Here’s the thing with induction: it should only be done for medical purposes. We’ve grown accustomed to a society in which it’s commonplace to induce a woman just because she’s tired of waiting for her due date. Maybe she and Dad have found it’s easier to schedule their birth around their work. Sure, it’s easier, but parenthood isn’t about life being easy; it’s about sacrificing for the child. Buckle up.
Induction carries risks — real ones. It often leads to fetal distress. It increases the risk of needing a Cesarean section. In a study reported by Fit Pregnancy on the induction of first-time mothers, only 12 percent of those who went into labor naturally ended up needing a C-section, while 23.4 percent of women who needed an induction for medical reasons did and 23.8 percent of those who electively induced did.
It also increases the risk of placental breakdown.
Many women are led to believe that a condition or situation that presents is valid cause for induction. In reality, it often isn’t. Some are told that ultrasound measurements dictate they’re going to have a large baby and that they cannot birth that baby vaginally if it grows any bigger. Thus, the need for induction arises.
However, ultrasounds are notorious for being as much as two pounds off in their measurements, and the female body very rarely creates a baby that cannot be birthed vaginally. This is fear-mongering, not medicine.
All that being said, if a woman is facing induction for real medical reasons, there’s no harm in trying to push things along in a natural manner instead of using methods like Pitocin, Foley bulbs, artificial rupture of the membranes, and Cervadil and Cytotec. After all, those are the methods that are linked to the increased risks mentioned above. For safer alternatives, read on.
16 The Big 'O'
This method works along the same lines that nipple stimulation does. Orgasm releases oxytocin and that makes your uterus contract. Believe it or not, your uterus has always contracted after every orgasm you’ve ever had, even while not expecting. It’s just much smaller and contained in the pelvis then so most women won’t notice the contracting.
If you’re up for multiple orgasms — who isn’t? — and you don’t think it’ll totally wear you out, you can certainly set some goals for yourself. Just don’t forget to pay attention to actual purpose of this task — getting contractions going at regular intervals. Once you feel one, wait to see if another follows before jumping in for round two.
There’s no special way to do this. First time parents might want to take advantage of the situation while they still have quiet alone time and make a night of it. Those who already have little ones under their feet might need to get a little more creative. No foreplay necessary; just make it happen. Sorry, Dads. You don’t even have to be part of the equation on this one.
15 Birthing Balls
If chiropractic care isn’t enough for you, there’s always the trusty birthing ball. One of the upsides of this tool is that it’s dirt cheap and can be repurposed for yoga or a sensory toy later. It’s great to balance on one throughout the day or while catching your favorite show.
It might not sound quite as relaxing as chilling in the recliner, but inclines are the worst angle to be at when you’re expecting since they keep baby from getting into LOA.
Sitting on the birthing ball will strengthen the core. Bouncing on it with the legs spread apart will also help baby to descend further into the pelvis. Again, it’s that pressure from baby’s head that is needed to push things along, so any measures that can be taken to help the baby move down are great.
Squats, walking, lunges, climbing a few flights of stairs and more can all be good replacements if you can’t find an exercise ball.
14 All That Cohosh
There are two herbs known by this name: black cohosh and blue cohosh. Relatives to one another, both can be used together to stimulate labor contractions. They work far better is the woman is already contracting on her own by strengthening those contractions and making them more regular. Livestrong reports black cohosh worked for 45 percent of women in one study who used it to induce contractions.
For women who are already having contractions, they may be irregular. They might start and last for an hour or two and then disappear as quickly as they came on. Others might have contractions for days or even weeks before the real thing happens. This is known as prodromal labor. Blue and black cohosh can be highly effective in pushing things along with labor is ongoing like this.
Since the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate herbs, there are no official resources for dosing for either herb. Seeking the help of a midwife or herbalist may be yours best bet, but in general both are meant to be used via tincture for inducing labor. The capsule form should not be used. In addition, women who have anemia or clotting disorders should not use black cohosh.
13 Spicy Snacks
This one might be the most fun anyone is going to have while trying to induce some of the more severe pain they’ve ever felt in their life. Try not to forget how rewarding it is, though. Snacking is one of the best parts of pregnancy for many of us. While over-indulging isn’t recommended, it’s still a free pass to grace all day and make the most of your six mini meals. Joking, who really eats six meals a day?
Back to the main agenda — chowing down on something spicy can indeed help to induce labor. The trick is for it to be spicy enough that it gets the bowels contracting. So if chili always does it for you or you always find yourself in the bathroom all night after eating Chinese, this is the time to order takeout, friend.
When you have a bowel movement, the intestines contract to get the food waste pushed out. Those contractions actually cause the intestines to release prostaglandins and can induce contractions in the uterus that they lie on, too. Personal experience? This one never worked for me, but all the Thai food and sushi — yes sushi — I downed while trying was delicious.
12 Chiropractic Care
First and foremost, chiropractic care throughout pregnancy is so beneficial to one’s health, pregnancy and delivery that everyone should be doing it. If you aren’t a regular visitor at the chiro when not expecting, this is a great time to start taking advantage of the doctor you never knew you needed. When seeking a chiropractor for use during pregnancy, make sure to opt for one who is Webster-trained.
