When I was pregnant with my first child, the last weeks of my pregnancy were miserable and I hated life. My hips hurt, my back was screwed, and I was just done with all of it. The day before I went into labor during a cold weekend in March, my husband and I drove from our home in Brooklyn to a huge mall upstate where we walked for hours and hours. The next morning I started having contractions, and just a few hours later, my son was born. But was it the walking? Will walking make your water break, or was it just my son's time to be born?
Whether you're trying to go into labor or you're trying to avoid it, you'll want to know what does and doesn't bring on labor, and what may cause your water to break. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), exercises like walking are not only healthy during pregnancy, they're absolutely essential. They do not pose a risk to the mother or the child, provided your obstetrician says they're OK. However, researchers are dubious as to whether or not exercise, specifically walking, brings on childbirth or contributes to your water breaking. They did note that if your waters have ruptured prematurely, walking is usually a no-go unless you're instructed otherwise.
There is only one non-pharmacologic "natural" method that has been shown to have some efficacy in inducing labor, and that is nipple stimulation. I don't mean a little pull, I'm talking about concentrated effort for hours over the course of days, according to Healthline. The theory is that it stimulates enough oxytocin production that it throws the body into labor. It's a lot of work. You'd have to massage your breast, terminating at your nipple, for an hour at a time, three times per day, to see any progress. That's a lot of boob massage.
As far as walking, it's understandable that many of us would believe that walking would induce labor, but will walking make your water break? Probably not, noted ACOG. If anything, they found that exercise and walking makes you endure your pregnancy better by strengthening your muscles, improving your cardiac output, and maintaining proper oxygenation. While they did write that ruptured membranes are an absolute contraindication for any exercise regimen, they're writing in terms of how to avoid preterm labor, not how to bring on labor when you're over 40 weeks and just so tired of being pregnant that you're desperate to get the baby out.
Labor doula Samantha Caruso of New Jersey agrees. She tells Romper, "Walking is one of the best things you can do to move labor along, and it might help your water break if you're already in labor," but that it's unlikely to do anything if you're not in labor. However, she does note that if you're on bedrest, there's a reason for that, so avoid activities you've been told to steer clear of.
That being noted, it's something many of us try to do as labor nears. There really is something to be said for all of these old wives' tales that supposedly help bring on labor. Walking is an easy, healthy thing to do, so if your doctor says it's OK, there's no harm in trying it out. Sure, the scientists who researched these methods for the journal Birth found that they're largely unreliable folk methods, and that walking really wasn't any better than eating spicy foods or having sex to induce labor, but they did write that it's still unbelievably popular.
The thing about walking to break your water, or walking just to improve your health, is that it's something you can do that allows you to feel like you have a measure of control in a situation that is really so completely out of your hands. That control is comforting. It's good for us to feel like we're actively doing something instead of allowing it to passively happen to us, and that is empowering. If it just so happens to bring on your labor as well, then it's a win all around.