By the time you reach the nine-month mark, you’re ready for that baby to be born. The problem is that the baby might not be ready to be born – and this can make for a frustrating waiting game. While your baby is comfortably housed, fed and hydrated in your warm, spa-like womb (albeit, a little cramped), you are stuck with a distended belly, swollen ankles, a cumbersome gait and the feeling that a bowling ball has lodged itself against your pubic bone.
While medically inducing a labor is not recommended unless absolutely necessary (know that medically induced labors are much more likely to result in a cesarean section), there are some natural ways to induce contractions if you’re willing to get creative.
5 Popular Means to Naturally Inducing Your Labor
- Having sex. Let’s start out with a bang, shall we? Many women swear by the fact that sex – more like the orgasms produced by sex – can help stimulate pregnancy. Orgasms are probably the quintessential ingredient here. In addition to producing pleasure hormones – just like the hormones produced at the start of labor, believe it or not – strong orgasms cause the uterine muscles to contract. If you’re on the verge of labor, this can sort of catalyze the real deal so you continue contracting for non-sexual purposes. This seems like a no-brainer. If it works, fantastic – mission accomplished. If it doesn’t, you are giving yourself more memories to cling to when you enter the post-natal no-sex and/or too-tired-for-sex phase of newborn-hood.
- Castor oil, spicy foods, stomach upset. The whole castor oil (think explosive diarrhea) and spicy foods theories are really about gastrointestinal upset. When your stomach is upset and the lining gets irritated, it cramps. This cramping and upset can in turn inspire your uterus to start cramping in upheaval as well. While plenty of women have sworn by this method, we advise you to be cautious. First, if you aren’t close to starting labor anyway (it’s very common for babies to wait 42 weeks before deciding to emerge), you’ve suffered for nothing. If you are close, consider that labor can be uncomfortable enough without leading up to it with an additional night/day spent miserably cramping in the bathroom. Plus, anytime you have diarrhea, you risk being dehydrated, and that’s not a good way to start labor either.
- Nipple stimulation. There are plenty of reasons why we recommend breastfeeding for new moms; the most important are baby’s nutrition and the bonding experience. A close second, though, is the fact that nipple stimulation facilitates the contraction of uterine muscles. After the baby is born, those contractions assist your body in the shedding of lochia and help you to regain uterine tone. Before the baby is born, nipple stimulation can still cause your uterus to contract, and those contractions may kick start your labor. We recommend tying this one into Number 1 above, so you get two induction techniques for the price of one. Otherwise, many women go ahead and start using their breast pump – – good practice for later on.
- Take a nice long walk. Walking may not sound all that appealing, but it has its advantages at this stage of the game. At the very least, it helps to increase circulation, which can reduce swelling in the extremities and helps to build stamina and endurance for the inevitable labor and delivery. The added physical exertion may also help you to sleep better at night. Best case scenario is that all that walking and swaying of the hips will cause the baby’s head to engage further into the birth canal, causing the cervix to dilate.
- Eat fresh pineapple. Fresh pineapple (not canned) contains a proteolytic enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain can ripen the cervix, which facilitates its dilation. If you aren’t a fan of eating straight pineapple, consider throwing lots of fresh pineapple slices into your smoothie to get your bromelain dose that way.
Be wary of supplements, like evening primrose oil, black cohosh, Squaw vine and Don Quai and others, that are said to induce labor. To-date, we don’t have much evidence-based results pertaining to these supplements and their effect on mother and baby’s health.
Always check with your doctor or midwife before using natural means of inducing your labor so you don’t do anything to jeopardize your well-being.