Can Yoga Induce Labor? - Spoiled Yogi Prenatal Yoga + Yoga for Moms
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Can Yoga Induce Labor? – Spoiled Yogi Prenatal Yoga + Yoga for Moms

Yoga to Induce Labor or Childbirth?

One of the questions I get asked most often from my prenatal yoga students is if yoga can induce labor? I found myself asking this very question when I was 5-6 days past my due date with my first baby and really didn’t show any signs that labor was imminent. It was so frustrating! You spend months counting down to one very specific date… when that day came and went I felt cheated. 

“The baby will come when she’s ready,” became the most annoying sentence I had ever heard. 

When some poor lady at a yarn store asked me when my baby was due and I sneered, “LAST WEEK. Thanks for reminding me!” 

I was an absolute delight to be around at 41 weeks pregnant.

I knew I didn’t want an induction, so I spent my days walking (one foot up on the curb, one on the street), eating spicy foods, bouncing on an exercise ball, driving over railroad tracks, and squatting like my life depended on it.

Out of desperation, I wrote one of my most popular blog posts to date “5 Yoga Poses that Should Induce Labor (But Don’t) … and I’m going to be pregnant forever”. All of this is to say, if you stumbled upon this blog post in that frame of mind–I’ve been there. It is one of the most frustrating feelings in the world. And it will come and go–just like your due date.

Now, let’s get to the question: Can Yoga Induce Labor?

There are so many great reasons to practice prenatal yoga right up until you go into labor.

For one, yoga positions like Table Top, Cat Cow, and Downward Dog can help baby to move into an optimal position for birth.. When mom’s hips are supple and flexible it can help make room for baby’s head to move further down into mom’s pelvis which can head to softening and ripening of the cervix. (This is why people recommend postures like Malasana (Yoga Squat) and other hip openers to moms throughout their pregnancies.) 

Yoga can also trigger a relaxation response in moms, which can bring on the those feel-good hormones that can help mom’s body prepare for birth.

Lastly, yoga offers pregnant moms an emotional refuge–they might be more in tune with their bodies, trust their bodies more, and feel more confident going into labor. Since our bodies and minds are so intricately connected, having this mindset can make a huge difference in the way that moms experience labor. (File this under “things I wish I had known before I had my first baby”.)

But can practicing yoga induce labor? Are there certain yoga poses that can kick start the process of childbirth? 

I kind of doubt it.

While yoga is an amazing way to prepare a mom’s body and mind for childbirth, it’s not just the mother who needs to be ready to go in order of labor to start. In fact, the start of labor might have more to do with when the BABY is read than when mom’s body is ready.

From the Journal of Perinatal Education:

“Researchers now believe that when a baby is ready for life outside his mother’s uterus, his body releases a tiny amount of a substance that signals the mother’s hormones to begin labor (Condon, Jeyasuria, Faust, & Mendelson, 2004). In most cases, your labor will begin only when both your body and your baby are ready.”

I was SO ready for my second baby before her due date came. When my OB GYN checked at 37 weeks, I was already dilated enough to be admitted to the hospital even though I wasn’t in labor. Note: Because of my first frustrating experience with a post term baby I swore I would opt out of any of these exams. But when the time came, I HAD TO KNOW. 

When I got to the hospital to be induced on the morning of my due date, I was already measuring at 6 cm. and it still took hours after breaking my water for my body to actually go into active labor. My body was SO ready, but my baby … not so much. 

(In case you’re wondering, the only thing my OBGYN had to do to induce labor was break my water. As it turns out being less fearful is a really good thing as you’re approaching labor.)

What would I do differently if I were to have another baby?

The important lesson here is that I know it can be so tempting to look for natural ways to induce labor. However, there’s really not much evidence out there that shows that many home methods–including yoga and other things like long walks and spicy foods–just aren’t that effective to get labor started.

If I could go back in time and do my births all over again, I would STILL spend lots of time doing hip openers, relaxation and mindfulness techniques, and using yoga to get me into the right mindset for birth. But I’d do it because it helps me to relax and feel good–not because I think yoga induces labor.

I’d also probably skip the castor oil. In my experience, it just doesn’t bring on the feel-good hormones…

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