As you get closer to your due date, chances are you are feeling uncomfortable and impatient to meet your son or daughter. At the end of the third trimester it’s almost impossible to get quality sleep, your fingers have gotten puffy and you are constantly suffering from heartburn. It’s no wonder that your sense of humor is wearing thin. If your pregnancy slips past the 40-week mark, you’ll find yourself willing those contractions to start. But can you induce labor naturally?
Labor needs oxytocin and prostaglandins (hormones) to get going. Oxytocin starts contractions and prostaglandins ripen the cervix so it can dilate in preparation for your baby’s arrival. These hormones are produced naturally when the time comes, but is there anything that you can do to induce labor at home? What can you do to give nature a gentle prod in the right direction?
Remedies for Inducing Labor Naturally
Before we look at some natural suggestions for inducing labor, it’s important to say that your body usually knows when it’s the right time for baby to arrive. Due dates are not always accurate, they are a result of an educated guess and could be slightly out. Unless there is a medical reason to the contrary, simple patience is often the best remedy of all.
1. A Spoonful of Castor Oil
You might have heard this from someone older as it’s a traditional method for encouraging labor. There is an element of truth behind the theory, but it’s down to the oil’s laxative qualities. Castor oil irritates the bowels and this, in turn, can stimulate prostaglandin – hormone-like compounds in the body that can start contractions. But the oil can also cause diarrhea which is not the result you are looking for! To be on the safe side, speak with your midwife before you try inducing labor with castor oil.
2. Spicy Food
Another old favorite when you ask for ideas to bring on labor – eat a plateful of Mexican or Indian food with as much spice as you can handle. In a similar way to castor oil, spices irritate the bowels and this can start contractions. If you like spices and your tummy usually tolerates them well, there is probably no harm in tucking into a meal containing chilies. But if you never normally eat this type of food, the last stages of pregnancy is not the best time to try spices for the first time. You could find it gives you an unwelcome stomach upset.
3. Gentle Exercise
Walking around has many benefits in the last days of pregnancy. And if you like to bust a move, a few gentle dance steps around the living room won’t do any harm either. Both of these activities involve rocking and swaying of the pelvis which encourages baby downwards. Don’t go out for a walk on your own or try anything too strenuous just in case, but a little bit of exercise could be just what you need to spur things along.
4. Evening Primrose Oil
The oil extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose flower contains GLA and is taken to help with healing. If ingested during pregnancy, it can thin the cervix in preparation for labor. The oil comes in capsules that can be swallowed orally during the last 2 weeks of pregnancy, or inserted into the vagina. There haven’t been any reliable studies to back this remedy up, but many swear by evening primrose oil as a great way to induce labor naturally. It must not be taken by anyone with placenta previa so try this alternative medicine with caution.
5. Raspberry leaf tea
This herbal tea is believed to decrease labor length and get things started. The tea is simply made from the leaves of the raspberry plant. You can buy the tea ready to go from health food stores, just had boiling water. Packed with nutrients, it contains vitamins A, B, C and E, potassium and calcium. It’s a powerful herbal tea – don’t drink it in early pregnancy but save it to the last few days.
This ancient Chinese medicine practice involves the insertion of thin needles into the body at crucial points. Used in pregnancy it can gently induce labor naturally when baby is ready to arrive. Many people swear by acupuncture, and at the very least, it is relaxing.
Another Chinese remedy, this pracise works by putting pressure on critical parts of the body. Uterine stimulation can bring on labor, and acupressure can be used for this. Try tightly squeezing the web of skin between your thumb and forefinger. Also, apply pressure on your leg about 4cm above the inside ankle bone.
8. Eat dates
Dates are a sweet fruit from the date palm tree. This snack is regularly eaten in the middle east and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Packed with nutrients such as potassium, vitamin K and fiber, it’s a great sweet treat to have during pregnancy. There is some evidence that shows eating dates during the last 4 weeks of pregnancy can help with an easy delivery. Just be mindful that dates are calorific, so just eat a few a day.
It’s likely to be the last thing on your mind when you are 9 months pregnant and feeling very uncomfortable, but everyone will tell you that a roll in the sack can nudge baby along. There is some truth in this – an orgasm will release oxytocin in the body which can help start contractions. And semen contains prostaglandin hormones that will help thin the cervix in preparation for giving birth. You should not start sexual intercourse after your waters have broken, however, in case of infection.
10. Nipple massage
If you’re not in the mood for an afternoon of horizontal gymnastics, then maybe a little nipple play is in order. Nipple stimulation encourages the release of oxytocin – this is just what is needed to give the uterus some encouragement. You can massage your own nipples, or get your partner to do it for you. Another method is to try out the breast pump for a while, this might just do the trick.
11. Full body massage
Dim the lights, lie back and relax. Using a sweet-smelling oil, get your partner to massage you from top to toe. Massages are relaxing and calming, which is the best state of mind to be in at the end of your pregnancy. Oxytocin can flood your body and encourage those contractions to start. A tummy sleeping pregnancy pillow can double up as a massage pillow during pregnancy. At the very least, you and your loved one will spend some quiet, intimate moments together before your world is changed forever.
Treat yourself kindly
The last few of weeks of pregnancy can be difficult, but the end is in sight. These natural remedies to induce labor might not always do the trick, but some of them are harmless and have other benefits anyway. Be gentle with yourself, enjoy a warm bath, gentle stroll and rest as much as possible before the big event. Your body works best when it’s well rested, well nourished and calm so take steps towards this goal. It’s always a good idea to discuss any worries with your midwife or doctor.