If labour hasn’t occurred by 38-41 weeks along, some mums-to-be will start thinking about labour induction. There are many medical induction methods that your doctor can run you through should they deem induction to be necessary. There are also many natural induction methods that you can attempt at home or wherever you feel safe outside of the hospital. Always consult with your doctor, or trusted professional member of your birth team, before attempting natural induction.

Wives tale or science?

Conventional natural induction methods have varying degrees of scientific certainty. The best approach when trying natural methods is to discuss with your birth team beforehand. If there is no reason to believe harm could come from trying these methods, then you can consider giving them a go. Keep in mind these may not work or may have a delayed reaction time, so don’t be too disheartened if you don’t immediately begin labour. There are other medical ways your doctor can help at this point.

Sex

Semen contains prostaglandins, which is the same hormone used in some gels for medical induction; prostaglandin can ripen the cervix. Female orgasm may also widen the cervix and stimulate uterine contractions.

Nipple stimulation

Foreplay can relax the body and distract the brain, which may move labour along. Nipple stimulation, in particular, whether in the context of foreplay or not, is thought to release Oxytocin, a hormone that can induce uterine contractions.

As a rule of thumb, nipple stimulation should be performed on alternating breasts and for no more than 15 minutes at a time. Stop stimulation should contractions occur. Stimulation can result in the uterus becoming ‘hyperstimulated’. A hyperstimulated uterus won't have enough time to rest between contractions, which can restrict the baby’s oxygen supply and affect their heart rate. For this reason, be cautious and only use this method after consulting a professional.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is relaxing and when done correctly is generally considered low-risk for pregnant women. While not considered to be effective all of the time, acupuncture can sometimes be the ‘fine-tuning’ the body needs to kick into labour. Generally, results will begin within a day or two after an acupuncture treatment.

Massage

Massage can distract and relax the mind, and loosen up the body if done correctly. Make sure you consult with your birth team first and then seek out a trained professional.

Spicy food

The stats are out on this one, but some women swear a spicy meal triggered their labour. The nerves that stimulate the bowel also stimulate the uterus, so spicy food may contribute to uterine contractions beginning.

Natural remedies

These remedies aren’t guaranteed to be effective but have been suggested to help induce labour. Make sure using any of these won't have the potential for harm. With the go-ahead from your doctor, give these a go – you may become one of the mums who swear by a natural remedy.

  • Raspberry leaf
  • Castor oil
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Dates
  • Liquorice
  • Essential oils: Bergamot, clary sage, jasmine
  • Homoeopathic remedies
  • Pineapple

Treat your body right to encourage labour

Stay rested and relaxed leading up to (or past) your due date. Go for gentle walks when you feel up for it – exercise is still important, but be careful not to overdo it. Use gravity to your advantage; staying upright or bouncing up and down gently on an exercise ball may help.

Overall, only try things you feel comfortable doing and after consultation with your birth team. Sometimes labour is a long waiting game. Should you be past your due date, explore natural and medical labour induction options and make an informed decision.

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