Inducing Labor Naturally

As a birth doula, one of the things I get asked about the most is how to induce labor.  Those last few weeks of pregnancy can seem like forever. It may be because we’re so excited to hold our little one in our arms, or possibly that our little one just doesn’t seem so little anymore. That is definitely a normal feeling because babies do put on weight those last few weeks. Could it be that we can’t seem to breathe anymore or that we have to pee every 30 minutes?  Whatever the reason, that birthdate can’t seem to come soon enough.

There are things you can do to encourage labor, however when all is said and done if the baby’s not ready, he’s not ready. Labor begins when the protein surfactant which has developed in your baby’s lungs signals to your uterus that the fetal lungs are mature, initiating labor. It is crucial that his lungs are fully developed and ready for life outside the womb. His lungs are actually one of the last things to develop so it can be dangerous if he’s born too soon. 

I must give a word of caution. I’ve seen mothers who just can’t wait any longer (or maybe others push them) to be medically induced too early. Their babies then spend time in the NICU. What could be their most precious and beautiful bonding moments together turn into separation, anxiety, worry and medical support just to survive.  It’s best to let things unfold naturally. Remember, your “due date” is an estimation. Only about 5% of babies are born on their actual due date and many are born even at 42 weeks.

 

I’ve heard of everything to induce labor it seems- from eating spicy pizza to going on a bumpy drive.  Along with your trusted care provider please make an informed decision about what methods to try. Though not comprehensive, this list addresses some of the more common methods of inducing labor.

Breast Stimulation

Breast stimulation releases the love hormone called oxytocin. This hormone stimulates the uterus which is what medical inductions try to mimic. Nipple stimulation is commonly used to induce labor and also to help with a stalled labor. It can also reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhage, which is one reason why it is best to breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after birth. Try stimulating your nipples as your baby would when sucking or use a breast pump for 5-10 minutes every hour.

Sex

Sex has the ability to bring on labor in many ways. First, the human prostaglandins from the semen could help ripen the cervix, similar to medicinal means of softening the cervix. Second, orgasm is linked to uterine activity which might stimulate contractions. Third, the natural release of oxytocin that occurs during sex could lead to contractions, similar to what induction drugs try to mimic. If there are no other health concerns, then this is a very viable option that can be effective.

Clary Sage Essential Oil

Clary Sage is not recommended for use before 40 weeks but after that it is a wonderful tool that may get labor going. During birth it can increase the effectiveness of your contractions. Apply a drop to each pinky toe at the nail bed, the inside ankle bones on both feet, and on the lower abdomen. Clary Sage can also be applied down your spine.  Apply every 20 minutes until the strength of your contractions has increased. This is a fantastic tool for stalled labor. The aroma of Clary Sage is balancing and feminine also making it ideal during labor when we tend to be anxious. Hang onto it after birth as well.  It can increase your milk supply, help with postpartum depression, and solve PMS and menopause issues as well.

Jasmine Oil

Jasmine Oil is an absolute from precious floral petals. Not only will it lift your mood and balance and regulate your hormones, using Jasmine as a massage oil on your back during labor will help ease pain and discomfort. Apply 1-2 drops diluted over the abdomen and to reflex points or diffuse.

Walking 

Walking is a great way to not only be physically prepared for birth but the rocking motion and pressure put on your cervix thanks to gravity and your baby’s head may have the ability to put you in labor.  Be sure to not overdo it.  Listen to your body.  Spending time on a birth ball will open your hips and prepare your muscles for birth with many of the same benefits as walking. Climbing stairs will work too.

Castor Oil

Castor Oil has been linked to the induction of labor within 24 hours along with an increase in cervical ripening.  However, it comes with undesirable side effects including nausea and diarrhea. The irritation in your bowels may stimulate your uterus to contract. If you choose to use castor oil do so carefully, making sure you stay hydrated. In my personal opinion though, it’s not worth the negative side effects. Birth is challenging enough without other issues added to it. If you’re approaching 42 weeks however and your back is against the wall it may be one of your better options. I have seen its effectiveness.

Evening Primrose Oil

There is very little research done on Evening Primrose Oil and whether or not it is linked to cervical ripening and the initiation of labor. Reports are very conflicting with some stating its ability to work and others sharing concerns linked to bleeding.

Pineapple 

Eating pineapple is often shared from mom to mom as a way to induce labor. Some say the enzyme bromelain that is found in pineapple may help cervical ripening. However there is no real evidence to back this up. The good news is, there’s no negative results when eating pineapple so enjoy the juicy fruit as much as your taste buds will let you.

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Though many swear that Red Raspberry Leaf Tea will induce labor, there is very little evidence on its ability to encourage labor. However, it is high in vitamins and minerals and may have other positive benefits on the actual labor process as it is thought to help tone the uterus, increase breastmilk production and quicken recovery time.

Blue or Black Cohosh

There is evidence that blue or black cohosh might induce contractions but it has also been linked to negative outcomes in birth. It is best to avoid this method.

Acupuncture 

Acupuncture does have the ability to ripen the cervix and initiate labor. Assuming you are in touch with a competent practitioner this may be a good method to try with little to no side effects.

Acupressure 

Acupressure has the ability to increase blood flow to the uterus, influence hormonal responses, and stimulate uterine contractions.  Always use caution and consult with your trusted care provider.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic Care should be with a trained and certified specialist. Aligning the bones of your pelvis can engage your baby fully into your pelvis helping your cervix to dilate. Having chiropractic care will increase the odds of you having a natural birth experience and it can relieve sciatic pain and general discomfort.

Dates

Eating dates has been found to have many benefits for pregnancy and labor. Dates are linked to increased cervical ripening, less need for labor augmentations and less postpartum bleeding.  You would need to consume 60-80 grams or about 6-7 dates per day to see results. The only thing to consider is that if you have Gestational Diabetes, you would need to use caution due to their high sugar content at that quantity.

Stripping Your Membranes

Membrane Stripping (also known as a membrane sweep) is a common procedure performed after 39 weeks. You must also be dilated to at least 1 cm. Your doctor or midwife will insert a gloved finger through your cervix and manually separate your amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus. This will release hormones called prostaglandins which will soften your cervix and prepare your body for labor. Cramping, discomfort, and light bleeding are common after a sweep. You may lose your mucus plug and contractions may begin. Know that this procedure could result in your water breaking and will increase your likeness of needing a cesarean. Membrane stripping is usually effective though with labor beginning within 48 hours for most women.


I believe that a nice long conversation with your baby can have many benefits as well. Have you tried asking her to come out or letting her know you’re ready for her to be born? Tell her you can’t wait to see her face and hold her in your arms. My hope is that these ideas will help you prepare both mentally and physically for your upcoming birth. And, if any of these ideas do put you in labor, I’d love to hear about it!

Above all, make sure you have a team to support you on your big day. Everything is going to happen beautifully for you.  Hire me and it will be even better.  I understand exactly what you’re going through from my own experience as a mother of five, the many births I have assisted with, and my comprehensive training as a doula. I will be there for you every step of the way. I can help you have the birth of your dreams.  Call me!

You are currently viewing