Here Are A Few Ways Some Moms Get Things Moving
Are there natural ways to induce labor or to move it along? - Katie in Pennsylvania
The expert answers
There are many ways to help induce labor. I find there is a fine line between natural and synthetic ways for induction of labor, so I will do an overview which will cover both ways.
First of all, any of the ways I describe to induce labor should never be attempted without the full knowledge of your healthcare provider, and these are only to be done when you are full-term.
The most common method to induce labor while in the hospital is to artificially rupture your membranes (bag of water) which will start contractions soon after this is done.
Another method occurs in your doctor's office. There she will strip your membranes to sensitize the uterus to begin contractions. (This was done to me with my first, and I delivered the next day.) It feels like an extra rough pelvic exam where your caregiver inserts her gloved finger into the cervix to "scratch" the surface of the membranes.
There are also hormonal gels (normally prostaglandin-based) which can be inserted into the vagina to prepare the cervix to dilate. Apparently there are versions of these gels which can be purchased at "natural" stores. I can't endorse these because I know very little about them, and assume the percentage of hormone in the product is unregulated. (You should also never self-medicate during pregnancy -- even with "natural" remedies.) Prostaglandins are also found in semen -- and if your water has not broken, and your caregiver says it's okay, intercourse may actually help you move toward labor.
The most common synthetic method to start labor is the use of IV Pitocin while on a monitored bed in your hospital's labor and delivery unit. Pitocin (or "Pit") is a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin which is known to induce labor.
More natural, at-home methods to stimulate labor include nipple stimulation, which helps aid the body in releasing its own natural oxytocin. This can be done by applying a warm towel to both breasts for five minutes or massaging one breast for 10 minutes. Gently roll the nipple (twist back and forth) and stop when you feel a contraction. If this is going to work, uterine contractions will usually be felt within 20 minutes.
Walking keeps you upright and exerts downward pressure on the cervix, helping you toward cervical effacement and dilation. (It's also good exercise!) And, finally, enemas or castor oil will stimulate the bowel, which help to produce prostaglandins, which will, in turn, induce labor. I'm not a big fan of this method, because when you do go into labor, it makes for a "messier" delivery. Also, once your bowels get moving, there is no shutting them off -- so in extreme cases this can lead to dehydration.
Don't forget about simple relaxation! Anxiety produces hormones that may delay labor.
Remember, please don't try any of these methods without the blessings of your physician or healthcare provider. Labor should only be induced under the watchful eye of your caregiver. If the timing is right for your body to deliver, I wish you luck in speeding up the process and wish you a healthy delivery.