You’re hugely pregnant and ready for this baby to come out.
Perhaps you’re facing an induction and hoping to get things moving beforehand.
Either way, you might have spent time searching for ways to bring on labour.
Everyone you know (and that includes complete strangers) has given you plenty of advice.
Try spicy foods, they might say. Or bouncing, having sex, or even the dreaded castor oil. All of them are considered sure-fire ways of getting labour going.
Walking is one of the most commonly suggested ways to bring on labour without medication. So what exactly do we know about the connection between walking and the start of labour?
Can Walking Bring On Labour?
It’s important to be clear about this basic fact: nothing will cause labour to start spontaneously until your baby and your body are both ready for birth.
You can read more in What Causes Labour To Start?.
It’s hard to know when this state of readiness has been reached.
Although we’re often not aware of it, for weeks or days leading up to active labour, our bodies have been preparing for the real thing.
Babies also need to be ready to be born. In the last weeks before birth, they’re adding fat, fine tuning brain development, and laying down the foundations for breathing air outside the uterus.
There isn’t much reliable evidence to show walking brings on labour.
Walking to bring on labour will be most successful when you’re already on the cusp of labour, or in early labour.
It’s believed to help gravity pull your baby down, and put pressure on your cervix to dilate.
When the baby’s head presses downward on the cervix, this pressure is thought to encourage cervix dilation, which is the first and necessary stage of labour.
Your upright position and the rocking motion of walking can encourage your baby into the optimal position for birth – that is, head down, chin tucked in and back facing your belly.
If you’re already experiencing mild contractions, walking can encourage them to become stronger and more regular. The rhythmic motion of the baby’s head moving on the cervix can stimulate the release of oxytocin, which is the hormone responsible for contractions.
Walking can also help you feel more comfortable and relaxed; this reduces the level of adrenaline hormones that can interfere with oxytocin production.
Tips for Walking To Bring On Labour
Although there might not be a lot of evidence proving the connection between walking and bringing on labour, there are thousands of women who swear by it.
If you decide walking to bring on labour is for you, make sure you follow these tips:
- Wait until your pregnancy is full term (after 38 weeks)
- Wear comfortable shoes with non-slip soles. Unsupportive shoes, such as open backed styles, might make your feet very sore.
- Stick to walking in areas where the surface is even and not slippery, as your balance is likely to be affected.
- Don’t push yourself to walk huge distances or up steep hills. Late pregnancy is not the time for endurance marathons.
- It’s not safe to be out walking in extreme temperatures – especially in hot weather when you can easily become dehydrated.
- Make sure you drink plenty of fluids while you’re walking.
- If possible, have a walking partner for encouragement, and support if you need it.
- Wear comfortable and breathable clothes.
If you haven’t done a great deal of exercise during pregnancy, be sensible about distances and terrain. This isn’t the best time to take up hiking through the bush or long distance walking.
Is There A Best Way To Walk To Bring On Labour?
When you’re heavily pregnant the idea of going out for a walk might seem daunting (starting with putting on and lacing up your trainers).
Getting out into the fresh air and seeing different sights, however, can have a really positive effect on your mood; that might contribute to bringing on labour.
If you can’t face going out, or if the weather doesn’t permit it, you can use your home environment just as easily, by extending the amount of walking you do as you move between your daily tasks.
If you need to get out but don’t like the idea of being alone or too far from a toilet, then go to the local store and walk around.
If you have a multi storey house, stair walking is a great way to get in some extra steps. The movement of lifting your legs as you climb, especially if you (carefully) skip a step, can help your baby to move down and also put pressure on your cervix.
Alternatively, some mamas-to-be might try uneven walking, or ‘kerb walking’ while they’re outdoors. This involves walking with one foot on a higher surface than the other – such as one on the kerb and one on the street. This movement helps to rock baby lower and encourage cervix dilation. It can be tricky to keep your balance, so move slowly and preferably have someone to hold on to, for support.
Walking to bring on labour can help pregnant women to feel more in control and less anxious. Always follow the advice of your care provider when it comes to exercise in late pregnancy. And remember, waiting until your baby and your body are both ready has plenty of benefits.