By the end of your third trimester, the physical discomfort of pregnancy is taking its toll, and the anticipation of labor and delivery is building. The last thing you might want to do at this point in your pregnancy is walk, but walking has several benefits. Most notably, it can encourage your cervix to dilate, which can bring on labor.
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Walking to Induce
Walking has long been seen as a natural way to induce labor, in part, thanks to gravity. When you walk, the weight of your baby puts pressure on your cervix, which can encourage dilation. Walking can also help move your baby deeper into the pelvis, readying her to move through the birth canal during labor. Since a dilated cervix and a properly positioned baby are the ingredients of labor, walking can help speed up the process.
Walking for Stamina
While walking might help encourage your body to go into labor naturally, there is no evidence that walking can speed up labor once you're in it. Walking has not been proven to make labor more comfortable or eliminate complications. A study by Steven L. Bloom, et al., published in "The New England Journal of Medicine" revealed that "walking neither enhanced or impaired active labor."
As with any type of exercise during pregnancy, take precautions to keep you and your baby safe. Walk at a comfortable pace and do not push yourself too hard this late in your pregnancy. You might move slowly, but that is fine. Do not get overheated while you're walking and if you're due in the summer months, try walking indoors, such as at a mall or on an indoor track, to avoid raising your body temperature too high.
Babies are not considered to be full term until 37 weeks gestation. It is at this point that their lungs are fully developed, and they can breathe on their own in the outside world. Do not try any labor-inducing activities before you reach this all-important milestone. In addition, keep in mind that every woman's body dilates at a different pace at the end of pregnancy. Walking can help encourage dilation, but it is no guarantee that you will dilate and go into labor soon.