Inducing Labour Naturally
40 weeks can seem like a very long time. Especially if you have suffered any of the less appealing aspects of pregnancy like morning sickness and swollen ankles. So by the time you get to the last few weeks, you may feel like you’re just ready for baby to be born.
Pros and Cons
Generally speaking there are good reasons for going the distance with pregnancy. Even if you go past your estimated due date. Your body knows what it is doing. The final days are when your baby’s lungs finish developing, they gain weight that will help keep them strong and healthy through birth, their brain increases in size by up to 30% and there is less risk of low blood sugar and jaundice.
That said, there are times when it might be preferable for baby to come a little earlier – or at least not too late. If you have gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia, or you are already a few weeks overdue, these are all reasons you might want to give nature a helping hand at getting things moving.
What starts labour anyway?
Labour doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Research suggests that a small amount of hormone is released by the baby when it is ready to be born. So you can see why bringing on labour early isn’t a great idea unless really necessary – your baby is saying it’s not ready!
Your body has a part to play too. You need two things to happen for labour to start successfully: your cervix needs to soften, and your uterus needs to start contracting. There are two hormones involved in this process. Prostaglandins are responsible for softening your cervix, and Oxytocin is responsible for contraction of your uterus. Your body starts this process in the final weeks of pregnancy, and when baby signals it is ready, you will naturally go into labour.
10 Natural Tips for Kicking things Off
Sometimes, mother nature seems to take her sweet time, and you may have good reason to try and kick things along a bit. It is not always necessary to go with medical intervention in order to start labour – in fact, medical induction is more likely to result in Caesarean than naturally occurring labour. However, there are a few natural ways that might give your baby – and your body – a bit of a nudge.
- Sex – yes, this might be the last thing you feel like when you in the last days – particularly if you are big and uncomfortable, but there are three things about sex that will help encourage labour. Sex releases oxytocin, female orgasm will cause contractions low in the uterus, and semen contains and enormous amount of prostaglandins. This is probably the most effective of the natural methods of induction.
- Nipple/Breast/Chest Stimulation – Nipple/breast/chest stimulation is often cited as a way to naturally induce labour or to get things moving, as you might have read in our earlier blog WHAT???. This is because stimulating breast tissue releases oxytocin, which we know acts as a cervical ripener and causes contractions of the uterus. Stimulation can be manual, or using a breast pump, but care should be taken as while some studies have been very positive, one has indicated there may be a risk of hyperstimulation of the uterus, so it should not be used in high risk pregnancies.[i]
- Walking – don’t exhaust yourself, because if you do go into labour you will need your strength – but some gentle walking works with gravity to put pressure on your cervix, encouraging it to soften and dilate.
- Acupuncture and Acupressure – there is anecdotal evidence that this may help. Make sure you use a qualified practitioner who is experienced in this area. Acupressure is something you or your partner can do yourselves, once you have been shown how by a qualified practitioner.[ii]
- TENS Machine – Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulation. As with acupuncture and acupressure, talk to a qualified professional about where to place the TENS pad and what strength to use.
- Eating Dates – there a some studies that suggest eating 7 dates a day in late pregnancy reduces the incidence of medically induced labour, suggesting that the consumption of dates aided in the ripening of the cervix.[iii]
- Spicy Foods – this may or may not be an old wives tale. Some people swear by it, and others are sceptical. If you are not used to spicy foods I wouldn’t suggest trying this one.
- Castor Oil – this has been practiced since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. The problem with this one is it can cause nausea and diarrhoea. Labour and diarrhoea are not a good combination![iv]
- Herbs – there are a range of herbal supplements believed to help. Probably the most effective is Evening Primrose Oil as it contains elements that your body converts to prostaglandins. However, it can cause increase bruising, and is considered experimental, so consult with your care provider if you are considering this method.[v] Another herbal option is Birth Boost Tincture, which is a blend of herbal extracts to boost contractions and support a long or challenging labour.[vi]
- Red Raspberry Leaf Tea – this tones and strengthens the uterus, and is a good thing to drink in the last weeks of pregnancy in preparation for labour.[vii]
Some Final Advice
If you want to give your body a nudge at getting labour started, make sure you speak to your doctor or midwife before trying any of these tips. What you want at the end of this is a healthy happy baby, and sometimes there may be good reason to be patient. Your doctor or midwife can talk to you about whether natural induction is a good idea for you and your baby.
If you would like more information about natural induction, or you need advice on anything pregnancy, birth or baby related, please drop me a message, or give me a call on 0422 258 771