Has your due date come and gone? If so, you’re probably itching to give your body a little nudge to bring on labor and push that sweet little bundle of yours out into this world. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. As an acupuncturist specializing in fertility and pregnancy, I meet a lot of women who want my help to naturally jump start labor. Though there’s no surefire to coax that bun out of the oven (aside from being induced by a doctor, and that even can fail), there are things you can do to try and speed up the process -- as long as your body and baby are ready to cooperate, that is. You just need to make sure that you are past your due date or in the safe zone for induction.
Here are 6 ways to induce labor naturally. As always, consult with your prenatal care provider and make sure you’ve got his or her okay.
1. Acupuncture & acupressure: I always tell my patient that the most important part of the labor induction is a ripe cervix -- meaning, it is soft and beginning to open. Then, and only then, is your body ready to be induced. If it isn’t ready, trying to naturally (or even chemically) induce labor can be challenging and have negative implications. Acupuncture and acupressure, which you can start doing at 37 weeks, can help move things along by assisting in cervical ripening, which means softening and opening the cervix. The best points for cervical ripening are the Spleen 6 (also known as SanYinJiao) and the Large Intestine 4 (also known as HeGu). Both practices have been recommended by midwives for cervical ripening and labor induction, and Debra Betts, a renown midwife whom I’ve had the luxury of studying with, put together this resource. For more information and personalized advice, see an acupuncturist. He or she will be able to guide you.
2. Evening Primrose Oil. Many midwives in the United States commonly prescribe EPO to ripen the cervix in a non pharmacological way (McFarlin, Gibson, O'Rear, & Harman 1999). Though I find it is way too estrogenic and hormonally disruptive, my 12 years of clinical experience do confirm that taking EPO is an effective way to prepare for labor and delivery.
3. Sex & orgasms: Sex can also help induce labor and prepare your body for labor and delivery in many ways. First, having sex throughout your pregnancy is a great way to keep healthy bloodflow to your pelvic area. Orgasms stimulate the uterus into action and trigger the release of oxytocin, which can also jump start labor (that only happens when the cervix is ripened and your body is ready to go, so don’t worry. Sex during pregnancy otherwise do not induce labor!). Finally, semen contains a high concentration of prostaglandins, which help soften the cervix.
4. Nipple stimulation: In addition to the female orgasm, nipple stimulation causes the release of oxytocin -- the labor hormone -- and can thus get labor started.
5. Dates: According to a recent study, “the consumption of date fruit in the last 4 weeks before labour significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour, and produced a more favourable, but non-significant, delivery outcome.” So, try eating 6 dates a day starting at week 36 of your pregnancy, and see how that helps.
6. Raspberry Leaf Tea: This tea is a known uterine tonic that can cause contractions. For that reason, I never recommend drinking it in pregnancy outside of the last 3 weeks. However, having a cup of red raspberry leaf tea on a daily basis from week 37 or 38 on can help move along your labor. One study also showed that women who drink raspberry leaf tea towards their due date have shorter second phases of labor compared to those who didn’t drink the tea.
Keep in mind that everyone is different, and every pregnancy is different. In other words, all of these modalities could work, but all of them could also fail. At the end of the day, baby will come when he or she is ready. We can do things to try and speed up the process, but forcefully inducing labor is something I don’t recommend.