Although medical inductions, such as inductions involving the use of pitocin, are common practice in American maternity care, it may prove beneficial to try a more natural approach before resorting to pharmaceutical methods of induction.
Walking & Other Exercise
Walking is a simple way to help encourage labor. Walking helps position the baby correctly, as well as tone the muscles in the hip and uterine area in preparation for labor. Walking may also help stimulate more contractions in the woman who is near due, which in turn, work on dilation (openness) and effacement (thinness) of the cervix. Other exercises that involve swaying and swinging of the hips may help as well. Exercises such as deep squats may be beneficial for dilation and effacement.
Unprotected sex may help promote softening of the cervix. A man’s semen contains natural prostaglandins, which play a key role in the softening of the cervical tissue. However, if you are not in a committed, monogamous relationship and STD’s may be a concern, you should refrain from unprotected sex in order to avoid exposing your baby to diseases that may harm him or her.
Nipple stimulation promotes the excretion of the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for contractions. By stimulating the nipples, you may be able to induce contractions which may help promote dilation and effacement of the cervix. However, you want to avoid over stimulation of the uterus, and can do so by rolling the nipples between the thumb and forefingers for two minutes, resting for three minutes and then repeating for twenty minutes. Rolling and resting times may be increased or decreased as needed. You may also consider using a breast pump to provide nipple stimulation, using the rolling resting pattern.
A Bumpy Car Ride
Although it may seem like an old wive’s tale, going on a bumpy ride may be beneficial. If the baby is not in the optimal position, relaxing and letting the bumps move you (but not throw you), may help encourage the baby to rotate.
Castor oil, not to be confused with castrol oil intended for vehicles, has been used for many years to help induce labor. Castor oil acts as a laxative and causes the intestines to contract. These intestinal contractions may stimulate the uterus to do the same. There is some controversy regarding the use of castor oil and it’s safety for both the mother and baby.
Black & Blue Cohosh
Black and blue cohosh are herbs used, often combined with each other, to induce labor and regulate contractions. Black and blue cohosh are thought to be fairly effective, however, they are not without risks and have been associated with health issues for both the mother and baby after birth.
Acupressure has been used for centuries to help induce labor in at-term pregnant women. It is believed that certain pressure points are directly related with labor progression and contractions. Acupressure can be performed by a professional, or you may perform it yourself, however, it is generally easier, and more effective, if you find a partner to help!
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years and has high success rates when it comes to helping encourage labor to begin. Although acupuncture may seem frightening to someone who is afraid of needles, it may be worth a shot since most women report that the needles used are so fine they are barely noticeable.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil contains natural prostaglandins, which may help to soften and prepare the cervix for labor. Evening primrose oil may be taken orally, or inserted vaginally, usually beginning at 36 weeks. When taking evening primrose oil vaginally, it is best to do so before bed, as doing it during the day when you are active may become messy or require you to wear a pad.
Red Raspberry Leaf
Red raspberry leaf is found in capsule form, but is more commonly available in tea form, but should not be confused with raspberry tea. Red raspberry leaf is a uterine tonic which helps promote uterine toning. Red raspberry leaf is usually started anytime after the first trimester and continued until birth. There is evidence that suggests red raspberry leaf may have added breastfeeding benefits after birth as well.
Sweeping the Membranes
A “sweeping” of the membranes involves your caregiver gently separating your bag of waters from the cervix during a vaginal exam. For this to be done, you must be at least slightly dilated in order to provide adequate access to separate the bag of waters. A sweeping of the membranes may encourage labor shortly after it is performed.
“Naturally Inducing Labour – Natural Induction Methods.” Pregnancy, Birth & Baby At BellyBelly. The Best Pregnancy, Birth & Baby Articles Online! Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
Vanderlaan, Jennifer. “Natural Ways to Induce Labor.” Empowering Each Woman Giving Birth Naturally. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
“Natural Induction.” Life Passages Childbirth Consulting Services. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.