Early in pregnancy I decided I wanted to attempt natural/unmedicated labor and birth. As a physical therapist, I’m well aware of the complications that can occur with an epidural; I knew I did not want a needle going anywhere near my spine if I could avoid it. I thought it was so weird that as a pregnant woman I was cautioned against different medications and their harmful effect on my unborn child, and yet I was going to pump my body full of them just before she was born? No, thanks. Last, and this may be the weirdest reason, I wanted to feel the work of labor. I wanted to be able to move around, squat, walk, and do whatever came naturally to me as I pushed my little girl into the world. (Side note: if you’re interested in unmedicated labor/birth, look into Bradley Method birth classes!) All that said, in our birth class we learned that one of the biggest causes of needing a c-section is being induced, so I wanted to avoid induction if possible.
As 40 weeks came closer and closer, and my OB started discussing the need to plan induction if my little one decided to stay put, I began researching any and all methods to get things moving. I read everything I could get my hands on, asked my Bradley Method class teacher, asked friends… so here are the tip for naturally inducing labor I found and whether they were helpful for me. Readers beware: DO NOT TRY TO INDUCE LABOR UNTIL YOU ARE FULL TERM! Additionally, I am definitely not a medical doctor — please discuss any of these you might be interested in attempting with your medical professional of choice!
Certain areas on your body can cause increased contractions or can cause labor to start. Specifically, there’s a point between your ankle bone (malleolus) and your achilles tendon thought to promote labor and ease labor pain. I highly recommend a good foot massage in those last weeks of pregnancy for many reasons, but for me, the calf massage didn’t seem to help actually induce labor. However, my husband DID massage my low back and hips during labor, which helped an incredible amount during contractions.
Although I was unsure about using acupuncture to induce labor, I had it performed twice in the week leading up to going into labor, once 6 days before my due date and once the day before my due date. As I previously mentioned, the point near your achilles tendon is one spot thought to promote labor; there are multiple other points where needles can be placed to increase uterine contractions, cause relaxation, etc. A systematic review of acupuncture found that it did increase cervical ripening scores and shorten labor, but did not have an effect on cesarean rate. Then again, I did acupuncture and had a 52 hour labor, so take from that what you will…
It’s thought that walking helps to bring the baby head-down for labor, and could also stimulate the cervix so oxytocin is released — that’s the natural form of pitocin, and what causes contractions to progress. I commented many times during my last few weeks of pregnancy that I was determined to “walk my baby out!” Walking also helped prepare me for the work of labor, and actually progress labor. I walked 3-4 miles daily during pregnancy to keep myself active and strong (along with kegels, squats, pelvic tilts, and other exercise). During labor, while I was walking, my contractions lengthened and the time between them shortened. I’ll add that climbing stairs helped in this way, too!
The full squat position is the best position to open the pelvis and help engage the baby’s head in the pelvis, both of which need to happen for baby to come out! For me, squatting was also one of the most comfortable positions to labor in.
Semen contains prostaglandins, which are what your OB would likely use to soften your cervix to induce labor anyway. Orgasm, as well as nipple stimulation, can cause oxytocin release and uterine contractions. Get to it!
Using a breast pump can stimulate the release of oxytocin and cause uterine contractions, as well. And you get the added benefit of starting to build your supply even before baby is here!
These didn’t seem to have an effect for me, but I have read that eating spicy foods and pineapple may help. For me they just made already terrible heartburn even worse.
Raspberry leaf tea is thought to help strengthen the muscles of your uterus for more effective contractions. Evening primrose oil is supposed to help thin and dilate the cervix (think: the numbers your OB tells you when he or she examines you — dilation, effacement, station). I do NOT recommend taking black cohosh; if you do a google search you’ll see there have been many cases of complications due to this herb.
Remember that a due date is just an estimate. The average length of pregnancy for a first-time mom is 41 weeks 1 day. Baby will be here before you know it, and you might miss the intimacy and closeness you feel with him or her once you give birth.