The Truth About Inducing Labor Naturally
If you're reading this, you're probably a momma at that "waiting game" stage of pregnancy. And, I'm sorry girlfriend. I know it's tough and I know you ARE SO DONE BEING PREGNANT. I get it. Both of my girls were born a day shy of 42 weeks. UGH.
BUT, let's chat about all the things that you've heard will "for sure get your labor started" and all the crazy things you've secretly tried to GET THAT BABY OUT. And, let me just start by saying, no judgement. I've done it all too. That's why I wrote this blog. I've personally learned a lot about what ACTUALLY helps, and I've seen the hundreds of other moms in Facebook groups asking what has worked for others. I'll get into what each choice does for your body, when you should start them, and why it might not be the best choice for some.
-Evening Primrose Oil. You can purchase this in gel capsule form at CVS. Many midwives and OB's suggest taking this orally everyday and depositing one capsules vaginally every night, both starting at 36 weeks. This method helps your cervix to be more effaced, or thinned out. So when contractions DO start, it's nice and soft and opens easily. EPO is also helpful even if you have to have an induction. Starting an induction at 70-80% effaced vs 30% is incredibly beneficial. You can bypass cervix ripening agents that take a long time. Please note: this method will not cause contractions to START. Also, if you are a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean momma) you cannot use EPO vaginally as it can weaken the lower uterine muscles where your previous incision is and increase your uterine rupture risk. As always, have a chat with your provider about this option.
-Breast Pump. Ah, good ol' nipple stimulation. The idea behind using the breast pump is that it will start contractions because the nipple stimulation causes an oxytocin release in the body. And while Sharon, in your crunchy mom Facebook group SWEARS by it, don't put all your eggs in this basket. Yes, it can work for some. But it can also give you false contractions, tire your body out, and frustrate you. Not to mention the damage that might be done to your super valuable nips! My suggestion: try this method if you're not down for some hanky-panky with your partner (hello much more fun nipple stimulation!) and only after 40 weeks. There are many suggestions for how to do this but most popular I've heard: 15 min on one breast, 5 min break, 15 min on the other side, 5 min break, switch back to other side for 15 min, 5 min break, and then 15 min on other side. Then, for the love of nipples, PUT THE PUMP DOWN. And, if you have a contractions while doing this, turn the pump off but leave your timer running, and resume the schedule once the contraction has subsided.
-SEX. Yep, everyone has heard this one, right? Which is totally doable when you're 41 weeks pregnant and can feel your baby's head in your pelvis. Ooh, sexy! But seriously, if you can get it, GET IT GURL. Even if the entire act of intercourse isn't achievable, just the kissing, cuddling and sexy touching can be an awesome oxytocin release for your body. Not to mention it's a good mood elevator. But here is the secret with sex to induce labor: it's most beneficial if YOU have an orgasm. Semen contains prostaglandins which soften the cervix. Awesome, great, cool. BUT, your orgasm is what gets your uterus contracting. Can I get an AMEN!
-ORGASM. I know I just got done talking about sex. But this is super important. Your orgasm is what gets contractions started. And sex isn't the only way to achieve that. I know, I'm stating the obvious but it has to be said for some of my students. Pro tip: CVS sells a teeny tiny vibrator in their "family planning" (hehe) section so you don't have to drag your pregnant butt out to Lover's Lane. YOU. ARE. WELCOME.
-Pineapple. I see so many over due moms forcing themselves to eat tons of this stuff. And while some love it I always feel bad for the ones who think *this will be it. this will put me into labor* Ok, it contains plant based prostaglandins. Yeah, so it could soften your cervix. But again, when Shelley in your mom group says she ate an entire pineapple before bed and went into labor that night, it's just a coincidence.
But again, when Shelley in your mom group says she ate an entire pineapple before bed and went into labor that night, it's just a coincidence.
Bottom line, eat that pineapple if you enjoy it. But don't force yourself, girl. And don't expect it to be some kind of magical pineapple that causes you to pop that baby out tonight.
-Castor Oil. I'm going to cut right to the chase with this one. This is induction via diarrhea. Castor oil irritates your intestines causing you to poop your brains out and your uterus gets irritated and this can some times cause contractions to start. Or you can just be super pregnant with diarrhea. I don't suggest this method without consulting your CNM/OB and you're closer to the 42 week mark. This method can also cause distress to your baby and THEY can poop while in the womb, which, depending on where you are birthing, can cause other interventions. I LOVE how the Alternative Birth Center utilizes this induction method. You're usually admitted the day before 42 weeks, given castor oil, a membrane sweep, and then instructions to walk for 5 min and use the breast pump for 5 min, alternating between the two for about an hour. I've supported families using this method there and it was INCREDIBLY effective. But, they were being monitored and have access to IV fluids if need be.
-Eating Dates. This will not start contractions but they DO contain the ever so popular prostaglandins. Great option to help prepare the body for labor and/or induction. So, in theory, they can help cut down on labor time. HOWEVER, please don't get pissed if you ate the suggested 6 dates a day and have a "long" labor and think *WTF?!* There are so many more things at play that affect how long or fast or easy or hard your labor will be.
-Membrane Sweep. This option is only done by a CNM/OB and should only be done WITH YOUR CONSENT. A membrane sweep is when your care provider does a cervical exam with their hand. If you are dilated enough (usually at least 1cm) then they can insert their finger in your cervix and separate your bag of waters and cervix from each other. This causes discomfort to varying degrees and can cause you to feel cramps the rest of the day. The idea is that this releases prostaglandins in your cervix that *might* jump start labor. A risk you run by having this done is increased risk of infection and premature rupture of membranes (or your water accidentally being broken). Lots of things to consider with this option but only you can decide when and if it is right for you and your baby.
-Walking. There are those that swear by walking and will tell you to just walk around the mall for an hour. This is a great option not only to encourage things to start but also to get your pelvis moving so the baby's head can put pressure on your cervix. I'm a fan of walking all throughout the pregnancy but just make sure not to overdo it. Walking too much can cause your round ligaments and pelvis to be too tight and cause discomfort or cause your baby to be in a less-than-ideal position.
With all of these options being considered it needs to be said: none of these will work unless YOUR BODY IS READY. I've known plenty of moms (myself included) who have gone crazy trying all of these things, and doing them correctly, with nothing happening. Some of which just tire their bodies out, which makes them even less likely to go into labor. When considering these options to encourage your baby's arrival the most important thing is PATIENCE & SELF CARE. The last few weeks of pregnancy can be incredibly frustrating or a time of rest. Which one do you want to remember when you look back at your pregnancy?
If you've already welcomed your little one, what helped you in those final weeks? What do you think did your body the most good in prep for the big day?