Membrane Sweep and Other Ways to Induce Pregnancy

Whether you are close to your due date and you just can’t wait to meet your little one, or you are past the date your doctors projected your little one would arrive, you are probably eager to get the labor and delivery ball rolling. While your baby and your body usually get things going on their own, there are ways that you can kick start the process

When I was pregnant with my first baby boy, who was due on the Fourth of July (which I was so excited about, but alas, I didn't have a Yankee Doodle Dandy,) I was beyond ready to get him out and meet him when he went past his due date. To get labor going, I did some research and listened to some old wives tales that my mother, my aunt and friends of mine shared to try to induce labor on my own.

Some of the suggestions were pretty crazy, but I figured, hey, I’ll give them a try! What did I have to lose? I was only going to gain by getting labor going and finally being able to meet my little cherub. I tried some of the natural labor inducing techniques, which worked, but my labor, unfortunately, didn’t progress, and I eventually had to rely on medical induction to get the ball rolling.

Do remember that every pregnancy is different, and some of these techniques may or may not work for you. Or, you may not need to use any of them at all and you may go into labor naturally (yay!) With that said, here’s a look at some tried and tested ways that have proven to be effective for inducing labor and delivery (both medically and naturally.)

15 A Membrane Sweep

One of the most common ways to induce labor is via a membrane sweep. It is a relatively gentle induction technique and it is a pretty simple and straightforward procedure.

This process is usually done by a doctor or midwife before other induction process is used. It can be performed as early as 38 weeks of pregnancy, though some healthcare professionals recommend waiting to do the procedure until you are 40 or 41 weeks pregnant.

A membrane sweep is performed during an internal vaginal examination. A lubricated, gloved finger is inserted into the opening of the cervix. The finger is gently moved around, which causes the membranes of the amniotic sac that surrounds your baby to separate from your cervix. As a result, specific hormones, known as prostaglandins, should be released. Labor often begins soon after.

After a membrane sweep, you may experience slight discomfort, slight bleeding and/or cramping or irregular contractions.

14 Medications for Inducing Labor

Certain medications can also be administered to induce labor. These medications generally won’t be given until after a membrane sweep has been attempted, without a result.

There are several different types of medication that can be given to induce labor, and they can help to ripen and widen the cervical opening. Some of the medications that are given to induce labor include:

  • Misoprostol or cervidil, which is a pill that is taken orally or placed in the vagina to soften the cervix.
  • Oxytocin or Pitocin, which is given intravenously. It is usually given after the cervix has softened, and causes the uterus to contract.
  • Dinoprostone, such as Cervidil, which is a vaginal suppository. It helps the cervix to ripen, thus inducing labor.

To induce labor with my first son, I was administered Cervidil. Though it did not progress my labor enough, it did allow my cervix to dilate from 1cm to 6 cm. Again, remember that each pregnancy and person is different, so medications could absolutely work to induce your labor. In fact, many women have had tremendous success with medications that induce labor.

13 A Balloon Catheter

This type of medical induction involves inserting a balloon catheter or a Foley catheter, a narrow tube with a small balloon attached to the end, into the cervix. This induction method is not as common as it once was, though its use seems to be used more frequently again, particularly for women who are not considered a good candidate for being induced with medications.

Once the catheter is inserted into the cervix, the balloon is inflated with a saline solution, and it is left in place. The catheter is taped to the thigh, which provides gentle traction and further assists in dilating the cervix.

When this method is used, it can either make the cervix open, progressing labor, or it can ripen the cervix, making it more favorable for induction medications, like Pitocin (for women who are able to receive induction medications.)

The Foley balloon catheter has a good track record for being successful and can help women go into labor within 24 hours of insertion.

12 Rupturing the Membranes

When a pregnant woman’s “water breaks,” it is the result of a hole or a tear in the fluid-filled bag (also known as the amniotic sac) that surrounds and protects the baby. Membranes can break on their own, or they can be ruptured by a doctor to induce labor.

If the membranes are ruptured to induce labor, it should only be done once the cervix has started to dilate and the head of the baby has descended into the pelvis.

Rupturing the membranes involves inserting a sterile device with a hook on it into the vagina (it kind of looks like a sewing hook.) The hook is used to gently pull on the amniotic sac until it breaks, thus getting labor to move along.

If the membranes are ruptured too soon, there is a risk that the umbilical cord could slip down around the baby’s head, which could potentially cut of the blood supply to the baby.

11 Exercise

Exercise is a great way to reduce pregnancy aches and pains, it can be relaxing, and it can also help to induce labor! The gravity and the pressure from exercising may be able to help your baby move further down the birth canal, thus dilating the cervix.

Some exercises to try include:

  • Deep squats: Stand with your legs a little wider than the width of your hips, and then gently plunge your bottom and your body down to the ground. This is a great way to spread the pelvis and prepare it for birth, and it also helps engage the baby deeper into the pelvis. Spend five minutes a day doing deep squats and you could induce your labor.
  • Use an exercise ball. Sit on the ball and gently roll your pelvis, making circles. This helps relax the lower back and hip muscles, and the bouncing can help to push the baby down lower in the birth canal, which can help induce labor.

Remember to ask your healthcare provider if it is safe for you to do exercises.

10 Getting Some Nookie

This is probably the most fun way to induce labor (if you and your partner are up for it.)

There are three ways that sex could help to stimulate labor:

  • An orgasm could help to stimulate your uterus, which could get contractions going and start up the labor process.
  • Sex can trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone that can help to start up contractions.
  • A man’s semen can help to soften, or ripen, the neck of your cervix, readying it to open for labor. Semen contains a high amount of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that can help to relax the tissues in your uterus.

