Natural Ways to Induce Labor

(Photo by Meredith Westin Photography)

Mamas-to-be - it can be exhausting and frustrating to be facing week 41 of your pregnancy. Maybe you are wondering how you can encourage your body and your baby to begin labor. Natural induction methods are gentle enough that you won’t go into labor if your body is not ready but can help move things along at the end of your pregnancy. Always talk with your midwife or obstetrician before attempting to induce labor naturally. 

Here are some natural induction methods to help you and baby along:

 Acupuncture

Acupuncture is used in traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points in the body to stimulate Qi, or energy. Studies have demonstrated that acupuncture is safe to use during pregnancy and research shows that acupuncture may help obtain optimal positioning, increase cervical ripening, and even shorten the length of labors. Acupuncture is one of the wellness services offered at Blooma and it can be beneficial for mom and baby in all stages of life and pregnancy. You can book an acupuncture appointment here or by calling us at (612) 223-8064.

Dates

While it is nice to go on a date with your partner late in pregnancy (for the connection and privacy of just the two of you), we are talking about a different kind of date – the sweet dried fruit that comes from a date palm tree. Several studies have looked at the effects of eating dates late in pregnancy because the Quran contains verses claiming that dates are beneficial for pregnancy. Randomized studies have found that eating dates might ripen the cervix more, lower the need for pitocin induction or augmentation during labor, increase the likelihood of having a vaginal delivery, and decrease postpartum blood loss. Dates can be great for bringing on labor, but be sure to talk with your care provider first. Dates are high in sugar, so we wouldn’t recommend making them a large part of your pregnancy nutrition. 

 Nipple Stimulation

Stimulation of the nipples releases the hormone oxytocin, which can lead to ripening of the cervix, uterine contractions, and milk production. Nipple stimulation can be an effective tool for inducing labor naturally. Studies are varied in the methods used and lengths of time for nipple stimulation, some studies used breast pumps and others used breast massage. The studies found that women were more likely to go into labor with nipple stimulation, had lower c-section rates, and decreased risk of postpartum hemorrhage. However, there have been a few case reports of hyperstimulation of the uterus, by either causing too many contractions or contractions that are too long.

 Castor Oil

Castor oil is a vegetable oil that is produced by pressing the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant. It is an herbal remedy that has been used for hundreds of years to induce labor, but it also works as a powerful laxative. Studies found that using castor oil can be an effective tool to stimulate labor as well as ripen the cervix. However, study participants in several different studies reported nausea after ingesting castor oil.  This is a popular natural induction method I see as an RN, but most women feel pretty miserable after taking castor oil. Also, there is strong evidence that taking castor oil in early pregnancy can be harmful to the developing fetus.

 Sex

Theoretically, having sexual intercourse should help to stimulate labor because human semen contains prostaglandins, which help to soften and ripen the cervix. Also, any orgasmic stimulation can increase uterine activity (whether alone or with a partner). And it’s fun, so why not? The evidence on having sex to induce labor is mixed. Some studies found no significant difference in those advised to have sex and those who were not. However, another study found sex in late pregnancy was associated with an earlier onset of labor and decreased chance of induction. Since it is safe to have sex during pregnancy and may even relieve some stress, we think this method is worth a try. Your partners can thank us later. *It is not advised to have penetrative intercourse of any kind if your water has broken.*

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga and movement don’t necessarily induce labor, but can be beneficial for getting your body ready for labor and can even lead to a quicker delivery. Prenatal yoga poses can help your baby into the optimal position for delivery by stretching and opening the uterine and pelvic ligaments. New research has found that women who exercise during pregnancy have shorter labors and are less likely to use epidurals. Exercise during pregnancy also reduces the risk of gestational diabetes, preclampsia, and c-section. So, it's a no brainer, sign up for one of Blooma’s  yoga or barre classes today!

 The evidence has shown that these natural induction methods can associated with stimulation of labor and cervical ripening in women that are term or post-dates pregnancies. Remember to talk with your care provider before attempting to induce labor naturally. To read more about the research studies cited in this blog post, visit https://evidencebasedbirth.com.

 

Written by Beth Supple, MN, RNC-MNN

Beth is a Labor & Delivery Registered Nurse, childbirth educator, and mama of two.