You’ve never looked at a date in your calendar with so much expectation. Your due date. So nothing can be more frustrating than getting nearer and nearer, without so much as a twinge. Or reaching, and passing, that date with no sign of the slightest contraction. Sigh. So, while there are lots of old wives’ tales about how to induce labor naturally, do any of them actually work? Hmm… let’s take a look.
Can you actually induce labor?
Decent studies are few and far between. And if you’re looking for proven results? Don’t hold your breath. When it comes to guaranteed ways to induce labor, the only ones you can depend on are the ones performed in your doctor’s office or hospital room.
Ways to induce labor at home may have varying results, but whatever method you decide to try, run it past your doctor first. While most are safe to try in the latter stages of pregnancy, they’re not for everyone. And no matter how frustrated you’re feeling, let’s remember, it’s safety first.
Natural ways to induce labor
So what triggers labor naturally? Here are the most commonly tried ways to induce labor.
1. Nipple stimulation
Gently stimulating your nipples either manually or by using a breast pump may encourage oxytocin release, which in turn can jumpstart uterine contractions. There’s not much wrong with trying it, but some doctors claim it can actually cause a prolonged first stage of labor, and it often requires hours of daily nipple twiddling to have an effect.
Gentle exercise like a long walk can help baby settle into a prime position for birth, deep down in your pelvis. The rocking motion of walking, combined with the additional pressure of gravity, may encourage your cervix to dilate, but this is by no means a proven method.
You might not exactly be in the mood, but here are two main schools of thought when it comes to why sex might be the answer. First, the comfort of physical closeness, and orgasms, are known to be natural oxytocin triggers, which can encourage uterine contractions. And second, if you have sex with men, semen contains prostaglandins, the compound needed to help ripen the cervix. Just don’t try this one if your water has already broken, to avoid infection.
The ancient Chinese medicine method thought to balance your energy, acupuncture might also trigger changes in hormones and the nervous system. It’s a method that’s been used for thousands of years to induce labor, but it’s still not a sure thing. If you feel like trying it, make sure you get doc’s approval and visit a licensed acupuncturist.
Like acupuncture, but using the pressure of fingertips rather than needles, putting pressure on specific areas of the body is thought to be one of the ways to start labor. The center of the palm and the webbing between your thumb and index finger are a couple of the suggested spots which you can try at home.
Sitting, bouncing, and doing hip circles on an exercise ball gently puts pressure on your cervix and can help open up your pelvis to get ready for delivery. Whilst this may not naturally induce labor, it may ease lower back pain and get baby into a good position for when your labor does start.
That feel-good oxytocin release might be triggered by a soothing massage, and let’s face it, what mama-to-be couldn’t benefit from a relaxation session? Some massage therapists might even go so far as offering a specific “induction massage,” but don’t pin all your hopes on immediately going into labor.
8. Evening primrose oil
Check in with your doctor before trying this one — as with any supplement you might try during pregnancy. Evening primrose oil contains prostaglandins, so it might help dilate your cervix, but it might not be safe for everyone.
9. Castor oil
A spoonful of castor oil has been said to kick start contractions by irritating your gut due to its laxative effect, but who really wants to have a diarrhea episode during labor? Not us. This one is definitely on the “do not try” pile, mama.
Full of goodness, like potassium and folate, munching on dates during pregnancy is totally safe. And now there’s some research which shows mamas who ate six dates every day in the four weeks leading up to their due date presented at hospital with more advanced cervical dilation, were less likely to require medical induction, and had a quicker first phase of labor. Interesting.
Pineapple contains the enzyme Bromelain which breaks down proteins in tissue. The thought with this one is that the Bromelain will travel to your cervix to help with softening and dilation, but there is no evidence that this is the case.
12. Spicy food
A well-known method based on the theory of irritating your gut to trigger contractions, there is no evidence to suggest that eating spicy food will naturally induce labor. Having said that, if it’s what you’re craving, we’re not gonna stop you!
3. Raspberry leaf tea
Many women swear by sipping on a cup of this tea daily in the weeks leading up to their due date. It’s thought to tone and prepare your uterus for labor and is rich in iron and calcium, so although it may not directly start your labor, it’s unlikely to cause any problems.
And if you’re still wondering…
How can I get my cervix to dilate?
This is no easy task, and for most women, it’s just a matter of time. Walking, bouncing on a gym ball, and eating dates might be your most likely allies.
How can I make myself go into labor right now?
Unfortunately, ways to naturally induce labor are by no means going to have an immediate effect. Even if you require medical induction, the process can still take hours or days. It’s time to trust your body and let nature do its thing. There’ll be no stopping it when the time is right.
When is it safe to naturally induce labor?
Self-inducing labor at 37 weeks or even 38 weeks isn’t recommended. Ideally, your baby will come when they’re ready, since babies who are born spontaneously closer to, or after, their due date often require less special care after birth.
Although some natural induction methods might work, it’s best to leave it to mother nature. After all, however uncomfortable those last weeks of pregnancy are, a healthy baby is what we all want.