The first thing I want to throw out there is that unless medically indicated, there is no reason to induce labour before 42 weeks pregnant. That's right, a NORMAL pregnancy is anywhere from 37- 42 weeks. That being said, should you be nearing that time or it has been indicated by your care provider that inducing naturally is safe, then here are some tried and true tips to help kick start labour.
Also true, being really pregnant kinda sucks, and I bet if you're googling ways to start labour, you're probably ready to hand over that eviction notice. So, I've compiled a list of tips that I share with my labour clients. Researched from Evidence Based Birth and The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.
1. Nipple Stimulation:
Nipple stimulation has been proven to release oxytocin which not only ripens the cervix but can start and increase contractions. According to Evidence Based Birth, nipple or breast stimulation was only effective if the cervix was already "ripe," meaning the birthing person's body was already getting ready for labour. A hand held pump or electric pump would work well for nipple stimulation (15 min. per day) as well has hand expression. Interestingly enough, the study also found that nipple stimulation decreased the rate of postpartum hemorrhaging. Please note that this (and all of the induction methods mentioned below) should not be used unless you are 37+ weeks. High risk patients should discuss all natural induction methods with their care provider first.
2. Eating Dates:
Research states that eating dates daily in pregnancy may increase cervical ripening, shorten labour duration, reduce the need for Pitocin, decrease chances of going "over due," and even reduce the chance of postpartum hemorrhaging. So how many dates should you eat? 6 dates per day for at least 4 weeks before your due date. Dates are just really good for you too (minerals, vitamins, protein) and are a great energy source in pregnancy. If you're not a fan of the taste, dunk them in peanut butter or blend them up in your favourite smoothie! Find the link to the full article here.
3. Sexual Stimulation:
Now, you're either saying "go on..." or "I'd rather be induced." So I'll leave this one up to you, BUT research tells us that sexual activity can induce labour naturally for the following reasons:
a) semen: semen contains prostaglandins that can ripen the cervix (you can be medically induced using a prostaglandin gel!)
b) orgasm: an orgasm will stimulate the uterus and can start or increase contractions. Side note: a relaxed jaw equals a relaxed pelvis and cervix **orgasms generally cause us to relax our jaw**
c) oxytocin: sexual activity can release oxytocin in the body which is ultimately what contracts the uterus
The natural induction methods listed above are backed up by research (and you know how much I love FACTS). There are SO many suggestions out there but most of them are not proven to be effective when put to the test. I will add some of the other natural induction methods below that my own doula clients have used.
Bowl stimulation (castor oil)
Stretch and sweep (performed by midwife or OB)
Red raspberry leaf tea
*Please do your research if and when you decide to use a natural induction method. It is recommended that you discuss all options with your care provider first.
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