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.
“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.
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!)
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 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 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.