Before I even begin to write anything here, I must premise this post with my disclaimer. I am not a medical professional. This information is presented here only for educational purposes, and should not be used without consulting your physician or midwife first.
These techniques should only be considered by women who have already carried their pregnancies to full term. They are particularly useful for those who are set to be medically induced but would like to avoid that.
This list is not all inclusive. There are herbs and supplements that I am omitting from this list simply because they should not be used without direct supervision of a midwife or doctor. I've seen them in action, and they do work. However, they should be managed by someone experienced with them.
Not everything on this list will work for everyone, and not everything that works will kick in automatically.
Ultimately, if your body and your baby aren't ready to go into labor, trying to force the issue may just lead to further frustration.
As for the argument that some of these methods are "old wives tales", I call foul. Women wouldn't have been doing these things for thousands of years if they didn't work.
- Sex: Yep, the very way you entered this pregnancy could be the way out. Sex works for a couple different reasons. First, there are natural prostaglandins in semen, which work to soften and shorten the cervix. Second, it is relaxing. Third, uterine contractions are caused during an orgasm and can trigger labor. Fourth, The more you enjoy it, the more likely it is to work. Orgasms release oxytocin. Some women are more sensitive to these side effects than others. Don't be disappointed if nothing happens right away, it can take a few days for the prostaglandins to kick in (or a few tries...wink, wink).
- Evening Primrose Oil: Found at natural health stores, this supplement functions like the prostaglandins mentioned above. It can be taken orally after about 34 weeks and vaginally once you hit full term. It helps soften the cervix, but doesn't generally do much more than that.
- Eating spicy food: This is one of the least effective methods, but can make a difference if it creates intestinal cramping. One muscle being tensed leads to another...
- Driving on bumpy roads: Again, this one isn't terribly predictive, but can help settle the baby down further into your pelvis. The dropping of the baby puts more pressure on your cervix, which thins it and makes any contractions you have more effective.
- Nipple stimulation: This one works. Well. Only do this if you are committed to going into labor. Nipple stimulation produces natural oxytocin, which is the same hormone they mimic when pitocin is administered in a hospital setting. It doesn't work right away all the time and can take a while. If you start contracting, ease off the stimulation during contractions. This method can lead to over stimulation, so be cautious with it. Be sure to discuss this with your care provider.
- Red raspberry leaf tea: This tastes good and does help with toning your uterus, but I've never seen it do more than that.
- Walking, sitting on birth balls: These won't generally put you in labor, but will help prepare your body for it by keeping your joints moving and opening up your pelvis.
- Crazy curb walk: This is an exaggerated method beyond walking. Basically, you walk with one foot on the curb, the other in the gutter for as long as you can stand it, then turn around and go the other way. You look ridiculous, but this really helps open up your pelvis and drop the baby. I really encourage women who've had their membranes stripped to do this.
- Acupressure: There is a pressure point on the ankle that can stimulate contractions when used. It is approximately two finger widths above the ankle bone on the inside of the foot. Apply firm direct pressure for a minute and release.
- Castor oil: This is the last ditch effort for many women. Castor oil is a strong laxative and causes intense cramping and diarrhea. The cramping in turn can trigger contractions. It doesn't work for everyone, but universally creates discomfort. I'd advise you not to even bother trying this unless you are already dilating and having at least occasional contractions. Plan to do it first thing in the morning on a day that you have nowhere to go, and buy some wet wipes for in the bathroom....you're going to be in there a lot. There have been some studies that showed an increase in meconium with castor oil use, which can indicate stress for the baby. Consult your doctor or midwife before trying this.
- Stripping or sweeping the membranes: You need to ask your doctor or midwife to do this for you, though some will offer without being asked. Usually once you are full term, they are willing to. Essentially, the procedure involves sweeping a finger or two through the cervix and around the inside to release the sac from the lining. It irritates the area, stirs up the prostaglandins and can manually dilate the cervix a little. It isn't comfortable and feels like a very long pelvic exam. It can cause a rupture of membranes. Cramping and contractions are common immediately afterwards. To encourage a regular pattern of contractions, you should try to stay up and moving afterwards. I'd caution against having this done unless you are ready to have a baby right away, and would encourage you to only ask to have it done if your significant other (or someone else who can drive) is with you...just in case it works quickly.
- Rupturing membranes: If you are looking at a medical induction and have run out of time to try all the other techniques, you can ask if your doctor or midwife will break your water and wait to see what happens. Sometimes that is enough to kick your labor in, without other interventions. The downside to this is that once your water is broken, you can't go back. The contractions will hurt more, there is significantly more pressure, and you still may need induction or augmentation with pitocin. Plus, once your water is broken in a hospital, you are put on the 24 hour clock for delivery.
Remember to consult your physician or midwife with any questions, and good luck!
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