12 Ways to Naturally Induce Labor
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As you’re approaching your due date, you’re becoming more and more ready and anxious to meet your little one. Your back is aching, your feet are sore, you can’t sleep comfortably, and most of all you’re so excited to finally see the sweet little face you’ve been dreaming about in person. It can be tempting to schedule an induction so that way you can plan exactly when you are going to meet your baby and make it sooner rather than later. This is why we call it “the seduction of induction.” How sweet is it that you can plan it all? Turns out, it’s not very sweet. I like to warn families that it has been proven that unnecessary interventions poses unnecessary risks. The major risk is a C-section.
I will say, there are times when inductions are necessary for the health and well-being of mother and baby, but the majority of inductions scheduled nowadays are elective and unnecessary. I truly believe that babies come when they are ready, but if you are planning on having a hospital birth and your doctor is not allowing you to go too far past your due date (most doctors schedule inductions at or just after 41 weeks), you may want to do a few things to try to get your body ready and get labor going.
FYI: I’d like to add that new research shows that babies are healthiest when they stay in the womb until at least 39 weeks, so I don’t recommend trying these natural induction methods until you have reached or are past your due date.
Here are 12 things that you can do yourself to naturally induce labor.
1. Nipple Stimulation
Out of all the ways to naturally induce labor, nipple stimulation is one of the most reliable options. It helps release the hormone called oxytocin which is the hormone that causes your uterus to contract. (Oxytocin is also called the love hormone since it’s released when you feel in love. 🙂 ) Do not try nipple stimulation until you have reached or have passed your due date. If you are and you want to try nipple stimulation to bring on labor, there are a few ways to do it:
- You can roll or rub your nipples with your fingers. Basically you want it to mimic the suckling of a baby so you will stimulate one breast for 5 minutes, then take a break for about 15 minutes to see if anything happens before you continue to the next breast. If after 15 minutes the contractions begin to fizzle, stimulate the other breast. If they do start to increase, stop and let nature run it’s course.
- Your partner can also orally massage your nipples. 😉 This goes well with option number 2. Use the same time restraints as the first option.
- Or you could use your breast pump. Using a breast pump can be more effective since it is going to be more vigorous than you or your partner, but some women find the pumping and the contractions to be a bit too painful too quickly.
- Only massage one breast at a time.
- Don’t stimulate the breast during a contraction.
- Do not use nipple stimulation after the contractions are 3 minutes apart or 1 minute long.
- If contractions start coming close together, take a break and let nature take its course.
- You also don’t want it to be too gentle. Babies have a strong suckle when they are on the breast so you want to imitate that intensity.
Pretty much everyone knows or has been told that having sex is the way to start labor. The reason for that is the act of sex can cause contractions. Not only that, semen contains a substance called prostaglandins which helps the cervix to ripen and efface so it’s best that he also orgasms. This prepares your body for labor. I know, I know. You’re not feeling very sexy at the end of your pregnancy and you may not be “in the mood” at all.
When I tell women about this, most of them let out a groan and say they feel pretty uncomfortable at this point and they don’t think that sex will be comfortable at all. I then tell them that having an orgasm can also stimulate prostaglandins. So if you don’t feel comfortable having sex at this point of your pregnancy, you can still have an orgasm on your own to help start labor. Woohoo!
- Having sex does not immediately cause you to go into labor. It helps your body prepare for labor, but it is something that you would have to do regularly to get faster results.
- Do NOT have sex if your water is already broken. This can cause you to be at risk for an infection.
3. Exercise/ Cardio/ Stair Climbing / Squats
Use gravity to your advantage. Get up and start moving! Physical activity helps move your baby’s head down lower in your pelvis and that allows your baby’s head to put pressure on your cervix which helps it dilate. Try walking for 30 minutes every day. If you can walk up a steep hill, even better! This causes you to lean forward at an angle helping baby move in the right direction. Walking stairs and doing squats have also been said to be very helpful. So go ahead and get that heart pumping!
4. Labor Inducing Foods
To be honest, most of the foods that are said to help naturally induce labor are old wives’ tales, but there are a few foods that have properties in them that may actually help. It’s been said that pineapples may help ripen the cervix since it contains an enzyme called bromelain which can do just that. Other foods that may induce labor include spicy foods and foods that contain basil, oregano, and/or ginger. Spicier foods tend to work the best out of them all since it stimulates your colon. If you didn’t know, a sign of going into labor is diarrhea so when your intestines are stimulated/irritated it causes you to have bowel movements, which that cramping in your intestines can spread to your uterus which then can cause you to have contractions and go into labor. Voilà!
