Pregnancy lasts approximately 266 days from conception. A due date of 40 weeks from the first day of the last period is not exact. Kick counts and other tests can assess fetal well-being to see if it is safe to wait for natural labor to begin. Mothers who have a healthy pregnancy at term can gently encourage their babies to come with many natural ways to induce labor. Begin after a good night's sleep and stop if contractions last longer than 60 seconds. Drink plenty of fluids. Active labor should always be monitored by a health care professional. Since some induction methods can result in complications, consult your physician or midwife before attempting them.
Labor induction in a hospital usually involves a combination of interventions that require close medical supervision and can have serious side effects, including fetal distress and delivery by major abdominal surgery. An article published in the June 2007 "Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology," said that, for mothers who have not yet had a vaginal birth, induction of labor is one of the strongest risk factors for cesareans.
Another technique that doctors and midwives sometimes employ during prenatal visits "strips" the bag of waters away from the cervix. The procedure floods the mother's system with hormones; there is a 50 percent chance that labor will start within hours.
Gently rocking the mother's abdomen every 5 minutes may trigger labor. Sexual relations can also cause contractions. Semen contains prostaglandins, a substance that softens the cervix. Hormones released by the mother's body during sexually arousal and orgasm may stimulate labor. Nipple stimulation triggers contractions and can be performed for 5 to 10 minutes every half hour until labor is well established.
Birth may be delayed because the baby is not positioned properly. Walking, squatting and forward-leaning exercises help the baby move. Susan Klein, author of "A Book for Midwives," explains the value of pressure points. Firm stimulation on the inside of the leg, behind the shinbone and four fingers above the ankle may encourage labor. It will feel sore; hold for 30 seconds then relax.
Red raspberry leaf tea, according to Susun S. Weed, author of "Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year," contains an alkaloid that tones the uterus, making contractions more effective. Evening primrose oil contains prostaglandin-precursors that act on the cervix. The herb black cohosh is also known to thin the cervix and blue cohosh stimulates contractions. The two work synergistically. A homeopathic form of blue cohosh, or caulophyllum, may also be effective.
Laxative herbs or other substances such as prune juice or castor oil might have the ability to stimulate labor by irritating the bowel. Taken with breakfast, this method could work within 6 hours. The same effect can be obtained from a high enema.
Consult your doctor, however, before attempting any of these methods.
- "Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology", Elective induction: When? Ever?, Grobman WA, June, 2007, 50(2)
- "Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year"; Susun S. Weed, 1986
- "A Book for Midwives"; Susan Klein, 1995