Some women turn to finding ways of inducing labor naturally when they are nearing or have passed their due date. Although it can seem like those last few weeks will last a lifetime, you will be holding your little one soon! Just remember, a due date is just an estimate based on your last monthly period and is not an exact science. Unfortunately, unless your body is ready, the following suggestions will most likely not be very effective. While some are relatively harmless, others pose a greater risk.
The following suggestions should only be performed after speaking with your prenatal care provider. Most of these are based on the assumption that you have a normal low-risk pregnancy.
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Going for a long walk or climbing stairs is one of the safest ways to jump start labor. There aren’t really any major concerns when it comes to walking as long as you don’t go to the point of exhaustion. Being in this upright position uses gravity to help Baby descend further down. Climbing stairs is excellent because you have a wider range of motion and this can help put some pressure on your cervix. Listen to your body, if it’s telling you to slow down or stop, you should probably do so.
Soaking in a warm bath can help relax you and your body, which can in-turn help start labor. This method should work with any relaxation technique – you can try meditation, visual imagery, or practice breathing techniques. Tension works against labor, so relieving it can help get things moving. Although baths do not pose a high risk like hot tubs, make sure to follow the ACOG guidelines to ensure you are keeping yourself and baby safe.
Gentle nipple stimulation can help trigger contractions. Notice I say “gentle” as you do not need to prepare your nipples for breastfeeding, and now is definitely not the time to start trying to toughen them up. This stimulation can help trigger an oxytocin release, which in turn signals your body to start contracting. If you would not like to do this by hand, you can try using an electric breast pump to help stimulation.
This is the method I heard about the most during my pregnancy. This is probably such a common option because it supposedly works in three different ways. First, sex can trigger the release of oxytocin which is a hormone that causes contractions. Second, orgasm can help stimulate the uterus. Third, semen contains a high level of prostaglandins which is said to help ripen and soften your cervix.
Raspberry Leaf Tea
According to the American Pregnancy Association, “Medical studies have shown that red raspberry leaf can be consumed safely during pregnancy and can decrease the length of labor and the number of interventions used, such as artificial rupture of membranes (AROM), assisted delivery, and cesarean delivery.” Red raspberry leaf tea helps tone the uterus, and although it doesn’t have any direct studies showing it can help start labor, it also doesn’t have any known dangers as long as you start drinking it after the first trimester.
You should definitely talk to your care provider before ever ingesting caster oil. This is a stimulant laxative and the theory is that while it causes contractions in your bowl, the contractions can spread to your uterus. While there aren’t any proven benefits to this method, there are a lot of downsides including nausea, bad diarrhea, and dehydration. You definitely don’t want to head into labor feeling sick and stuck to the toilet.
Evening Primrose Oil
This can be taken orally or you can insert it vaginally. This is another one that I would talk with your pregnancy care provider before trying out. A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) showed that evening primrose oil not only didn’t help progress labor, it actually seemed to cause more complications. According to the study, “findings suggest that the oral administration of evening primrose oil from the 37th gestational week until birth does not shorten gestation or decrease the overall length of labor. Further, the use of orally administered evening primrose oil may be associated with an increase in the incidence of prolonged rupture of membranes, oxytocin augmentation, arrest of descent, and vacuum extraction.”
Some women think spicy food can increase levels of prostaglandin. Others think it can help trigger contractions by stimulating your digestive system. Unfortunately, this method also doesn’t have any science to back it up, and will most likely just cause some horrific heartburn. There aren’t any major downsides, but if you are experiencing heartburn already, it might be best to skip this one.
An enzyme called bromelain can be found in the core of fresh pineapple. This enzyme can break down the proteins in tissue; this is what causes your tongue to tingle or for your mouth to hurt after eating large amounts of pineapple. Wives tales say that the bromelain can make its way to your cervix and helps soften the cervix and stimulate labor. Unfortunately, there are no studies that support this claim and so far it looks to be a myth. If you want to give it a try anyways, go for it; there aren’t many downsides to enjoying pineapple during pregnancy except for the heartburn that may come along with it.
A study published in the NCBI was conducted in 2007 that compared 114 pregnant women. 69 of these women ate 6 dates per day for the 4 weeks leading up to their due date, while the other 45 did not consume dates. The study concluded that “the consumption of date fruit in the last 4 weeks before labour significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour, and produced a more favourable, but non-significant, delivery outcome.” In addition to potentially inducing labor, they also are full of antioxidants, reduce blood pressure, high in fiber (great for pregnancy), and have so many other health benefits. It is safe to say that these would be a great healthy snack during the last weeks of pregnancy, whether they can help induce labor or not.
What did you do to jump start your labor?
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ACOG Hot Tubs during pregnancy: https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/hot-tubs-during-pregnancy/
NCBI “Oral evening primrose oil: its effect on length of pregnancy and selected intrapartum outcomes in low-risk nulliparous women”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10380450
American Pregnancy Association: “Drinking Herbal Tea During Your Pregnancy”
NCBI “The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280989