One question I am often asked is: “What can I do to naturally induce labor?” This is a great question, and depending on who you ask, you could get a variety of answers (my father-in-law instructed me to eat stromboli, and claims that’s what caused my mother-in-law to go into labor!). I want to help clear up the confusion by sharing the Top Ten Natural Induction Methods, and how to use them effectively:
- Wait. Yes, you read that correctly. For the majority of moms, all you need to do to start labor is wait. Your body will naturally go into labor on its own, independent of anything you do. In America, we get a little anxious when we approach the 40 week mark, and doctors are all-too-happy to schedule a medical induction without any medical reason other than mom being “past due.” But in most other countries, women are not considered even Full-Term until they have reached 42 weeks! So of you have no health conditions that would require you to give birth by 40 weeks I highly encourage simply waiting. However, once you have reached 40 weeks, it is completely safe to try the following methods, considering you understand that these will not work unless your body is ready to go into labor.
- Sex. Most moms think that men made this one up, but it is definitely true that sexual intimacy can cause labor contractions. The reason for this is that Oxytocin, the labor hormone, is also the love hormone. So as those hormones start flowing, they may also start your labor.
- Nipple stimulation. To do this, you can use a breast pump, your own hands, your partner’s hands, or a nursing child. If using your breast pump, gently attach the pump to one breast, pumping for 15 minutes at a time, then switching to the other side. You can try both sides once every hour. You may collect some colostrum, the creamy substance that first fills your baby’s tummy before your milk completely comes in, but don’t worry: you won’t run out before baby comes! If you choose to manually stimulate your nipples, simply grasp the areola (the dark part) of your breast with your fingers and draw your fingers together towards the nipple. You may want to use coconut oil to make this a little more comfortable. If you have another child who is still nursing, you can let them nurse to their heart’s desire! The nursing toddler will not drain your breast milk supply, and it will be a wonderful way to bond with your older child while preparing for the new baby. Nipple stimulation works great because Oxytocin is released when the nipples are stimulated, which will also cause moms to go into labor. Nursing my first child is what put me into labor with our second!
- Physical movement. Walking, squatting, sitting on a labor ball, and climbing stairs are all wonderful ways to prepare your body for labor.
- Dates. Studies have shown that consuming 6 dates pre day beginning at week 37 helps moms have faster labors. Try putting them in smoothies, cookies, or eating LaraBars or RXBars if consuming them raw is too difficult for you.
- Red Raspberry Leaf Tea. This tea helps tone the uterus to prepare for labor. Consume it hot or cold beginning at 37 weeks.
- Working Through Emotional Blocks. Sometimes we do not go into labor because we have an underlying belief or fear that is holding us captive. Saying and believing things like, “I’m afraid of the pain of labor,” “I don’t know if I can be a good parent” or “I’m afraid this baby won’t love me” is enough to make us and our baby feel unsafe, and thus can inhibit labor. Try replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, like, “I was made for this!” and “I am exactly the mother this baby needs,” and “I love my baby, and my baby loves me.” Reciting positive affirmations can reverse our thinking and remove the blocks that hinder us from going into labor.
- Evening Primrose Oil. This comes in capsule form, and it is recommended to take between 500 and 2000 milligrams per day beginning at week 38.
- Accupuncture and accupressure. Accupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine technique where tiny needles are inserted into areas in the body to induce labor. There is no pain, just the ultimate relaxation session! Conversely, accupressure may be applied to specific parts of the body. A great pressure point is on the ankle, and I love to get pedicures right before my due date to try to induce labor!
- Castor oil. This has some unpleasant side effects (namely, diarrhea), but it can also be extremely effective in inducing labor as it brings cramping and contractions. Simply ingest one tablespoon of castor oil in 8 ounces of your favorite juice. If you haven’t had any cramps, contractions or diarrhea within 3 hours, follow with another dose. Save this one to be your “last resort,” and make sure you research all the risks and benefits before ingesting. It doesn’t work for everyone, but this is what put me into labor with my third baby, and I had a shocking ONE HOUR labor before meeting my sweet boy!
As with all supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife before attempting these induction methods. I wish you all the best as you prepare to meet your little one (hopefully sooner rather than later)!