If your pregnancy is anything like mine were, you currently have a bowling ball sitting on your bladder, you can’t see your feet, and you’re probably in week 41 right now and fielding your umpteenth text message from your mum/sister/BFF/aunt-thrice-removed wondering if you’re in labour already. You’re looking for natural ways to induce labour and finally meet this little one!
Well, I feel you, mama! I went into labour with my first at 41 weeks 2 days (a slow labour that lasted nearly 2 days!… but that’s a story for another time). My second we had to induce at 41 weeks because, welp, we were moving from Toronto to Collingwood the week after (yep, we moved cities with a 2.5 year old and a 1 week old). And my third was a mix of water breaking and an eventual induction at 40 weeks and 6 days. I’m sure if we had one more, I’d go into labour right one time, right?!
Before continuing, I want to be clear – I am not a health professional. I have gathered these suggestions from a variety of sources. Before trying any of these methods, please consult your primary healthcare provider. Agreed? Good! Read on.
Ok, now to the good stuff – 16 natural ways to induce labour!
Like me, you’ve probably heard all the suggestions already. You’ve been told to walk, eat spicy food, vacuum (this one always comes from the older generations, right?), do squats, and of course, sneak in a roll in the hay.
In my personal experience, with two out of my three pregnancies, walking was likely what got the ball rolling in each case. But do read on for the top 10 suggestions I’ve found on natural ways to induce labour.
Although less exciting than the next suggestion, this one seemed to work for me. After a lot of walking. A lot. Walking can help draw baby further down into the pelvis with the help of gravity and the swaying of your hips. Should this not work for you, at least you get some exercise and fresh air. This alone can reduce stress, calm you, and help get things moving.
This one is contentious! And not just because the thought of a romp may not be in the forefront of your mind at 40+ weeks pregnant. While sperm does contain prostaglandins, which are hormones that can help thin and dilate the cervix, there is research that also suggests that women who continue to have sex late in pregnancy might carry their babies longer. A bit of a gamble, but might be worth a shot. 😉
See above suggestion. I’m only half joking. But really, as a standalone practice, massaging your nipples for a few hours a day can cause your body to release the hormone oxytocin, which brings on contractions. Because what else would you be doing with your time? And let this not be the only reason you try this method. Massaging your nipples can also help desensitize them in preparation for breastfeeding (but do make sure not to do this before you’re full term, just to be safe).
This one definitely requires your doctor’s approval beforehand. Also, please make sure you seek out a licensed acupuncturist. One small promising study cited by WebMD suggested that women who received three acupuncture treatments once they were full term were both more likely to go into labour on their own and less likely to require a C-section. However, research in this area is still scarce, and even proponents of acupuncture say that if baby isn’t ready to make an appearance, acupuncture alone won’t likely bring on labour.
If you’re not into needles but want to reap some of the potential benefits of acupuncture, this one may be worth a try. You can even do this one yourself (or tag your partner in to help you – especially with the feet). There are two pressure points that are said to help induce labor naturally. Try applying pressure on the webbing between your thumb and index finger, and the inside of your leg about four finger-widths above the ankle bone. As with acupuncture, speak with your doc about it beforehand.
If you’ve ever needed an excuse to get a massage, being heavily pregnant is a great one! Massage can increase your body’s level of oxytocin – a hormone that can bring on contractions. Notably, the same hormone that is released by nipple stimulation and breastfeeding (which also helps your uterus contract back to it’s pre-baby state quicker after labour). Always get your doctor’s approval before receiving a prenatal massage.
If you’ve passed 39 weeks, your primary care provider may have already suggested this method to you. It’s not pleasant, but a review of seven different studies, which was published in the National Library of Medicine, concluded that “membrane sweeping is effective in promoting a spontaneous labour and thereby reducing the need for a formal induction of labour”. What’s even better is that this review found no elevated risks to mum and baby. Safe and effective!
Food & Drink
There is seemingly an endless list of things you can consume that ought to bring on labour. I’ve scoured the internet for you to list them all and their efficacy here. But you can corroborate much of this information at What To Expect, Healthline, and Web MD.
Personally, this one didn’t work for me. That may well be because I love and eat spicy food regularly, and might have been slightly desensitized to its effects. It is thought that spice can mildly stimulate your intestines, which in itself can have the potential of bringing on contractions (and heartburn). It should be noted that this method of jump starting labour is not supported by research. But if you’re a fan of spice, why not double up on the Sriracha in the last few weeks anyway?
Similar to spicy food, but much more irritating to the bowels, castor oil is a laxative which works to stimulate your intestinal tract. That intestinal activity then triggers uterine contractions. Be careful with this one. While some small studies suggest it may be effective, consumption of castor oil is associated with other unwanted side effects like diarrhea and dehydration. And you definitely don’t want those ever, never mind so close to labour.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
The herbal tea made from the leaves of the red raspberry plant is purported to boost blood flow to the uterus, which can trigger contractions. I must admit, I did try this with my first pregnancy at about 39 weeks with no seeming success. Unfortunately, there are no rigorous studies out there to support its efficacy. Approach all herbal products with caution and always check with your doc or midwife before consuming any.
Some research found that eating dates in the last few weeks of pregnancy can increase cervical ripening and dilation at the start of labour and can also decrease the need for Pitocin (a medical induction). However, other studies did not corroborate this finding. Dates are naturally high in fiber, the increased consumption of which can cause cramping and digestive issues. It is possible that the effect of eating extra dates is not unlike the effect of eating lots of spicy foods while pregnant.
Evening Primrose Oil
Research is mixed on this method and its effects are still largely deemed to be anecdotal. So why is it still frequently recommended? That may be because evening primrose oil contains an omega-3 fatty acid called gamma linolenic acid, or GLA, a precursor to prostaglandins. Prostaglandins, also found in sperm, are hormone-like substances that help soften the cervix in preparation for birth. Hence the recommendation of sex as an effective method. (See above).
Pineapple, Eggplant, Balsamic Vinegar, etc.
The list goes on when it comes to foods that might help trigger labour. Some of these, like pineapple, eggplant, and balsamic vinegar are listed in this article as mostly hearsay. But I would be remiss to mention them, since this is supposed to me a nearly exhaustive list.
Baby Knows Best
You may be disappointed yet unsurprised to read that most of the wisdom out there advises women to allow labour begin naturally. In most cases, natural ways to induce labour are unreliable at best and can even be risky.
Our local Nottawasaga Midwives website points to OMama.com for information relating to pregnancy, birth, and the newborn. Check out this page specifically dedicated to Going Past Your Due Date. You won’t find much information there on inducing labour naturally, and there is good reason for this. In most cases, baby really does know best. Why not just sit back and enjoy these last few days of peace and quiet (and sleep)?
Before you bring your baby into this world (naturally induced or otherwise), be sure to swing over to my Newborn page to secure a newborn photography session. You’ve done all the hard work and spent 9 months making a beautiful little human – cell phone photos just won’t cut it! Let me capture your little one’s incredible, squishable newness and littleness (trust me, they grow quicker than you can imagine).
I hope you enjoyed this read and found it helpful. I wish you all the very best for your little one’s impending arrival! Have comments or questions on any of the above? Leave a comment below!