In a previous blog post, I talked about medical inductions. As a follow up, I would like to talk a little about natural induction methods. It is very common for care providers to give a mother a date and say if she hasn't gone into labor by then they will induce. This is a great time to start some natural induction techniques. The majority of natural techniques will not cause harm to mom or baby even if they don't work.
The thing about any induction is this; whether natural or medical, if that baby isn't ready to be born, it won't work. Babies come when they are ready. If you and your baby are almost ready, an induction can be a great way to kickstart a labor. If baby and mom aren't ready, an induction won't take. Many people think that being induced in a hospital puts you into labor. This just isn't true. Every day Cesareans are performed for failed inductions.
So, what are some natural methods that you can use to try and kickstart your labor? The first thing you should do before trying any of these methods is to get the all clear from your primary care provider. If they have a medical reason why you should not try any or all of these techniques, don't do it.
Sex and Nipple Stimulation
These are two of the most effective methods of natural induction. The whole point is to start a release of the hormone Oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that causes uterine contractions. It is released through skin to skin contact with a loved one, or even by cuddling with a loved pet. However, it is released in greater amounts during sex, especially during orgasm. The other great thing about having sex to induce labor is that semen contains prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help in softening the cervix. So not only can sex release oxytocin to stimulate contractions, but the semen can help to prepare the cervix.
Oxytocin is also the hormone that causes milk let down, so stimulating the nipples is a great way to get that oxytocin flowing. Nipple stimulation is best done by your partner, but can also be done by yourself, or through the use of a breast pump.
Acupuncture and Moxibustion
Acupuncture is the practice of placing very small needles at certain points along what are known as meridians. Meridians run throughout the body and are associated with different organs. Acupuncture can be used to help get contractions going and to help make the cervix more favorable.
Moxibustion is practiced by many acupuncturists, and is the practice of burning an herb at a certain point, to get similar results to acupuncture. Moxibustion can be used to help soften the cervix for delivery.
Both Acupuncture and Moxibustion have very good success rates for induction.
Massage and Acupressure
When looking to massage as a natural induction method. It is important to talk to the therapist before you book to make sure that induction massage is a service that they offer. Not all massage therapists are trained to do it.
During an induction massage, I generally do a full body massage focusing on areas of discomfort and relaxation just like any prenatal massage, however, I add in acupressure points that when accessed, help trigger uterine contraptions. I can also do just straight acupressure if that is preferred. There are several points that can be accessed to trigger uterine contractions including points at the shoulders, hands, legs and feet.
Food and Drinks
There are several foods and drinks that you can try when looking for a natural induction.
Many women swear by spicy foods and have claimed that spicy foods have helped them induce their labor. There is no scientific evidence to back up these claims, so if you want to try it, go for it.
Fresh pineapple has an enzyme called Bromelain in it that can help to soften the cervix. It is also full of great vitamins and minerals, which make for a great healthy snack.
Check out this study about the use of dates to help aid labor. While dates themselves may not help to trigger your labor, they have been shown to help improve you labor.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Red Raspberry Leaf tea helps to tone the cervix, so while it may not help to trigger your labor, it will help to prepare your body. You can also drink it while you are in labor to help make your cervix more favorable.
When considering herbs to start your labor, it is even more important to consult your care provider. You certainly won't hurt anything by eating a pineapple, but you could suffer some nasty side effects from herbal remedies. If your care provider okays the use of herbs, make sure to follow their instructions closely.
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)
Evening Primrose Oil can be taken internally or topically. It is used to help soften the cervix. EPO generally comes in capsule form and can be swallowed or placed on the cervix with the permission of your doctor or midwife.
Castor oil is a common suggestion for induction, however it is important to note that while some people have a wonderful experience using it, many others have nasty side effects such as dehydration, diarrhea, and vomiting. I would suggest using this as a last resort only after talking to your care provider, and knowing that it may make you have a miserable labor. In my opinion, I would steer clear of this one. I only put it in this post because you will come across it as a suggestion on many websites that don't discuss the risks of using it.
Black and Blue Cohosh
Black and Blue Cohosh (2 separate herbs) can be used together or singularly to help induce your labor by helping you to produce contractions and by improving the quality of your contractions. The use of black and blue cohosh should be discussed with your care provider and only used as directed.
Meet the Author
Amanda Tarver, (LMT, CEIM, PES, RMT) is a massage therapist and birth worker in the Chicago area. She is dedicated to using a combination of bodywork and education to help people live a better quality of life.