What Are Some Natural, Yet Safe, Ways To Induce Labor?

Nearing the end of the last trimester? Chances are you’ve heard about inducing labor, and the most common ways to do so: placing artificial prostaglandins near the cervix to help ripen (soften) it or by using Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, the hormone naturally released in the body that causes contractions.  But do you know there are natural ways to start labor? Some approaches are easier than you think, and there may even be some truth to those old wives' tales!
Ami Burns

Remember that even though these are natural approaches to inducing labor, you should still talk things over with your healthcare provider to ensure it’s safe for labor to begin. Due dates are not an exact science, and any form of induction – natural or medical – may increase the chance of preterm labor if your baby is not full term (38-42 weeks gestation.)

Our top list of natural induction methods:

Let’s face it, sex is probably more fun than being hooked up to an I.V. of pitocin or having a doctor place artificial prostaglandin gel near your cerivix via suppository, tablet or balloon catheter.

Your cervix needs to ripen (soften) before it’s “ready” for labor. Your healthcare provider may suggest using an artificial prostaglandin cervical ripening agent to help start labor, but did you know semen is chock full of prostaglandin? Your partner may be more than willing to “help get labor started.”

Dr. David Rivera, MD, FACOG, an OB in Lombard, IL, shares this story:

 “A woman I worked with many years ago was tired of being pregnant. I told her sex might help. She said, “I can’t! I lost my mucus plug.”

I replied, “That won’t matter.”

Her eyes lit up and she said, “OOOO, I wonder what he is doing for lunch!”

She came in two days later and delivered in 20 minutes, before I got to the hospital. The second thing she said was, “It worked.” The first thing she said was, “What the hell took you so long?”

Nipple stimulation
If your doctor has said no intercourse – for example, if your bag of water has already ruptured – or if you don’t feel up for it, other forms of sex can be beneficial, too. When you have an orgasm, your body releases oxytocin, the hormone that causes the uterus to contract.

Nipple stimulation – manually, such as taking a shower and letting water run on your chest for 1-2 minutes or with a breast pump – may also help.   “Nipple stimulation causes oxytocin release, which will start contractions,” says Dr. Rivera “but there is no guarantee those contractions will develop into labor.”

Acupuncture or Acupressure
If there is an acupuncturist skilled in working with pregnant women in your community, ask her about the specific points where needles can be applied. In her book Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn, Penny Simkin explains that It is thought that this approach unblocks energy flow lines along critical meridians, and that blocked energy can impair the start of labor. There are also two acupressure points that you or your partner can apply pressure to -- Spleen 6 is a point on your lower leg, and Hoku is a spot on the back of your hand.

Walking promotes gravity, and can help your baby apply pressure to the cervix. It’s a great position to use when labor has already begun, but may also help labor to begin without any of the side effects that may result from medical induction. At the very least, you’ll be able to enjoy the fresh air, relax, and get a bit of exercise.

What about those Old Wives Tales?

“I don’t recommend castor oil,” says Dr. Rivera, explaining it will likely just cause bad cramps but no baby. Find out more here why castor oil is not a good method for inducing labor.  Other fun methods might work, though!

The maternity salad
The night before my due date with my first son, I visited Caioti Pizza Café in Los Angeles to eat what’s become known as “THE Salad.” According to www.maternitysalad.com, the special dressing famous for kick-starting labor is made with “pure olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, spices, herbs, seasonings and love.” I ate THE Salad on a Friday, went into labor Saturday and gave birth early Sunday morning. While I’ll never know for sure if it was the dressing or my body’s time to go into labor, it was fun and many women swear by it.

Spicy foods
The same goes for spicy foods, and some moms find a combination of natural methods work to induce labor, like Marci S., mother of two near Boston, MA who says,“I ate Spicy Chinese food and walked around the block and went into labor 6 hours later!"

Bad weather
Even medical professionals may believe some of these tales – or at least be able to tell them:

Stacey V. is a Registered Nurse and mother of six in Michigan who knows first-hand about the old wives’ tale about going into labor when the weather is bad. “I had one on the record hottest day that year in a bad thunderstorm, and one during a blizzard,” she says.

And for the daring….the trampoline!
According to Dr. Rivera, “My partner’s wife started her labor by bouncing on a trampoline for 45 minutes.” For those moms who don't quite feel coordinated enough for the trampoline, sitting and gently bouncing on an exercise ball might be a good alternative.

When faced with the induction decision, two important questions to ask are:

1. Am I ok?
2. Is my baby ok?

If the answer to both is “yes,” you have a choice about whether or not to induce labor. Sometimes simply waiting for your body to be ready to begin labor on its own is ideaI, as is the “mind over matter” approach. I know more than one mom who was scheduled for an induction on a Monday morning, then went into labor naturally on Sunday night!

If you have questions about induction, be sure to ask your doctor or midwife to explain the benefits, risks and alternatives to medically inducing, and as I’ve mentioned, even the natural approaches, too.

Here’s to a safe, healthy labor and birth!

For more on labor and delivery:

- Should you be induced?

- What are some natural ways to induce labor?

- Can these recipes jump-start labor?

- Fetal kick count chart



Tags: natural overdue

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