Induce labour naturally by helping baby engage

There comes a time in every pregnancy when you’ve simply had enough. You reach that waddling, uncomfortable and completely-over-it stage and declare “it’s eviction time baby!” I’m positive this is biological function. I think we have to reach that point where we’re willing to sign up for labour, just to end our discomfort.

You can help induce labour naturally by encouraging your baby to engage in your pelvis. Certain yoga poses and positions open the pelvic inlet which creates space for baby’s head to enter the pelvis. If you’ve been experiencing stop/start contractions and are feeling frustrated by all the false starts; then this post is for you.

How do you know if baby isn’t engaged yet?

  • You’re feeling contractions on and off but they don’t ever become strong enough to move into active labour.
  • You feel baby’s head pressing on the pubic bone (this may or may not be painful).
  • Early labour is ongoing and doesn’t seem to be progressing.
  • Your doctor or midwife will usually check for engagement in the later stages of your pregnancy – ask them!
  • Baby is still sitting high and you can feel pressure on your lungs and heartburn.
  • If your baby is breech their feet or bum will usually engage instead of their head. That doesn’t mean they won’t turn though! If you suspect your baby is breech, try this post instead.

What does engagement mean?

Engagement is when the widest part of your baby’s head drops below the pelvic brim (the entrance of your pelvis). Friends and family might comment that you have “dropped”. While their unsolicited observation is likely a pain in your pregnant arse, it might also be a sign that baby has started to engage.

During pregnancy the ligaments of your pelvis loosen and stretch to make space for baby. As you get closer to the end of your pregnancy this space will allow baby’s head to move down.

induce labour naturally

Will baby engaging in the pelvis induce labour naturally?

Engagement is important for labour because your baby can’t move through your pelvis if they don’t first move into your pelvis! Helping your baby to engage (by moving your body into certain positions) is a good first step towards encouraging labour to start.

While engagement doesn’t necessarily ensure labour is about to start, you’re unlikely to go into labour until baby engages. (Of course there are always exceptions and some babies won’t engage until labour.)

Don’t stress about whether or not baby is engaged, but give yourself the best chance by trying these yoga poses to create space and alignment. If you’d like to practise along with me in a guided video I have a yoga class for helping baby to engage in my Online Yoga Circle. Join us here.

help baby engage
induce labour naturally
Malasana on bolster

Supported malasana on a bolster helps to stretch the inner thigh and groin and bring balance to the pelvis. Bring your feet in and move the knees out to open the pelvic inlet and encourage baby to engage. This pose is also a great position to practise relaxing and softening the pelvic floor. Stay here for ten full breaths allowing your pelvic floor to relax.

self-massage to induce labour naturally
Self-massage to soften the jaw and face

When we’re stressed we often hold tension in places that we don’t even notice – like the face and jaw. Because of the connective tissue in our body (muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments) our jaw and pelvic floor are linked. They are connected through the deep front line which runs all the way from your feet, up through the pelvis and jaw to the bottom of your skull.

When labour is stalling it can be helpful to consciously soften the jaw and face to allow the tension to release in the pelvis as well. Close your eyes and gently massage from your temple down to your chin. Keep your breathing slow and gentle.

kneeling lunge
Lizard pose with the knee lowered.

Movement where the knees move in opposing directions is another way to modify the pelvic openings to support your baby to engage. Let yourself rock and roll in this position, breathing into any parts of your body that feel tight. This pose helps to release tension in the pelvis to support mobility.

squat with wall support
Squat with wall support
gentle skandasana for pregnancy
Rock side to side on either leg.

Use the wall to move into a supported squat. Stick your bottom back (if you feel a bit raunchy you’re doing it right!) and rock from side to side. This helps to stretch the glutes and inner thigh, as well as helping to open the pelvic inlet to encourage engagement.

psoas stretch to encourage pelvic mobility
Poses stretch.

Release the psoas (a pair of muscles between the pelvis and ribs that wrap around the front of the pelvis) to help to balance and align the pelvis. A tight psoas can hold your baby high and not allow them to engage properly in the pelvis.

You can release the psoas in a number of different ways. Lie with the hips on a bolster and relax one leg out or choose the standing variation if you aren’t comfortable lying on your back at this stage of pregnancy. Hold for a couple of breaths on each side.

forward leaning position to encourage optimal positioning
Forward leaning on hands and knees

This pose is my favourite for pregnant women who are starting to prepare for labour. It creates space in the belly for baby to turn, it allows for freedom and movement in the pelvis and it’s a very grounded position to birth in. Take the knees out wider than the feet to open the pelvic inlet for engagement.

Childs pose for pregnancy
Supported child’s pose

Use a bolster to support your head and chest when practising child’s pose during pregnancy. This allows your belly to hang freely and gently stretches the muscles around your hips. Let your whole body relax in this position and stay for at least 5 minutes.

seated meditation to connect with baby
Seated meditation.

Choose a comfortable position to meditate. Bring your hands to your belly and connect with your breath. Follow your inhalation and exhalation. Let yourself visualise your baby in your womb. Picture them warm, cozy and safe. Imagine their head facing downwards and their spine curved in alignment with the outer curve of your belly. Watch as your baby moves and adjusts their position within you. Imagine the top of your pelvis as a bowl. Visualise your baby moving into this space as they begin to move downwards into the pelvis. Stay with this visualisation for ten full deep breaths.

Other ways to help baby engage to induce labour naturally

  • Avoid reclining. Instead sit up straight or lean slightly forward where possible.
  • Stay active – walking, swimming, etc
  • Sit on a birth ball instead of a chair. Let your pelvis rock and move as you sit.
  • Visit a chiropractor or body worker who can help you align and release your pelvis.
  • Practise pregnancy yoga daily to help create alignment in the pelvis.

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