I recently came across a question in a pregnancy forum about how much walking is safe when you’re in labor. This dad-to-be was trying to determine if he and his wife could hoof it to the nearby hospital (about a third of a mile, or 500 meters away) once she was in labor. He went on to say he could push her in a wheelchair but had heard she could only lie flat once her water broke. It’s such a great question, so I thought it would be good to delve into it a bit.
Is it Safe to Walk During Labor?
If you’ve delivered a baby, you know that this well-meaning (and likely nervous) dad has been sorely misinformed about what happens after your water breaks. If you’ve not delivered a baby, let me help – unless you have an epidural which numbs your body from the waist down rendering you incapable of walking, there is no reason to lie flat once your water breaks. And if you’re not yet at the hospital, you won’t have an epidural, so if you feel like walking, have at it.
Regarding the safety of walking once in labor, the answer is yes, it is safe to walk a third of a mile once contractions have started. The truth? You just plain might not want to… or you won’t mind. Confusing, right?
Each woman’s labor is a little different. Some labors extend for days, whereas other women go from slow, easy contractions to “holy cow, we’re having a baby RIGHT NOW” in an hour. One of my close friends delivered her second baby on the side of the road on the way to the hospital (thankfully, an ambulance got there in time, so her husband wasn’t delivering the baby himself).
Walking is a very effective means of moving along the labor process, but that doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. Plenty of laboring women over the years have roamed the halls of the labor & delivery unit, letting gravity do its job to get the baby into the birth canal and help speed along labor. But for most women, when in the throes of a contraction, the walking needs to stop until the contraction subsides. For other women, contractions are no big deal (I was NOT that woman). Another friend’s sister-in-law was happily playing cards with her older child while in active labor, and she experienced very little discomfort until it was time to push.
If there is one certainty about delivering a baby, it is that nothing in certain. So, to this well-meaning dad who is trying to plan ahead regarding the best route to the hospital, go ahead and plan for a walk, but be prepared that calling a cab may be necessary. Because until labor starts, there is just no way of knowing what is going to happen. That baby is going to come out on his own terms, and being flexible is the best way to prepare!