10 Ways To Naturally Encourage Labor
Disclaimer: DO NOT try any of these methods without first clearing it with your primary care provider.
“The best way to get baby out is the way he got in there in the first place” I love saying that to first time parents and watching their faces react as my words sink in. Yes, it is not only okay to have sex at the end of pregnancy it can be good for you, not to mention fun. Just the act of getting it on releases a flood of oxytocin, causing your uterus to contract, and semen is made up of prostaglandins which help soften the cervix and encourage uterine contractions. Having an orgasm is the absolute best way to get the full benefits of oxytocin. Of course, you would not want to let anything penetrate your vagina if your water has broken – but hey there are other ways to orgasm without penetration (or a partner for that matter) … um, cough….
Okay, so this is kind of a new “old wives tail” but it’s actually backed up with a preliminary study. I wrote a blog a while back about whether or not eating dates could actually make you go into labor and the short answer is “maybe !?!” From what I can tell, it does not really hurt to try. We have had a few clients try this method and surprisingly none of them went more than 41 weeks. Although I would personally chalk that up to coincidence.
3. Acupressure /Acupuncture
I cannot for the life of me find any study or paper explaining how or why acupressure/acupuncture works. I have however found mounds of testimonials from women who swear by this method. From what I can determine it is best to only try this method once your due date has come and gone. At this point in your pregnancy, anything that relaxes you is going to work wonders.
4. Nipple Stimulation
Nipple stimulation is actually a great way to get labor started. Last year I attended a hospital induction using ONLY nipple stimulation – which was a rare sight indeed. Unfortunately, most people do it wrong. While nipple stimulation in a sexual content seems to cause contractions, they are more likely caused by you getting turned on. For nipple stimulation to really induce labor, you need to simulate the way a nursing baby would suckle. And let me tell you, it is not sexual in any way. You, your partner, or your doula can stimulate your nipples by placing your pointer finger and thumb around your areola. Then you want to press into your breast, squeeze and pull out. A breast pump can work, but manual is the bee’s knees.
5. Movement (dancing, walking, bouncing on ball)
Funny story: There is a midwife here in Lancaster County who delivers mostly Amish women. She does not give a rats hind end when they deliver (I have had clients with her go past 43 weeks), but as they start to creep up on 41 weeks she suggests they jump on a trampoline to start labor. I can honestly say I would pay money to watch a 41 week pregnant Amish woman jumping on a trampoline. She has a point though. Movement is a great way to help stretch your pelvic ligaments allowing your baby to get into the best possible position. This can not only help to start labor, but also shorten the length of labor and help lower the chances of back labor.
Tropical fruits like pineapple, mango and papaya contain a proteolytic enzyme called bromelain. This enzyme is said to help soften the cervix and stimulate muscle contractions. I actually did this myself at the end of my first pregnancy. I ate two whole pineapples and while they were yummy (and I went into labor at 39 weeks) I also had major heartburn and the runs for two days. So I guess I could say this works, if you’re willing to risk it.
7. Herbs (blue and black cohash)
Blue cohash and black cohash are two different herbs. Used together they are said to start contractions and regulate their consistency. Because the FDA does not regulate herbal supplements it is hard to know for sure if what you are taking is pure. Blue and black cohash have been used for centuries by midwives and healers to get labor started, but there is some question as to their safety. Always talk to your care provider before taking herbs or essential oils.
8. Spicy Food
I also tried this method (along with the pineapple) towards the end of my first pregnancy. After I ate two whole pineapples my hubby took me to Taco Bell for what would later be referred to as the atacolypse. I am sure whoever came up with the idea that eating spicy food can kickstart labor did not have Taco Bell in mind. Some people theorize that spicy food causes contractions by stimulating the digestive system. Others suggest that spicy food increases production of the hormone prostaglandin, which can also help move the process along. Either way, if you are not accustomed to spicy food be prepared for inevitable blowout – pun intended.
Massage can raise your body’s level of oxytocin triggering labor. Some massage therapists swear by their ability to help jump-start labor when a mom-to-be is overdue – sometimes by focusing on certain pressure points. Don’t like being rubbed on by a stranger? Meditation and even just cuddling with your partner can help relax you, which can help release oxytocin. It’s no coincidence that the majority of labors start late at night, as soon as you get nice and cozy in bed ( you know right after the 30th trip to the bathroom).
10. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
There is a big difference between red raspberry leaf tea and raspberry flavored black tea. Red raspberry leaf tea tastes nothing like raspberry. In fact I personally think it is gross. RRL tea is thought to be a uterine toner so the chances of it making you go into labor are slim, but it may enhance effectiveness of contractions once they do start. You do have to drink a butt load though so be prepared to live in the bathroom. (like your not already)
And Two More Ways:
Talk about living in the bathroom. Castor oil in conjunction with a foley bulb is a favorite method of induction among our homebirth midwives here in Lancaster. Castor oil is a natural laxative derived from the castor oil plant. It causes contractions by “stimulating” the bowels. (Read: explosive diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps.) I have seen it many times and it is not a fun way to go. Used in conjunction with a foley bulb though it is effective about 90% of the time. So bottoms up, literally.
2. Foley Bulb
The foley bulb is a balloon inserted into the cervix and filled with saline. It hangs out in there until it stretches the cervix to 4-5cm, then it falls out. Manually dilating the cervix makes your body think you are in labor and so it continues the process. This has worked in almost every instance I have seen it used especially if castor oil is ingested as well. The biggest complaint I hear is that getting it in there is no picnic. That, and once it’s inserted you have a rubber tube hanging out of you tampon style – but at 42 weeks who cares, right? You just want this baby OUT.
Did you try any of these methods? Did it work for you? Did you try something not on this list? Comment below to tell us all about it!
Lancaster Doulas serves Hershey, Reading, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Lebanon and York
Birth doula services, Placenta encapsulation, and Postpartum doula services