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As the 40-week mark approaches, every expectant mother prepares herself physically and emotionally to go into labour. That is the perfect-world scenario. But, not all mothers go into labour the way it is expected to happen. Every woman will go through a different set of medical issues. Some might need to wait it out, while some might need assistance to induce labour. While the call is taken at the moment, and your doctor is the best person to help you through, knowledge about how labour can be induced using simple tips won’t hurt. In this post, we will share some natural and simple methods to induce labour. Having said that, we strongly recommend that you discuss them with your midwife before you try them.
Waiting Eagerly for Your Baby’s Arrival?
There are many instances in which labour does not start on its own. For example, if the mother suffers from certain medical problems, natural labour can be delayed. This extended pregnancy can be risky for both the mother and the baby, especially in case of the following complications:
When you do not experience contractions, in spite of your amniotic sac breaking, inducing labour might become necessary. The contractions that occur in the uterus indicate that the womb is getting ready for birthing by dilating the cervix while the lack of contractions means that this preparation is incomplete.
How to Induce Labour
A majority of women go into labour within 24 hours of their water breaking, but if your labour hasn’t started even after this incident, you and your baby may face a risk of infection. In such cases, doctors may decide to induce labour.
However, if you want to avoid medication, you can also try the following methods. Let us explore some ways to induce labour.
Ways to Induce Labour
Walking is probably the simplest way of inducing labour and does not take too much effort or preparation. It helps to push the baby lower into the pelvic area as gravity works its effect. The baby applies pressure on the pelvis, and this leads to the priming of the cervix for labour. Start walking if your water has broken, but labour has not begun. Even if you already have had contractions, walking would also help during the labour.
Now that seems like an impossible one, doesn’t it? Especially when you are more than 40 weeks pregnant, sex could be the last thing on your mind and your partner’s too. However, male sperms contain a hormone named prostaglandin which helps to dilate and thin the cervix, thus priming it for delivery.
This natural exercise will also help you to let off some steam and reduce stress. There simply could not be a more pleasurable and zero-cost method of inducing labour. Remember to check with your doctor before you use this method as it should be avoided in high-risk pregnancies.
3. Evening Primrose Oil
This multi-purpose herb oil is known to help the cervix to dilate, prepping it for labour. Evening primrose oil is available in capsule form which can be consumed orally or used internally. The oil can be applied to the cervical area during the last few weeks of pregnancy. Of course, before application or oral ingestion, you should consult the good doctor and receive the green light. This method is also not advisable in high-risk pregnancies
4. Castor Oil
Castor oil is a well-known laxative, albeit not a very tasty one at that. For generations, midwives and grandmothers have recommended its use when there is a delay in labour. The laxative stimulates the bowels and causes irritation in the uterus, which could cause contractions. Although it is one of the popular and commonly suggested tips for natural labour, if at all it should be taken, it should be strictly under your doctor’s supervision. Therefore, check with the doctor about the quantity of castor oil you should consume, as you would want to avoid diarrhoea at this stage.
5. Spicy Food
Like castor oil, spicy food can irritate the bowels and lead to contractions in the uterus. Be careful with the quantity, though, as too much can bring on a lot of heartburn, and an upset stomach is the last thing you would want while waiting to deliver.
This age-old alternative method is not extensively practised in India. Therefore, you might have to check with your midwife/OB-GYN for trustable references. This method is known to be an effective technique to naturally induce labour. It required the use of needles for activating specific organs of the body through various points on the hands and feet.
Certain points on the body when stimulated with the help of acupuncture needles, could stimulate uterine activity and help the baby on its way to the world. Many mothers-to-be and practitioners of this method endorse its effectiveness as it has no known side effects. However, you must consult your doctor to know if you could go for it.
This is another technique that relies on activating various points on the body, but unlike acupuncture, this method requires to put pressure on the points using fingers instead of needles. Two pressure points, the webbing between the index finger and thumb and the point above the ankle bone on the inside of the leg are known to induce labour the natural way. Although this method is not proven, there’s no harm in trying it if your doctor allows it.
8. Visualisation Exercises
Visualise yourself getting into labour and delivering a baby. You can record yourself talking about the baby preparing to come out and moving down. Just imagining it in your head might relax you and prepare you for the big day.
9. Nipple Stimulation
The hormone, oxytocin, brings on contractions, and this can be achieved by stimulating the nipples for a few hours of the day. You can massage or twist the nipples and hope that labour is induced. Please check with your doctor if you are doing it the right way. Remember, it could also cause fairly strong uterine contractions that have the potential to bring down the fetal heart rate. Therefore, consult the doctor and use your discretion.
