Natural Labor Induction: Does it really work?
It does seem as though everyone is in a hurry these days because they are just tired of being pregnant. Pressure seems to build up from all angles. Some from well-meaning relatives and friends calling every day wondering why you have not had that baby yet, to your obstetrician wanting to set an induction date. It seems the estimated due date is like an expiration date similar to that of spoiled food when in fact the baby and mommy can be just fine. Some mothers end up feeling as though something is wrong with them prohibiting labor to start when the fact is that they may be just off on the actual (EDD) estimated due date. The anxiety often causes women to look for anything natural to push them into labor.
But do these natural methods really work to stimulate labor? Most Mothers often complain that “Those natural things don’t work, I know because I tried them all!” When in fact your chances are increased if you understand what is happening with your body and what each method is doing. It may be helpful to ask your midwife or a naturopath as they are experienced in helping mothers who are well past the EDD to stimulate labor naturally. It may seem simple to just use ‘Dr. Google’ to find a plan but each woman is not the same; her birth history, her health and baby’s health can all be different. In fact the reasons natural methods may not work vary for each individual, and it is always important to understand that if you or your baby’s health is in question it is best to listen to your care provider. It can be concerning and definitely troubling for a doctor or a midwife when a mother takes matters into her own hands and try’s a method that results in unintended consequences.
Did you know that the average first time mother if left alone will go 10 days past her EDD. In fact it is not uncommon in a midwife’s practice for moms to go 42 weeks while you may find that most doctors induce at 41 weeks. If you are past 40 weeks you should ask how effaced (thinned) and dilated (open) your cervix is. Having a thinned effaced cervix of 50 percent or more with at least 2 centimeters of dilation before trying any natural method will increase your chances of stimulating your labor, otherwise you may just have hours of annoying contractions that peter out after a while. The following is a breakdown of some natural methods used by many, some to ripen the cervix while others cause contractions:
Supplements – Often recommend by midwives such as evening primrose capsules, which are essential fatty acids, are used during the last few weeks of pregnancy if your cervix is not effacing and thinning much on its own. These are also known as prostaglandin precursors giving your body what it needs to make its own hormone.
Sexual Intercourse – This can help in a few ways, first by the stimulation and orgasm that causes contractions but secondly the semen has prostaglandins that may help ripen and thin the cervix. Try adding a massage as this may help reduce increased anxiety of not being in labor. In fact there is wisdom shared by a famous midwife “The energy that gets the baby in is the energy that gets the baby out.” Ina May Gaskin, Spiritual Midwifery.
Stripping Membranes – This is also called membrane sweeping and is when your care-provider puts their fingers into your cervix during a pelvic exam to gently separate the bag of water from the cervix. This sweep can cause the release of hormones that soften the cervix and stimulate the uterus to start contracting. Caution should be taken not to do this before your due date or if you are strep B positive. Keep in mind that too rough an exam may cause your amniotic sack to break so discuss this with your care-provider before proceeding.
Botanical Herbs - Some herbs help ripen the cervix while others stimulate contractions. The most commonly used among midwives are blue cohosh and black cohosh. It is best to thin the cervix first in advance, follow this with using uterine stimulant herbs. Consult your care provider about herbal doses to stimulate labor as this is imperative to being careful so as not to cause harm.
Nipple Stimulation – The triggering effect of prolonged stimulation prompts the pituitary gland to release the hormone oxytocin leading to contractions. This includes nipple stimulation during love-making which increases your chances of stimulating labor to set in. Using a breast pump is another way to stimulate your nipples, however causing contractions to close together or having them last real long can be a concern.
Castor Oil – Is a laxative that acts as a stimulant to the bowels causing diarrhea, which in-turn irritates the uterus causing it to contract. Please note this should not be taken before 40 weeks nor should it be taken the night before a scheduled induction with a hospital birth. How and when you take it will determine your success of stimulating labor. If too small a dose is taken then it usually just cleans out the bowels causing minimal contractions that eventually go away. If your bowels are full it will increase the amount of contractions to help stimulate a labor to continue, therefore eating a large meal hours prior to taking it is suggested. For a more thorough understanding you can refer to the article – Stimulating Labor with Castor Oil
While some mothers have tried everything even with the advice of their care-providers with no success of labor. It may be important to re-examine a chance that the EDD may be wrong, or a maternal hormone imbalance is the problem. In the latter case if you are 42 weeks with hormone issues you may need to seek help from an obstetrician for a hospital induction. Otherwise with healthy pregnancies mothers should re-examine their due date and consider a visit to a perinatologist to check fetal well-being.
Charlotte Sanchez ( CPM) is a Certified Professional Midwife and Childbirth Educator
for over 20 years.