Cycling, exercise, and speed walking have often been said to prepare a pregnant woman for a healthy delivery, yet the age-old question still stands: can exercise actually induce labor? What about bike riding?
There are natural ways people have tried to bring about a baby’s delivery, but even the regular exercise strongly encouraged by doctors (such as cycling) will not induce labor. There are plenty of mild workouts to promote complication-free labor, but none will prompt immediate delivery.
Take a look below to see which exercises are healthy for pregnancy, and read on for a debate between natural births and induced ones! Biking may not induce labor, but gentle exercise could still be a good thing to do.
For years and years, old wives’ tales have been passed on from one generation to the next.
“If you’re over 39 weeks and want to induce labor, try riding a bike around the neighborhood” or “try eating this exotic cheese” or “drink this lemonade from Liberia”. The list of DIY remedies can go on and on.
But, are any of these actually true? Does anything in the world allow for a healthy promotion of getting that baby out of the womb? The answer is: no, not really.
Unfortunately, all these “tips and tricks” don’t work any significant kind of maternal magic. But that doesn’t mean the suggestions are all bad. (Though it might be best to refrain from the more “out-there” recommendations that could be risky for you or the baby).
For example, let’s talk about the pros and cons of exercise and how it relates to labor.
As we’ll discuss later in the article, exercise is not frowned upon. On the contrary, it’s encouraged! This isn’t because it induces labor, per se but because it promotes a smooth labor and delivery.
Natural Ways to Induce Labor
To take a closer look at some of the aforementioned “natural ways” to push for an early birth (no pun intended), one can note that through some extensive research, all of the following methods are a little far-fetched. There is some truth to many of the myths though, so let’s break down some popular ideas about ways to induce labor.
Fiction: Exercise is said to help induce labor. Exercises such as walking, bike riding, and hiking allow for muscles to relax, encouraging contractions to start. Prospective mothers also hope that enough “bouncing around” will promote movement in the baby.
Fact: While exercising does allow for the loosening of muscles, it does not make contractions stronger or more frequent.
Fiction: Meant to balance one’s chi (or inner life source), acupuncture is supposed to calm a person and even permit cervical ripening.
Fact: Though known to quiet worries and calm tense muscles in the body, just how much acupuncture does to induce labor (through dilating the cervix) remains unknown. This isn’t a widely practiced art in many pregnancies.
Fiction: Drinking 1-2 ounces of castor oil (vegetable oil made from pressed castor beans), can promote contractions and childbirth.
Fact: Drinking castor oil (especially too much) can result in awful cramping and even diarrhea. Because of the cramping, the cervix is less likely to dilate.
Fiction: Spicy food, because of its habit of upsetting stomachs, can induce labor.
Fact: Not every person has the same sensitivity to spicy food, which can allow for varying results. That being said, spicy food isn’t very healthy for a fetus and could upset the stomach to the point of intense cramping and cervical discomfort.
Fiction: A full moon increases the chance of immediate labor.
Fact: Though research has been done, there is no science to back this theory up.
*The only “method” that has been proven to work somewhat is sexual activity. Semen has the right hormones to prepare a cervix for uterine contractions.
Risks + Warnings
If you’re pregnant and willing to try anything to induce labor (like riding a bike or eating spicy food), you should be aware of some of the possible ramifications.
It is recommended that a person avoid inducing labor, “natural” or otherwise, if:
- That person has been assigned bed rest by their doctor (bedrest orders should be taken seriously, as resisting rest can be harmful to the mother and/or baby).
- That person has a history with premature babies and/or premature deliveries (encouraging early delivery, in this case, maybe very dangerous, as the baby may not be fully ready to be delivered).
- That person has high blood pressure (high blood pressure during pregnancy can place too much stress on crucial organs such as the heart and kidneys, which could lead to disease in the mother and/or harmful effects to the baby).
- That person has an incompetent cervix (meaning that the cervix dilates too early in a given pregnancy. If a cervix is incompetent, it could again cause harm to the baby if early delivery is forced upon it).
With warnings and the don’ts made clear, it’s really good to know what can be done during pregnancy.
As mentioned earlier, exercise (though not meant to induce labor), can certainly be helpful in moderation. Some mild workouts such as nature walks and yoga can be good for both the mother and their growing baby.
Here are some popular pregnancy exercises:
1. Parallel Feet
While many women find comfort in spreading out their legs to create more stability, having your feet parallel to one another can alleviate some stress in the lower back.
Slouching is out, as is the cliche “pregnant stance” of belly-forward standing. Replacing this instead with hips over ankles can allow for better balance and even less back aching.
3. Birthing Ball
Sitting on this yoga ball of sorts, with legs wide, makes for better blood flow in the body. This can also allow for cervical dilation. (Sitting, bouncing lightly, and some hip rotations are known to be good practices on the birthing ball).
4. Pelvic Tilts
Lying on the back with feet flat against the floor, bend the knees and slowly lift the pelvis skyward. Holding this position for a brief few seconds can prepare your pelvis for the birthing process.
5. Butterfly Pose
“Sitting butterfly” is a common exercise; sitting criss-cross on the floor with hands on the heels. Breathing throughout this exercise makes it less painful and more alleviating.
Last, but certainly not least we have the honorable mentions of lunging and walking. Both are gentle exercises that will help you stretch out and stay flexible.
So, although bike riding, walking, and exercising aren’t the sure-fire way to induce labor naturally, those suggestions and the ones listed above aren’t bad ideas.
Exercising might just be the best way to prepare for childbirth and could be the healthiest way to welcoming the new baby boy or girl into the world!
My Recommended Gear for Year-Round Cycling on a Budget
It took me years of trial and error to figure out the best and most affordable setup for my daily bike commuting. I would only recommend the gear that is good quality for a good price. Here’s my full year-round gear recommendation guide.
Want to know how much your cycling gear should cost? Check out my guide with different budget options here.