Chiropractic care isn’t a bunch of bone-cracking — what most people think it is. They aren’t cracking your spine. Rather, those pops your body makes when being adjusted are the noises that it makes when oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen are being released from the joint. These gases form as a byproduct of the production of synovial fluid.
Releasing subluxations — joints that get stuck and lose their range of motion — limbers up your pelvis for labor so the baby can flow right through it.
By making sure the body is properly aligned during pregnancy, this allows the baby to get into optimal position, which is left occiput anterior. When the baby can get into the best position for labor, they can begin to descend. That descent into the pelvis is a lot easier if Mom’s hips are aligned and relaxed.
The descent allows baby’s head to place pressure on the cervix, thereby helping to further dilate and efface it. Many women have gone for that 40-week adjustment and found themselves in labor that night, just saying.
11 Getting An Enema
What a way to follow up that bit on intimacy, huh? The majority of women of reproductive age have probably never had an enema. They’re usually reserved for people with serious bowel issues that end up in the hospital and old people who can’t stay regular.
Once upon a time though every expectant woman got to receive one when she checked into the hospital for delivery. Thank goodness that trend has gone the way of Barack Obama.
Much like spicy food, enemas are another way to clear the digestive tract and get those bowels moving. It’s not terribly comfortable, and getting into position to give oneself an enema while 9 months along is no small feat, but the droves of women who’ve tried it before you are assurance that it can be done.
You can buy an enema at any pharmacy and they come with directions that you should definitely read. At the risk of causing dehydration, drink up that day and don’t perform more than one enema in a 24-hour period.
10 Chest Stimulation
If you aren’t all that in touch with yourself, it’s time to start. Chest stimulation doesn’t have to be intimate at all, but if you want your partner to help out, no one is going to stop you. Gently twisting and twiddling of the nipples back and forth can bring about contractions.
This happens because stimulation of the nipples actually releases oxytocin. Yes! That’s precisely why it’s a turn on for some women, and even men. That being said, it might take a little more nipple stimulation than you’re used to in order to get things moving along, but this method is pretty popular, because it really does work.
Try it out for just five minutes or so. Once you feel a contraction, stop and wait. Do this in fifteen minute intervals. Pumping is another option is you’ve already got yours that will keep your hands from falling off during the process.
9 Flowers And Berries
Alright, evening primrose oil isn’t exactly aimed at induction, but it’s good preparation to get you into labor nonetheless. Moms-to-be should start inserting two 500 mg capsules of evening primrose oil into the vagina around week 34 of pregnancy to get the desired effect.
This herbal flower has been shown to help soften the cervix and prepare it for labor. So it won’t bring on contractions, but it will help with another part of the labor trifecta that is needed to help Mom push that baby out.
In addition, Moms can start drink red raspberry leaf tea in the third trimester. This option doesn’t induce labor either, but prepares the body for it and helps tone the uterus and strengthen it for labor. While neither the tea nor evening primrose oil will start contractions, using both can increase the chance of a success and lasting labor once contractions do begin.
8 How Acupressure Works
Acupressure involves carefully placing pressure — usually with the fingertips — on areas of the body that are known to produce contractions. The first spot is located in the webbed area between the thumb and index finger.
For the best chance of efficacy, forceful, but not painful, pinching in this area while moving the pinching fingers in circular motions for 30 to 60 seconds is best. Do this repeatedly at one to two minute intervals.
The second pressure point is located toward the foot. Around four finger widths above the ankle bone on the inside of the leg, there is a pressure point known for its labor-inducing benefits. Of course, as with any induction method this should not be attempted without provider approval and assurance that fetal lung maturity has been achieved.
Trying to induce before your baby and body are ready for it usually won’t even work, but in the off chance that it does, serious complications can arise. Soreness is a normal side effect of acupressure and should be expected.
7 Prenatal Massage
Much like acupressure, massage may aid in hitting some of those trigger spots that get the labor process moving. However, massage also aids in relaxing Mom, and that’s actually a bigger part of the labor process than most women ever realize.
Not surprisingly, a hormone known as relaxin is what helps your body to relax. This hormone is what is responsible for letting your body hang loose instead of being tense. It is released during massage in copious amounts.
That relaxin will allow the joints and tendons throughout the body — but most importantly in the pelvis — to stretch and loosen up. Again, this will help with further descent of the baby’s head.
Second, relaxation is necessary to combat stress. It’s not only important to subdue stress levels when approaching labor to keep Mom feeling positive and in control. It’s also important because stress produces a hormone known as cortisol. This hormone can actually put the kibosh on labor.
Not only will it prevent it from starting, excess cortisol can even slow labor in its tracks or stop it altogether after it’s started. It’s that powerful. Those breathing exercises don’t seem so silly now, do they?
6 Clary Sage Oil
Clary sage oil is an essential oil that has many uses. Many women actually use it during their menstrual cycles to help balance their hormones and ease the pain of menstrual cramping. It works by stimulating blood flow which thereby reduces the need for contractions in the uterus, which is what causes the trademark cramps some women feel.