5. Raspberry Leaf Tea
Drinking this tea regularly can strengthen and tone your uterus and help those muscles in your uterus start to contract. You can get this tea at pretty much any grocery store. You can prepare it hot or make it an iced tea. That way you can enjoy it during the summer too. It’s also great to drink after you have your baby, again, since it’s strengthening your uterus. Bottoms up!
6. Labor Induction Massages
Getting a labor induction massage is a great way to get contractions going. As a licensed massage therapist myself, I have given many of these massages and have helped about 60-70% of them go into labor. This massage doesn’t always work immediately and may require two or three appointments to help stimulate labor. It allows you to relax your muscles around baby and it sends signals to your body to start the labor process. I highly recommend it.
NOTE: Make sure your massage therapist is knowledgeable about giving labor induction massages.
7. Warm Baths
Soaking in a warm bath may help to get labor going. The reason why? Soaking in the tub helps to relax you. There is evidence that stress and being uptight may keep you from going into labor. This is why massages are also beneficial. Almost anything that gets your mind off of the fact that you are still pregnant that can get you to relax can help.
8. Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil (EPO) can also be used to help soften the cervix. EPO contains a chemical that the body convert it to prostaglandins. Some doctors don’t recommend this since research has been inconclusive as to whether or not EPO is actually effective at inducing labor. They normally recommend sex over EPO since semen has prostaglandins. However, many midwives recommend it to their patients to prepare for labor.
To use EPO, you can break the EPO capsule and rub the oil on your cervix at nighttime, or you can insert the capsules vaginally before you go to bed. The moist environment of the vagina will melt the capsule and disperse the gel throughout the cervix. Be sure to wear a pad or have something under you while you sleep since it can leak. Another option is taking it orally.
NOTE: Speak to your healthcare provider before trying this option.
9. Castor Oil
Let me first say, I am not a big fan of castor oil. It is a major controversial induction option. The reason is it can cause intense intestinal cramping, vomiting and diarrhea because it acts as a strong laxative and it just tastes nasty. There are some midwives that still recommend it and some women swear by it. Other women say that it gave them nothing but a bad case of diarrhea. No fun. If you are desperate and spoke to your healthcare provider and got their approval, here’s how you can take it rather than just by taking a shot:
- Get 2 ounces of castor oil in a glass of orange juice and quickly drink, or
- Get 2 ounces and mix it with ice cream. The flavor might be hard to slowly get down though. It bothers some women more than others. Just a heads up!
10. Membrane Sweeping/Stripping
This one can be quite uncomfortable. It hasn’t been proven to be one of the most effective forms of induction, but it is an option. This is something that your doctor or midwife could do at one of your prenatal visits. What happens is your doctor or midwife will do a vaginal exam and they will reach all the way to your cervix to check your effacement and dilation. Once they can feel that you have had some progress, he/she will run his or her fingers around the edge of the amniotic sac and the uterus and gently try to separate it from your uterine wall. This can send signals to your uterus that it’s time for labor and can cause contractions and the release of prostaglandins which may jump start labor.
11. Acupuncture & Acupressure
Acupuncture and acupressure is another natural method for inducing labor. With acupuncture, a practitioner places fine needles at various points along the body to balance your energy flow. Acupressure is the same concept, but instead fingers are used to apply pressure to pressure points. These are also pressed during labor induction massages. A couple of pressure points are thought to cause contractions. One is located in the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. The other is located just above your ankle. Applying pressure to either of these two pressure points may help bring on contractions.
12. Herbs & Tinctures
You should consult your doctor or midwife before considering herbs to naturally induce labor. Herbs are not regulated by the FDA and can be dangerous if not taken at the proper dosage. This is why it is important to work with your midwife or an herbalist for instructions on when and how to use them. Some herbs that have been used to induce labor include black cohosh, blue cohosh, false unicorn root, and motherwort.
There you go! Twelve different ways to naturally induce labor. I will say, even these methods are interventions and it’s always best to eat right, exercise, rest and enjoy those last few days of pregnancy as much as you can because the safest and healthiest labor is one that starts spontaneously. But for the ladies that need a little extra help to get things going, I hope that these options help!
Did you try any of these methods? If so, which ones and were they successful?