In reality, there really isn’t a way to rush the process of birth. They have no idea what date it is in there, so why hold them to just one single date in your diary? Normal gestation is 37 – 42 weeks, and 85% of babies arrive after their due date. If you can, use any extra time you have to sleep and relax, I know it’s easy to say, but you’ll never regret taking that time for yourself!
So why try to bring on labour naturally? There are some situations where you may want to try everything you can to get things going. Maybe your waters have broken, or contractions have started but they just don’t seem to be getting into a pattern, or maybe you’re getting to 41/42 weeks. This can be so frustrating, and pressures from the healthcare system can start to creep in. Stay calm, breathe, you can do this.
1. Nipple/Clitoral Stimulation
Of course! Just what you want. This might sound like the last thing on your mind, but stimulation of the nipples / clitoris encourages the release of oxytocin, the hormone needed for the first, or ‘up’ stage of labour. Oxytocin is the love hormone! And to get things started, you need to be surrounded by it! Getting intimate might be the answer. And it might be the last time for a little while too, let’s face it.
The same as the above, intimacy releases that amazing oxytocin. Semen also contains natural prostaglandins, a hormone which helps relax muscles, therefore helping to ripen the cervix. If you were to have a synthetic induction of labour, prostaglandin gel is the first step. Might as well try it naturally (IF you feel like it, of course!)
NB: Sex is strongly advised against if your waters have broken as introducing anything into the vagina is an infection risk. Also, please take the advice of your midwife or obstetrician in complex pregnancies.
3. Eating Dates
This sounds like an odd one, but there’s actually a study on this. Six dates a day, in the last four weeks of pregnancy, was found to bring on labour sooner and tend to make labour shorter. This might be worth a try if you like the taste, as dates are also high in several nutrients, fibre and antioxidants. Try giving ‘recipies with dates’ a google for some ideas or pop some in a smoothie.
4. Complementary Therapies
Reflexology and aromatherapy are great ones to try. If anything they’re relaxing, just what you need at this late stage of pregnancy, and just what you need to get this lovely oxytocin flowing. A bath with lavender is so relaxing, and has so many health benefits. And if you haven’t tried reflexology, it’s really incredible, and some therapists claim to have a really high rate of induction! Very interesting…
Absolutely the best medicine. Laughter is actually used as a therapy all across the world for reducing stress, relieving pain and improving immunity. Laughter increases endorphins, our bodies natural stress and pain relieving hormones. So laugh that baby out! Watch your favourite comedy film / series / comedian. Get your significant other entertaining you, get your best friend round, whatever works for you.
6. Aloe Vera Juice / Spicy foods
This is an interesting one! But if you like either then it might be worth a shot. These work by irritating your digestive tract and therefore bringing on surges. The problem with this is that it really has to be enough to irritate your bowel a lot. So if you’re good at handling spicy food, you’re going to need the strongest the local curry house has got.
I’d put this in the same category as pineapple. It’s not just an old-wives tale, Pineapple contains an enzyme which can affect surges, but you’d actually have to eat 8-10 fresh pineapples including the core!
7. Gentle Exercises / Using a Pilates Ball
If you haven’t got a pilates / birthing ball, this is a really great (and reasonably cheap) item to have during the later stages of pregnancy and labour. It helps position your body nicely, improving your posture and position of the baby in the uterus. There are many yoga positions and techniques for using a birthing ball, but it’s also a great way to open up the pelvis and get baby engaged.
Sitting on the ball with your feet on the floor and your legs at a 90 degree angle, do some slow rocking of the pelvis side to side, and rotations round and round. Remember to take it slow, it needs to be relaxed and safe for your muscles (and your balance!) If you’ve had any muscular problems, then always ask for guidance from a physiotherapist or someone specialising in pregnancy yoga. Or have a quick search to see if there’s a class near you! I love this advice from Spinning Babies.
You could also try the Miles Circuit for positioning, too.
If you love meditation this might be for you! Visualising your body opening while using a calming breathing technique can be really encouraging.
Try getting yourself into a comfortable laying or sitting position. Use a breathing technique that suits you. A good one for increasing oxytocin and relaxation is ensuring your out-breath is longer than your in-breath (on the slow count 4:7 for example). Close your eyes, and as you breathe, visualise your body opening, and you meeting you baby calmly. You could accompany this with gentle music, aromatherapy, a cosy darkened room, whatever relaxes you.
9. Increasing Oxytocin
It all comes back to that lovely hormone, but what else (apart from a kiss and a cuddle) can get things going? Oxytocin is a shy hormone. It likes low lights, quiet and small spaces. If things are overwhelming you, then find your own space to chill and shut it out. Look at photos and reminisce about an amazing occasion or romantic holiday. Watch a romantic film (or wedding video!) Get snuggled up with your pet. Eat your favourite meal with your favourite person. It’s all about doing what makes you feel safe and happy.
All methods above are to attempt gently and are in no way a substitute for medical induction. Please ask the advice of your midwife or obstetrician if these methods are suitable for you. If you have any concerns about your baby’s movements, please contact your midwife straight away.