It is safe to have sex as long as your water has not broken. Also, remember that this method may induce labor, but if it doesn’t, hey – at least you had some fun trying!

9 Stimulate the Nipples

If you want to induce your labor, try stimulating your nipples.

Rubbing or rolling your nipples helps the body release oxytocin, the chemicals that play a key role in arousal and also helps to initiate labor by causing the uterus to contract. It can make contractions longer and stronger, which can help to speed up the labor process so you can meet your little miracle sooner. It’s interesting to note that medications that are used to induce labor use the synthetic form of oxytocin, Pitocin.

There are several ways that you can effectively stimulate your nipples:

  • Roll or rub your nipples between your fingers
  • Use a breast pump to stimulate them. The higher the suction, the stronger the stimulation
  • Ask your partner to suckle on your nipples
  • Ask your partner to roll your nipples between his or her fingers

Whatever method you use, limit stimulation to just five minutes and focus on one breast at a time. Wait 15 minutes after stimulating one nipple to try the next one.

8 Acupuncture

This centuries old process has proven to be an effective way to induce labor for countless women. The process of acupuncture helps to stimulate the release of oxytocin in the body, which causes the uterus to contract, and thus gets labor started. Plus, it’s also really relaxing.

There are pressure points in the body that when pressed or stimulated can have therapeutic effects on the body. Acupuncture has been known to help with everything from bladder issues to headaches.

Make sure that the acupuncturist you see has experience with pregnant women and has the proper credentials to work on pregnant women. There's no worry about how deep the needles will go since they're really only supposed to sit under the first layer of epidermis. And if the thought of needles gives you the heebie jeebies, read on for other ways to induce labor.

7 Eat Some Spicy Grub!

Love tacos or wings? Add some extra hot sauce and you could meet your baby soon after you eat your meal! Spicy foods cause the body to release prostaglandins, which can help to trigger contractions in the uterus. If this method doesn’t work, at least you’ll enjoy some tasty food!

There used to be a rumour that foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG) also kick started labor as well. So if you can find a restaurant that still uses MSG with their spicier food items, you might have the winning combination that sends you to the hospital. In a good way of course.

And if this doesn't work for you, at least you got rid of one pregnancy craving.

6 Try to Visualize

The mind is a powerful thing. Visualize that you are going into labor, and it just may do the trick!

Sit in a quiet space and relax. Take deep breaths and imagine your uterus contracting. Picture the labor process beginning. This is kind of hypnosis has proven to be stimulate labor for many women, and it may work for you, too!

Heck, if a woman's mind can trick her body and her doctor into thinking she's pregnant, then why can't it start labor? Now's the time to gather all your Jedi mind tricks and start the ultimate induction...with your mind!

Of course if you concentrate too hard, you might give yourself a headache, so if you can't will your labor into being, take a break and go put your feet up.

5 Homeopathy

Homeopathic remedies could also help to get labor going.

Pulsatilla and caulophyllum are often used to stimulate labor. These homeopathic remedies can be used vaginally or orally. Speak with your doula, midwife or healthcare professional to find out if homeopathy is a safe way to induce labor for you. Pulsatilla is also used to turn a breech baby when taken a few times a day over a 2-3 day period.

The most common homeopathy remedies for inducing labor is Caulophyllum 12C and Cimicifuga 12C. These are taken every hour up until they produce labor or until your homeopath says to discontinue use.

Always consult your attending physician before taking any medication during your pregnancy, and never let anyone talk you into doing anything near the end of your pregnancy that you're not comfortable with to start labor.

4 Climb Some Stairs

Stair climbing can help to stimulate labor. This physical activity can help to lower your baby into the birth canal, putting pressure onto your cervix. Take bigger steps (two stairs at a time, for example,) to really increase the pressure. The extra pressure on your cervix can help to induce labor.

As the nurses will tell you once you get into the hospital, gravity will help your labor to progress. Use gravity and physical exertion to help get your labor jump started, what's better than using natural elements around you to get things moving along.

3 Eat Some Pineapple

Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that can help to ripen your cervix. Dice up some fresh pineapple and much away; not only are you possibly upping your chances of inducing labor, but you are getting an awesome dose of valuable vitamins and nutrients.

Of course the majority of bromelian is found in the core of pineapple, you know, the hard part you usually try to avoid in your fruit salad. Not to mention the fact that you would literally have to eat a large quantity of pineapple for this one to really work for you. A woman would have to be pretty desperate to do this, but hey,who are we to judge?

2 Evening Primrose Oil

Before you can skip right to using this one you should "prime" your body first.

Evening primrose oil contains a chemical that is converted to prostaglandins when placed inside the human body, and prostaglandins can help to soften the cervix and induce labor. To use evening primrose oil, break open a capsule and rub it on your cervix. Alternatively, you can insert the capsule into your vagina.

Again this is something that you should discuss with your doctor before you try it. In some cases, using evening primrose oil resulted in a number of complications at birth, like prolonged rupturing of membranes, an augmentation in the natural oxytocin levels,  slowing and in some cases stopping labor resulting in a vacuum extraction.

1 Castor Oil

This is a highly controversial labor induction technique, but it has been proven to aid inducing labor.

Castor oil is a strong laxative. After ingesting, it can cause intense intestinal cramping. Because the intestines are located near the uterus, severe cramping in the intestines may stimulate contractions in the uterus, thus getting labor to start.

Use this product with caution, over usage of this product can result in diarrhea and dehydration. Even if your friend took it and her birth was calm and serene, that doesn't mean it will be the same for you.

Before you ever decide to do any of these things, talk it over with your doctor and make sure they know your intentions. No one wants to be pregnant for 42 weeks, but going natural can be rewarding too!


Resources: What to Expect, Health Line, BabyCenterUK, WebMD

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