If your doctor or midwife has recommended labor induction, you may want to consider asking whether it would be appropriate for you to try some natural, non-medical methods of induction before moving on to medication. There are many ways to induce labor, but none of them have been proven consistently effective, and some aren’t safe to try at home. Any method you are interested in should be discussed with your doctor or midwife, prior to attempting. Never try do-it-yourself techniques unless you are full-term and have your doctor or midwife’s approval due to the increased risk of possible serious complications.
Sexual intercourse may not necessarily induce labor, but it may be helpful in preparing your body for labor. Semen contains a small amount of the hormone prostaglandin, which is used in the synthetic form of gel or a suppository to medically induce labor in the hospital many times. Prostaglandins help ripen the cervix, making it softer and thin out (efface). On the other hand, it’s questionable whether semen actually contains enough prostaglandins to have any real affect on the cervix. Also, having an orgasm may bring on a few contractions, because they produce the hormone oxytocin (which your body produces during labor to make your uterus contract). On a side note: don’t try intercourse to speed up labor, if your water has already broken.
Walking may not bring on labor, but it uses gravity to put pressure on your cervix and encourages your baby to descend down into your pelvis, which will lead to thinning and dilation. Exercise in general is good for you, as long as it’s not strenuous and you don’t over-do it. An added benefit is it may also help contract your uterus.
Nipple stimulation can sometimes start labor. Rolling or massaging the nipple and areola produces oxytocin, which in turn causes contractions. You can do this yourself or it can be done by your partner. You can even use a breast pump to stimulate your nipples. For this method if induction, it must be done over a period of time, for approximately 15-20 minutes each hour until contractions begin (if they begin). The problem with nipple stimulation is that the contractions can be very strong, much like contractions produced from Pitocin and therefore you run the risk of stressing your baby. This method should not be done without the supervision and/or knowledge of your doctor or midwife.
Castor oil is many times used as a strong laxative. By stimulating the bowels it may also cause uterine contractions, although it will more likely cause severe diarrhea, painful cramping and may possibly lead to your baby passing meconium before or during labor. Plus, the taste is very unpleasant. Enemas also tend to have the same effect, causing bowel contractions to stimulate the uterus.
There are a number of herbs which are thought to be useful for labor induction. Some of these include: black and blue cohosh, evening primrose oil, red raspberry leaf tea, cumin tea and goldenseal. The safeness and effectiveness of these herbs remains unproven, therefore they should not be taken without the recommendation and supervision of your doctor or midwife.
Acupressure , acupuncture, bumpy car rides, certain foods (such as spicy foods, eggplant parmesan and pineapple), visualization or self-hypnosis and relaxation or stress-relief techniques are all some other methods thought to possibly induce labor.
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