So your bun in the oven is overdue and you might have to induce. Generally, induction of labor is done when your baby is 42 weeks or more, or if it is risky for the baby to stay inside your tummy for any longer. This may be due to problems in the amniotic fluid or the umbilical cord, or if the placenta is so mature that it may not be able to support the baby much longer. There are also other medical conditions where induction may be necessary.
In any case, there are many induction tricks – both natural and artificial – that can help you give birth. Many moms often opt to try out the natural methods before going on to the artificial ones. Here are some of the common tricks that you or your health care providers can use to get that baby out into the world.
Nipple stimulation is one natural method that may induce labor. Stimulating your nipples triggers the release of oxytocin, the hormone that helps you release your milk during breastfeeding. However, oxytocin is also the same hormone that triggers uterine contractions when you’re giving birth.
For best results, stimulation should mimic that of a baby suckling at your breast. You might even want to get your partner to help out with this.
Another natural method of labor induction that you might want to try is sex. This is provided your bag of water hasn’t yet broken as you could be introducing microorganisms into the amniotic sac.
Sex is thought to trigger labor because orgasm also triggers the release of oxytocin. Some also believe that semen contains high levels of prostaglandins, hormones that help ripen the cervix to prepare it for childbirth.
If you don’t know what to do with the fact that your baby is making you wait a bit longer, go on a nice long walk to clear your mind, and other things as well. This can help your baby lodge into your birth canal through gravity and the rocking motion of your hips.
In fact, it’s overall a great exercise that can help you prepare for childbirth. It’s also a great way of getting lots of fresh air and sunlight. Just make sure you know your limits and not to overdo it.
Acupuncture is another method that can help trigger labor. There are certain pressure points that, when stimulated by acupuncture needles, are believed to help trigger uterine contractions. Just make sure that the needles that are used are your own or are sterilized. A good acupuncturist should always use sterile needles during the procedure to prevent infection.
If you’re wary about someone sticking needles into your body, you might want to try acupuncture’s gentler cousin, acupressure, instead.
While not exactly 100% proven, you might want to try eating spicy foods to get labor going. Some believe that spicy food helps stimulate the gastrointestinal system, which is located near your uterus during pregnancy. Thus, it is thought that this stimulation can also help trigger labor. Another theory is that spices can help increase blood levels of prostaglandin, the hormone which promotes cervical ripening.
Whether this is true or not is still up for study, but you must admit that spicy food can be a delicious treat while you’re waiting for your baby to come out.
Another natural method of labor induction is drinking red raspberry tea. This tea is thought to help out with the contractility of the uterus and perhaps even trigger those much-awaited uterine contractions. As with some of the other natural methods, it’s still not scientifically proven.
Some studies do show that drinking red raspberry tea does shorten the second stage of labor, however. It doesn’t seem to do any harm as well, so it may be worth a shot if you’re keen on avoiding medical induction.
We now go into the labor induction tricks used in hospitals. We shall, of course, start with the membrane sweep. This technique is simply the act of manually separating the amniotic sac from the cervix.
What this does is it triggers the release of prostaglandins in your cervix, hopefully paving the way for cervical ripening. The procedure is kind of like an internal examination and can be uncomfortable for some women. It does, however, increase the chance that labor will begin spontaneously in the next 1-2 days.
One other method of getting the cervix to dilate is through the use of a laminaria or a transcervical foley balloon. This has a balloon at one end that expands when you inject water at the other end. This device is inserted into the vagina until it reaches the cervix. The balloon is then inflated so that it pushes against the walls of the cervix, promoting cervical dilation.
Health care providers have found that this method increases your chance of giving birth within the next 24 hours. In some cases, it will be used along with cervical ripening using prostaglandins, which we’ll discuss in the next point.
Cervical ripening using artificial prostaglandins is done through the insertion of a vaginal suppository up to the cervix. This suppository slowly releases prostaglandins, which promotes ripening of the cervix. It is often done in conjunction with other methods of cervical ripening and dilation. Its use increases your chance of starting labor within the next 24 hours.
If you’re not keen on having a suppository inserted into your vagina, however, there is also a form of artificial prostaglandins that can be taken by mouth or dissolved in your cheeks or under your tongue. This may take a bit longer than a vaginal suppository, but some research does show that it reduces your chance of uterine hyperstimulation.
Artificial oxytocin, such as that with the brand name Pitocin, can be given through an intravenous line to help trigger uterine contractions. It can be used on its own to induce labor. However, when used in conjunction with other methods of labor induction you may need less of it than if you’re receiving it by itself.
If you are to have oxytocin, your health care provider will start an intravenous line with running fluids. They will then hook a diluted form of the medication into a pump that will feed this into a steady stream into your vein. The doctor may then increase or decrease the dose being infused as necessary.
Sometimes your health care provider will even opt for oxytocin even when you’ve started labor, just to help trigger contractions. Usually, this will require a lower dose than with labor induction.