So, it happens…we have chatted on this blog about “overdue” babies and shown how things can go when you are doing a home birth. However, what if you are in a larger part of the United States population that is going to have your baby in a hospital, but still wants to naturally go into labor. Sometimes, babies don’t love the time lines we have set for them and it’s up to us to help things along a bit. So, when you get to that moment of “Oh my goodness get this baby (or babies) out of me” and your Midwife or Doctor is starting to mention induction, it may be time to start trying some safe, at home methods that can help soften your cervix and trigger contractions. As a doula, I see the same few methods help mom’s time and time again and these are the ideas I always share with my clients.
1 – SO MUCH SEX, LIKE, SOOOO MUCH SEX!
How it works: It’s not what you would think…oh, great, lots of sex with a penis entering my vagina is going to help force this baby out (no thanks). NO, it’s all in those magical chemicals. We always say, What got that baby in, can get that baby out!
Semen contains prostaglandins, which is made up of the same chemical compounds they are putting in the induction meds (i.e. Cervadil contains the same amount of prostaglandins as 3 ejaculations). Cervadil actually contains…dare I say it…Pig Semen! So, as far as option go…it may be worth it to have sex a few times in those last few weeks even though it’s the last thing you feel like doing.
When It Is Best: I usually recommend every day during your 39-40th week
Risks: There’s a chance you may not totally enjoy the sex at this point in your pregnancy =)
2 – Acupuncture
How it works: Acupuncture works by stimulating the mother’s body to ready itself for labor. Needling will encourage the body to naturally release prostaglandins to soften and ripen the cervix for labor, and oxytocin to trigger contractions. Because the body produces its own hormones, and the process in natural, the mother and child will experience a gradual, less-traumatic onset of labor. Source
When it is best: It is best to start these treatments at 36 weeks and continue them once a week until 40 weeks. You can then switch to 2-3 treatments once you are considered Post date or overdue.
Risks: No Proven Risks
3 – Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
How it Works: The herb works mainly due to its iron content that helps tone the uterus, decrease nausea, increase milk production, and ease labor pains.
When it is best: Many Midwives advise to start taking Raspberry Tea once a day at 32 weeks and gradually increase to 3 cups a day by 36 weeks.
Risks: You should not take it if your previous labor continued for three hours or less. Do not take it if your doctor has already suggested a caesarean for a medical reason. It is also a good idea to avoid drinking it if you have had a premature labor or a caesarean in the past.
Your healthcare provider may advise against drinking raspberry leaf tea for labor if you have a family history of endometriosis, ovarian cancer, or fibroids. They may not let you drink this tea also if you have high blood pressure, are expecting twins, or have other pregnancy complications. Source
4 – Evening Primrose Oil
Truth be told…I didn’t know the science behind this one. I read and read and there doesn’t seem to be much more then anecdotal evidence. But the amount of anecdotal evidence is not something I believe can be ignored.
How it Works: It contains prostaglandins, which we discussed before (think pig semen) which helps ripen the cervix
When It Is Best: Caregivers who promote this practice recommend taking capsules orally, or inserting vaginally starting around week 37. Doctors and midwives may provide different guidelines depending on your unique medical history. Source
Risks: Anecdotally it is said that it can break your water prematurely and has also been shown to lengthen labor.
5 – Nipple Stimulation
How it Works: Prolonged breast stimulation prompts the pituitary gland to release contraction-inducing oxytocin, the same powerful hormone that initiates your milk let-down response and can lead to severe cramps when a newborn suckles. Its synthetic form, Pitocin, is the most common drug used to induce labor, and studies indicate that stimulating it naturally can be effective as well. Source
When it is Best: One breast a time, you roll and massage your areola and then pull down over the nipple until they become erect. Licking to stimulate also works. Nipple stimulation is only best to start on your due date or after.
Risks: I feel it’s best to quote here, so I make sure the risks are listed correctly: “We know it works,” says Suzy Myers, C.P.M., a certified professional midwife and chairwoman of the department of midwifery at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash. “But you have to be very careful that you are not overstimulating the uterus and making the contractions too strong or too close together. you also have to make sure the baby is tolerating it well by having your health care provider monitor his or her heartbeat.” SOURCE