early Term: Between 37 weeks 0 days and 38 weeks 6 days
  • Full Term: Between 39 weeks 0 days and 40 weeks 6 days
  • Late Term: Between 41 weeks 0 days and 41 weeks 6 days
  • Postterm: Between 42 weeks 0 days and beyond

If you’re past the 37-week mark and would like to help encourage baby to make his appearance sooner rather than later, certain activities might help (aside from perhaps the old wives tales of eating spicy foods and pineapple). Here are some activities that could help induce labor:

• Sex, sex, and more sex. Orgasm can help stimulate uterine contractions and semen can help soften the cervix. Enough said?

• Go for a walk. Taking a walk every day is good practice for overall fitness, but in those last weeks it can help baby engage in the pelvis.

• Nipple stimulation. Manually rolling the nipples between the fingers or using a breast pump for even stronger stimulation can jump start uterine contractions. Breastfeeding after baby’s arrival naturally helps the uterus contract back to its original size for the same reason.

• Deep squats. Aside from helping the pelvis to spread to prepare the body for birth, the full squat position helps baby engage deeper into the pelvis, so I recommend spending up to five minutes at a time several times a day doing squats once baby is already in a head down position.

• Get on the ball. I encourage expectant moms to spend a lot of time on an exercise ball in the last trimester. Sitting on a yoga ball and gently rolling the pelvis to make circles helps to relax the low back and hip muscles, and bouncing gently can give baby a gravity-assisted push toward the exit. And bonus: Those same movements on the ball provide great relief during labor.

• Bouncy exercise. In addition to bouncing on the ball, other bouncy exercise can help coax baby deeper into the pelvis. While you should avoid high-impact exercise, you can still do low-impact exercise that includes a little bounce, such as lunges and squats and others in the video below.

Don’t try to rush things too much, though. According to American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists, “Babies born between 39 weeks 0 days and 40 weeks 6 days gestation have the best health outcomes, compared with babies born before or after this period.” Patience is a great virtue in pregnancy, as it is in motherhood. Even if you’re completely over it, baby may need more time.