Studies have shown that a massage can help your body release oxytocin, the hormone that brings on contractions necessary to induce labour. Amongst all other methods to bring on labour naturally, massage is a preferred one.
This is because, amongst other things, it helps you to relax a lot and brings you close to labour. It is all about bringing yourself to a state of relaxation so that the necessary hormones are released, and labour is induced naturally.
Bananas are rich in potassium and are crucial for muscle contractions. So, if you are low on potassium, your labour could be delayed. If you eat bananas during the last few weeks of pregnancy, the chances of getting into labour naturally are high. However, moderation is recommended while eating bananas. Consult your doctor or dietitian before you include bananas in your diet. We recommend you take potassium supplements only if your doctor advises.
12. Exercise Ball
The exercise ball helps speed up the dilation and move the baby towards the birth canal and is highly recommended by midwives.
Appropriate exercises can move the baby lower into the pelvis and get into the right position to announce its entry into the world. Having said that, you must ensure you have someone to support you when exercising as it could get difficult for you to move swiftly and maintain balance right before delivery.
Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain which, when taken fresh and raw, has the potential to soften the cervix and bring on labour. But, the quantity to be consumed is actually a lot for uterine contractions. Nonetheless, it can be tried to begin contractions.
14. Membrane Stripping
There is no medical procedure or medications involved in stripping of the membranes to bring about labour. The doctor uses a gloved finger to separate the amniotic sac from the cervical area. By doing so, the body releases the prostaglandin hormone, which can help you to go into labour. After membrane stripping is done, there is a possibility of water breaking, and you could go into labour immediately.
Although this method is not for inducing labour, hypnosis or hypnotherapy can help you relax before getting into labour as stress can prevent our body from producing oxytocin, which is the hormone required to start labour. Research about this method is ongoing, and you could also try it out yourself by purchasing a few self-hypnosis CDs to keep your mind off the stresses of labour.
16. Herbal Remedies
There are two herbal remedies that are said to bring on labour – blue cohosh and black cohosh. However, these are also linked to strokes and heart problems to the baby. It is necessary to consult with the doctor if you plan to use them.
17. Raspberry Leaf
This is another herbal treatment that is used to induce labour. This remedy, however, is not recommended during the last few days of pregnancy. Ingesting raspberry leaf for delayed labour could cause intense contractions and harm the baby. You can start drinking raspberry leaf tea from around the 32nd week of your pregnancy as the tea is known to strengthen the muscles around the uterus, thus easing delivery. Check with your doctor about the right time to start this herbal remedy and the right quantity.
If you do not like the taste, you can buy raspberry leaf capsules (speak to your doctor first) and follow the instructions mentioned on the pack.
18. Homoeopathic Treatment
Although there is no evidence that homoeopathic medicines help in bringing on labour, remedies like Pulsatilla and Caulophyllum are often prescribed. Since they are not known to cause any harm to the user and generally do not have any side effects, homoeopathic remedies can be tried. However, we recommend you consult your doctor before taking any medicine, even if it is homoeopathic.
Things to Remember
There are a few things you should consider before inducing labour:
- Do not get stressed about being overdue: Up to 80% of first-time pregnancies are likely to get delayed, and only if you are beyond 42 weeks that you can call yourself overdue. Even then, it is your decision to induce labour, and the doctor cannot do it without your permission.
- Natural induction should be used as a support: Induced labour is not recommended before the 39th or 40th week and should be gentle enough not to force your body into labour unless it is a high-risk pregnancy.
- Research a bit and some more: Understand all the risks involved for you and your baby when you are taking various oils and foods to induce labour. Know which exercise suits you better, but do not overstrain yourself in any way.
- Reach out to your doctor: If you feel any rising complications or risks with any of the labour inducing methods, connect with your doctor without any delay and clarify all your doubts. Your doctor can tell you if your pregnancy is high risk and complicated so you can avoid any methods of inducing labour.
It may be necessary to induce labour if your pregnancy extends beyond 42 weeks or if your earlier deliveries have been on time. When your pregnancy extends beyond the stipulated 40 weeks, the placenta may not be able to provide the required nutrients and oxygen for your baby, and medically inducing labour may be necessary. Before going for medical methods to induce labour, you can try some natural ways that help you avoid medicines. We strongly recommend that you consult your doctor before trying any method.
Also Read: Exercises to Bring Labour Naturally