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natural ways to induce labor

When you're pregnant, you're pregnant for *almost* a full year. It is wonderful, yes. It is amazing, yes. It is a miracle, yes. But, it also can feel like a looooong time.

Diana Spalding, our Birth Editor and midwife, and the founder of Gathered Birth, explains why you may not have your beautiful bundle in your arms yet.

“I always like to tell women that if they haven't gone into labor yet, there is usually a reason for it. Maybe baby needs a little more time to cook, or their body isn't quite there yet. I think it's good to re-instill confidence that their body knows what it's doing, because it can feel so discouraging at the end, especially as you watch your due date pass by."

But if you're feeling impatient while waiting around, we totally understand! You're so close. So just for fun, we asked Dr. Shannon M. Clark, a double board certified OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist, for her best tips to try and coax your little cutie out.

Here's what she had to say about natural ways to bring on labor.


Wait until week 39 to do anything.

The most important thing for women to know is that induction before 39 weeks of gestation—unless medically indicated—is not recommended, whether via induction in the hospital or via natural methods.

Let your provider know about the methods you're trying.

If you're trying natural methods of induction at home, let your obstetrical care provider (OCP) know.

Inducing labor can take days.

No matter the method, induction of labor may take days in a woman who has never delivered before. You should not expect immediate results, nor should you get discouraged if things don't happen as expected.

Below are some ways that women try to naturally induce labor.

1. Nipple stimulation

Nipple stimulation prompts the pituitary gland to release oxytocin, the same hormone that initiates the milk let-down response with breastfeeding and can cause uterine cramping during breastfeeding. The synthetic form of oxytocin is pitocin. This drug is used in hospitals to induce or augment labor.

A woman can initiate nipple stimulation with a breast pump, or gentle rubbing or rolling of the nipple.

Nipple stimulation can be quite effective at inducing uterine contractions that may lead to the onset of labor.

2. Sexual intercourse

Sexual intercourse is oftentimes recommended by OCPs.

Semen contains prostaglandins, which can cause uterine cramping and contractions. Different forms of prostaglandins are used in the hospital setting to induce labor.

In addition, a woman's orgasm during intercourse may lead to uterine cramping or the onset of uterine contractions.

If there is a question, however, if whether or not a woman has broken her bag of water, then sex is not recommended. In addition, if there has been any bleeding or the doctor has instructed a woman to abstain from intercourse for any other reason, sexual intercourse is not recommended.

3. Exercise + patience

Taking long walks to induce labor won't hurt, but likely won't help, either. The theory behind it is that pressure of the baby's head pressing down on the cervix can stimulate the release of oxytocin and induce uterine cramping or contractions. It's important not to exhaust yourself walking in order to induce labor. Labor is exhausting enough once it starts.

Sometimes, though, when a woman presents in latent labor, or if the cervix has dilated some but the woman is not yet in active labor, going for a walk may tip the scales and cause cervical change or put her in labor.

4. Herbs + acupuncture

The use of herbs, namely evening primrose oil, by some midwives is another common practice, but there is no data that conclusively shows that it actually works. Make sure you talk to your doctor or midwife before taking anything.

There is some data to show that acupuncture can help induce labor at term, but more research is needed. If you opt to try acupuncture, find a professional who specializes in acupuncture during pregnancy.

5. Castor oil, spicy foods + enemas (at your own risk!)

Castor oil

The theory behind advising women to take castor oil is that it stimulates the intestines, causing the release of prostaglandins from the smooth muscle of the intestinal walls, which can indirectly cause the smooth muscle of the uterus to contract.

However, castor oil is not very pleasant and can have significant side effects, including nausea, diarrhea and potential dehydration. Dehydration is never good for a pregnant woman. So this one seems like a method to steer away from.

Spicy foods

Spicy foods may also cause uterine cramping or contractions, but it is not known how this works. unfortunately, there is no data that shows this works to consistently induce labor. But if you like Thai food, go for it!

Enemas

Enemas are often used not only to induce labor, but to clear the lower intestinal tract so a woman won't have a bowel movement while pushing. Enemas can stimulate the intestines much like castor oil, but without the side effects. But the side effects are quite unpleasant, so most medical professionals don't recommend you use them.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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