It’s getting down to the wire – you’re just days away from going into labor (so the doctor says). The day comes and passes, but you don’t feel a single contraction. Not even a twinge. What gives?
Women rarely give birth on the due date their doctor gives them, but if you have the desire to move things along, there are a few things you can do to induce labor naturally.
But before we get to that, we want to reiterate the importance of talking to your doctor before you try anything to induce labor. Even in the last few weeks of pregnancy, critical fetal development is taking place, and while some folk methods do work, they may have unintended consequences. So, talk to your doctor or midwife about your plans to make sure they’re safe.
Table of Contents
- Inducing Labor at Home – 10 Tips
- How to Start Labor – Best 4 Medical Approaches
- When Should Labor Be Induced?
Inducing Labor at Home – 10 Tips
It doesn’t matter whether you want to induce labor at 36, 37, 38, 39, or 40 weeks, women all over the world use these methods to get labor started.
Sex is the age-old method of inducing labor, and it works for a lot of women. How does sex start the labor process? You think it’s because of the stimulation, but it’s actually the semen that does the trick. What you may not know is that semen contains high concentrations of prostaglandins, which cause the uterine muscles to contract. So, if you’re going to try this method, make sure that your partner ejaculates inside of your vagina.
And hey, if it doesn’t work – you can always try again just for fun.
Getting the body moving can also get the labor process moving. Sometimes, a simple walk around the block or up and down the stairs is enough to initiate labor. Gravity can help push the baby down into the birth canal, which can dilate your cervix just from added pressure.
If exercise doesn’t work, it will at least help you work off some stress. But please avoid doing anything too strenuous. Keep it light and simple.
3. Stimulate the Nipples
Stimulating the nipples causes the body to release oxytocin, a contraction-inducing hormone. Pitocin is actually the synthetic form of this hormone, and is one of the most common drugs used to induce labor.
Some studies have shown that natural stimulation of this hormone can be just as effective. One study found that women who stimulated their nipples 1-3 hours per day a 37 weeks pregnant went into labor within three days. Only 6% of the women in the control group went into labor.
Although this can be an effective way to induce labor, doctors recommend taking a supervised approach. You need to ensure that you’re not over-stimulating the uterus and causing contractions that are too strong or too close together. It’s also important to monitor your baby’s heartbeat to make sure that she’s tolerating it well.
The bottom line: ask for your doctor’s or midwife’s help if you want to use this method to induce labor.
4. Eat Spicy Foods or Castor Oil
Just like semen, spicy foods stimulate the release of prostaglandins, which can cause uterine contractions.
Midwives often recommend drinking castor oil as a way to induce labor. A common recommendation is to drink two ounces of castor oil in either orange juice or ice cream.
Why castor oil?
The idea behind this remedy is that it stimulates the bowels, which helps release prostaglandin and give the uterus the push it needs to start the labor process.
While castor oil has proven to be very effective, many women experience unpleasant side effects, including dehydration, explosive diarrhea and nausea.
Midwives have long recommended the use of red raspberry tea to get labor started. They may also recommend mixing the tea with evening primrose oil, which can soften your cervix.
What the tea does is tone the uterus, and regulate contractions into productive patterns.
6. Try Acupuncture or Acupressure
Acupuncture and acupressure can be two effective ways to induce labor. Acupuncture helps stimulate the release of oxytocin, which can start the labor process.
Acupressure can also help, but to be most effective, you need to start pressing at 37 weeks and do it often. As you get closer to your due date and even during the labor process, you can increase the pressure. Just make sure that you receive instruction from a properly trained professional if you’re going to perform acupressure on yourself.
How to Start Labor – Best 4 Medical Approaches
If home methods do not work, taking a medical approach may be the best option. If you are past your due date, your doctor or midwife may suggest a few options, including:
7. Membrane Stripping
Membrane stripping is not a procedure you can perform on your own – it must be done in a doctor’s office. But the good news is that there are no medications involved. A doctor will separate the amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus using a gloved finger. It’s a relatively simple process, and one that can trigger the release of prostaglandins.
After the procedure is through, you’ll likely experience some spotting and cramping, which is normal. But if you begin to experience bleeding that is similar to what you would experience during your period, contact your doctor immediately.
8. Prostaglandin Pills or Suppositories
If your cervix is not yet ripe, meaning that it hasn’t started to dilate, your doctor may recommend a prostaglandin suppository or pill. Suppositories are inserted into the vaginal canal every 12 hours. Regardless of whether your doctor recommends a suppository or pill, the medication will cause you to release prostaglandins, which will get the labor process going.
In some cases, doctors will use a Foley bulb, which is a small balloon that is inserted into the cervix and inflated. The inflation forces the cervix to open.
If your cervix is dilated, but you’re not experiencing any contractions, your doctor may give you Pitocin. This drug is the synthetic version of oxytocin, the hormone that tells your uterus it’s time to start contracting.
Pitocin can be used to either initiate labor, or speed up sluggish contractions.
10. Membrane Rupture
In some cases, doctors may intentionally break your water to move the labor process along. Sometimes, this is all it takes to get labor started, but it may need to be performed in conjunction with Pitocin.
When Should Labor Be Induced?
It’s important to remember that going a few days past your due date is nothing to be concerned about. Playing the waiting game can be frustrating, but no woman stays pregnant forever. Most doctors won’t let women go over two weeks past their due date, so if the baby doesn’t come on her own, your physician will step in to get things moving along.
Before you attempt to do anything to induce labor, talk to your doctor or midwife. We can’t stress enough the importance of talking to your healthcare provider about any of the methods you want to try. Remember, your baby is growing and developing right up until the day she leaves the womb. It is crucial to make sure that the methods you use are safe and won’t have a negative effect on your baby.