Inducing labour naturally
Just a few things to be aware of first:
- Natural induction should only be a helping hand. The method should be gentle enough to ensure you won’t go into labour if your body isn’t ready.
- Induction is not recommended before 39-40 weeks.
- Don’t stress that you’re overdue. Usually, first-time pregnancies are up to 80% more likely to go beyond the due date and you are not officially ‘overdue’ until 42 weeks. Even then, a doctor cannot legally induce labour without your permission.
- Do your own research, only do what you feel comfortable with and never overstrain yourself. If you’re not sure, talk to your doctor, especially if your pregnancy is considered high-risk.
Use a birthing ball
You’ll probably have been told about the magic of birthing balls by your midwife. They aren’t too expensive, improve your posture and balance and can actually help with the slow process that is inducing your labour.
As well as being a great remedy for morning sickness and helping to stop bleeding/spotting in the early months of pregnancy, acupressure massages can also induce labour. Before you think about booking one in though, just make sure that your acupressurist has experience working with pregnant women. The whole experience is incredibly relaxing, but more importantly, massaging acupressure points in the ankles and in the webbing between your thumb and forefinger can cause muscle contractions, including in the uterus.
Bet you didn’t know this one. Basil is, what’s called, an emmenagogue, which is a herb that stimulates blood flow to the uterus, and can stimulate menstruation. Throw some in your cooking!
Perhaps one of the most well-known ways to induce labour, eating spicy foods is a bit of an old wives tale, but it can work. Bizarrely, the reason it can help is because of the upset it causes to the digestive system, which then upsets the uterus. So don’t go out of your way to eat a Vindaloo if it’s not part of your normal diet. However, mums do attest to the fact that spicy food can work – so maybe think of it as a last resort?
Stimulating your nipples is actually one of the most effective ways you can induce labour yourself. Why? Nipple stimulation can cause your uterus to contract. The stimulation releases oxytocin, a hormone that causes contraction. This could be a nice bonding experience for you and your partner to try, or you can always use a breast pump if you’re going about it alone. As this has been proven to work quite well, make sure you’ve told your doctor you are going to try out nipple stimulation, before you go ahead.
Red Raspberry Leaf
Taken either as a tea or pill, red raspberry leaf can be taken at about 37 weeks. It’s not scientifically proven to help induce you, but drinking it strengthens and tones the uterus, hopefully leading to a shorter labour because each contraction is more productive. But don’t be tempted to glug gallons of tea in desperation if you go overdue – it may cause intense contractions and lead to your baby getting distressed. Women are advised to drink red raspberry leaf tea a maximum of three times daily.
Speaking of strengthening the uterus, bananas are another great way to do this. They have lots of potassium, which is crucial to muscle contractions. This means that a potassium deficiency could potentially delay labour. But eat bananas in moderation and avoid taking potassium supplements as they can be poisonous when taken incorrectly.
Eat some dates
Small-scale studies have shown that eating 6 dates a day in the final month of pregnancy may encourage your cervix to dilate, and therefore reduce the need for induction! Why not?
Now, we know the logistics of having sex can be tricky when you hit 40 weeks, but there is some science behind this one. As a matter of fact, sex can encourage the release of the ‘love’ hormone oxytocin, a hormone that you need to get labour kick-started. Also, semen contains a hormone-like substance called prostaglandins, which may help to soften and ripen the cervix. Having sex is safe at full term, but you shouldn’t have sex after your water has broken, as it can increase the risk of infection.
Swimming is a lovely way to feel weightless and floaty when you’re pregnant, a feeling we’re sure you’re yearning for at the moment! Relaxed swimming can help bring out the baby as both the water and the gentle movement help. Kate Middleton is rumoured to have gone swimming when she was overdue and trying to bring about the birth of Prince George.
Pineapples contain the enzyme bromeliad, which can soften your cervix and therefore bring about labour. It can also stimulate your stomach muscles, which could help get some contractions going.