Your due date is a calculated guess for when your baby might make its arrival. While many women deliver perfectly healthy babies two weeks before or after this presumed due date, it’s recommended that women wait until 40 to 42 weeks for delivery. It’s best to let Mother Nature decide when your baby comes. Many women try and bring on labour naturally. According to a study, around 50% of pregnant women attempt to get labour going themselves, compared to letting labour take its own course. It’s important to remember that only 2-5% of babies are born on their “guess” date, and around 40% are born in the two weeks or two weeks after. Full term is up to 42 weeks of pregnancy after which time you may need a medically aided induction of labour, if either baby or mother is showing signs of problems. It’s not advised to try most natural methods until you have at least reached your due date.
Some of the natural ways to induce labour include:
Sex: Sex is a commonly suggested method of natural induction due to semen containing prostaglandins, which help to ripen the cervix. However, a recent study has found that intercourse made little difference to inducing labour, and no cervical changes were evident. Having sex can be tricky when you have a big bump. But it could trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone which causes contractions. Having an orgasm could also stimulate your uterus to get labour going. Many women have success with natural labour induction by having sex.
Acupuncture: If you have a fear of needles, it might be easy to quickly scroll past this one. However, acupuncture needles are so very fine, you really don’t feel a thing, as hard as that is to imagine. Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into specific points of your body. This is thought to stimulate the energy within your body to act on a specific organ function or system.
Nipple Stimulation: Nipple stimulation is when you gently rub or roll your nipples to encourage the start of contractions. The idea is to stimulate the suckling of your baby. This releases oxytocin, a hormone which causes contractions to start. An alternate option is if you are still feeding a toddler, let him attach and the sucking action will do the same thing. Massage the first nipple for 5 minutes (when there are no contractions), then wait to see what happens (around 15 minutes or so) before doing more. It’s a good idea to take your mind off things by getting on with your usual duties than sitting and waiting for something to happen; so try and keep busy! Once labour is well established again, stop the stimulation.
Acupressure: Acupressure is a way of applying pressure with gentle soft hands, which is why it is called acupressure. Some practitioners believe that acupressure can start and restart labour. Prior to applying acupressure to yourself, make sure you get proper instruction from a trained acupressure professional. If acupressure does not get your labour going, it’s still an excellent way to alleviate pain and discomfort during labour.
Sweeping Membranes/Stretch & Sweep: While not completely natural, it is drug free. Sweeping the membranes involves your care provider separating the membranes (bag of waters) from the cervix via vaginal exam. The procedure may feel quite uncomfortable for some women; however, others have said they didn’t feel much at all. Some spotting or bleeding may occur as a result. Some women find they have irregular contractions after a sweep, which may be uncomfortable and may or may not progress into labour. A stretch and sweep can be performed on women who are at term and have no other complications. This method should be your last resort of all of these methods, as it’s invasive and not really natural. It also gives bacteria the opportunity to grow when you have objects unnecessarily inserted into your vagina, right up to your cervix.
Raspberry Leaf: Raspberry leaf is believed to be a uterine tonic with other postnatal benefits, including breast milk production and recovery from childbirth. Women use raspberry leaf in the weeks leading up to labour, believing it may help them to have a shorter, easier labour. There’s not a great deal of research about raspberry leaf for labour, however, there is one older study from 2001. Researchers found there was no difference with the first stage of labour (contractions), however, the second stage of labour (pushing) was shorter amongst the raspberry leaf group, as well as significantly reduced use of forceps (19.3% vs. 30.4%). Some women enjoy drinking raspberry leaf tea, whereas others don’t like the taste or want to know the exact dose they are taking.
Induction Massage: As with induction acupuncture, induction massage can be given on or after your due date. The massage therapists (who should be experienced in induction massage) work on acupressure points which are normally avoided during pregnancy, in the hope it can help to trigger labour. As with normal massage, induction massage helps to relax and calm your body, easing tension and helping to create a clear and grounded space. The therapists also may use essential oils which can assist with labour induction. It’s generally a very successful form of labour induction if the mind, body and baby are ready and willing. Perhaps this is because it forces pregnant women to stop, relax and slow down.
Exercise: Can be anything that gets the heart rate up, such as a long walk. The pressure of your baby’s head pressing down on your cervix from the inside could stimulate the release of oxytocin, a hormone which causes contractions. Being upright also encourages your baby to move down onto your cervix. Even if this method doesn’t work, it’s a great way to relieve stress and keep your body strong for the task ahead.
Castor oil: Midwives have long recommended inducing labour by drinking castor oil. Take 2 ounces in a glass of orange juice or mixed with ice cream with the idea that it can stimulate the smooth muscle of the bowels, promote the release of prostaglandin and nudge the nearby uterus into action. Research results are varied, but two recent trials showed that full-term women who were given castor oil were more likely to go into labour within 24 hours. But there are side effects which may include nausea, explosive diarrhea and dehydration. This method however, should be used with caution and only with the approval of your midwife or doctor.
It is important to make sure you are well informed as to the effectiveness and side effects for any method. Don’t take any form of induction lightly, always weigh the pros and cons and opt for choices that are designed at relaxing you and opening your mind and body to labour. Do not start any induction methods until you have reached your estimated due date.
By Mercy Kukah