When expecting, this essential oil is one to avoid up until the end since it can produce contractions of the uterus. That’s right, usually you should avoid it. But if the goal is to induce labor naturally, then moms can use it but should do so properly. Essential oils should always be diluted. This can be accomplished simply with any carrier oil, like coconut oil or avocado oil. Vitamin E oil is a great moisturizer for the skin, and that’s where you’ll be applying the clary sage oil.
If attempting to induce, mix just two or three drops of the concentrated oil with the carrier of your choice. For every two to three drops of clary sage oil, you should use around 10 mL of your carrier. Rub the mixture on the abdomen and wait for it to take effect. Some women will opt for inhaling the oil instead, but this method hasn’t been proven to be as effective.
5 Acupuncture Treatments
Acupuncture works along the same lines that acupressure does, but they aren’t exactly the same, despite their names. Both methods use a catalyst to stimulate acupoints in the body, but acupuncture does so with tiny needles instead of topical pressure on the skin. Needle phobic expectant moms need not fear; the process is pretty much painless.
In a study of women who received acupuncture to stimulate labor, 70 percent ended up going into labor without any medical intervention. Only 50 percent of women who didn’t participate in acupuncture did so. As an added bonus, the women who received acupuncture also ended up having a lower rate of Cesarean section with just 17 percent of them needing a C-section, compared to 39 percent of the women who didn’t receive acupuncture.
Interestingly, another study found that women who underwent acupuncture were no more likely to go into labor than those who didn’t. That study even contributed a placebo effect by having some women undergo a sham version of the procedure. The results showed no statistically significant difference among any of the three groups.
4 Eating And Drinking Pineapple
Alright, you might’ve heard of the pineapple theory. Technically, pineapple contains bromelain which is known for helping to produce the prostaglandins that are needed to soften the cervix. When enough of this substance is consumed, it can induce labor.
No worries, it takes so much of it to induce that there is no risk involved in indulging in the tangy fruit throughout pregnancy. If you’re craving pineapple upside down cake for nine months, don’t be afraid to dig in.
Studies done on the fruity induction method note it takes the ingestion of at least seven pineapples to work. So, if you’re really desperate and have tried everything else you’re comfortable with, eating that many pineapples might help you go into labor.
Personally, I don’t know how eating that much fruit wouldn’t send anyone running for the bathroom. That alone — as described above with spicy foods — might do the trick. You also might not ever want to see a pineapple again.
3 Six Dates A Day
This method takes time, so it won’t work for you if you’re up against a wall and supposed to be induced for medical reasons tomorrow. But if you have concerns that you might end up needing an induction then starting early with this trick may help you avoid it.
Eating six dates a day has been shown in some respects to shorten labor. However, there is no empirical evidence that it actually induces labor on the spot. Still, some women believe that eating the maybe-not-so-tasty fruit every day for weeks on end will result in a more timely birth that doesn’t go too far overdue.
Dehydrated won’t work. Grab the freshest form of the fruit you can find. If you truly can’t stomach the taste or texture, try adding them to a smoothie each day. Don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly running to the bathroom more regularly, too. That’s just an added benefit for backed up mommas.
2 Intimacy During Pregnancy
Well, it pretty much makes the world go round so it shouldn’t be surprising given all being intimate does for procreation that it could also stimulate that final push for labor. Intimacy can help in a few ways. Obviously, orgasm, which we already covered, is one of them. If you’re fortunate enough to experience this pleasurable event during the act then you’re already on your way.
But intiamcy helps in another way, too, and it involves Dad’s orgasm. Semen actually contains prostaglandins. These lipids help to thin the cervix and prepare it for labor. Don’t take it too seriously, though. There’s no need to stand on your head afterward and try to flush all the semen into your cervix like you’re still trying to conceive.
Before a woman can actually birth a baby, the cervix must completely efface in addition to full dilation to 10 cm and the baby moving down in position. Yes, it’s possible to dilate and for baby to move down, but the cervix to not fully efface. One last roll in the hay doesn’t sound too bad now, does it?
1 Drinking Castor Oil
Before you say anything, consider for a moment that everything you’ve heard about castor oil has been wrong. It doesn’t even help, they say. It’ll cause the baby to pass meconium, they’ll tell you. Those people likely mean well, but they aren’t giving accurate advice.
The truth is castor oil is completely safe when used as directed, which is usually 1-2 tbsp every four hours with no more than 4 tbsp in 24 hours, but seriously — read the instructions.
It’s a laxative; it very likely will clear you out. If used as directed, you won’t vomit or have diarrhea forever like the horror stories you’ve heard. Castor oil isn’t the cleanest oil and it won’t taste good. Mixing it with something fizzy or acidic like orange juice can help you get it down. Stay hydrated when using this method, too.
Castor oil was never linked to meconium or the aspiration of it. What is linked to meconium are late-term pregnancies. Many midwives — and very few OB’s because they only profit from hospital inductions — still use it. Substances with a molecular weight above 500 gl/mol aren’t likely to cross the placenta.
It is assumed those above 1000 gl/mol don’t at all. Castor oil has a molecular weight of 927 gl/mol; it is assumed it doesn’t cross the placenta in significant enough amounts to matter. Case closed.