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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. So if you are wanting to try to induce your labor at home, we totally feel you, mama.

The good news is that there are some ways that you can try to start to get labor going. But first, there are some important things you need to know.

First, if labor hasn't started yet, there's probably a good reason for it. As we share in The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama, we believe that babies send a signal of sorts when they are done cooking and ready to be born, so it's possible that your baby just wants to bake a bit longer. Or maybe your body isn't quite ready yet. It can feel so discouraging at the end, especially as you watch your due date pass by, but be confident that your body knows what it's doing!

Dr. Shannon M. Clark, a double board certified OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist, advises that people wait until week 39 before starting any at-home induction techniques. Induction before 39 weeks of gestation—unless medically indicated—is not recommended, whether via induction in the hospital or via natural methods.

If you're trying natural ways of inducing labor at home, let your obstetric care provider know. They may have important suggestions or precautions based on your personal medical history.

Last thing: Inducing labor can take days. No matter the method, induction of labor can take a long time, especially if this is your first time laboring. You should not expect immediate results, nor should you get discouraged if things don't happen as expected.

Okay, so you've checked in with your provider and gotten the green light. Now, it's time to start! But which method of natural induction will you choose?


Here are nine 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.

Gently massaging your nipples can may effectively start labor—and make it happen faster. One small study found that it actually increased the odds of having a vaginal birth. It's important to note that since the studies have been small, we can't say for certain whether it is safe and effective (the concern is that it could generate too many contractions, which could cause fetal stress).

There are a variety of ways to do nipple stimulation, including with your breast pump or by gently rubbing or rolling the nipple with your fingers. Check in with your provider to learn their recommended method if you are interested.

2. Sexual intercourse

Sexual intercourse is often recommended by providers to start labor naturally.

If your partner produces semen, it could help get labor started since 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.

One important caveat: sex is not recommended if there's any chance your water might have already broken. In addition, if there has been any bleeding or your doctor has instructed you to abstain from intercourse for any other reason, sexual intercourse is not recommended.

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When you're just about to become a mama, you need all the nurturing you can get.


3. Exercise

Taking long walks to induce labor won't hurt (unless you have a medical reason not to, of course). The theory is that the weight of the baby's head pressing down on the cervix can stimulate the release of oxytocin and induce uterine cramping or contractions. Moving can also help the baby get into a better position for birth.

It's important not to exhaust yourself walking in order to induce labor. Labor is exhausting enough once it starts! Make sure you stay hydrated, rest when you get tired and bring your phone; you don't want to be far from home, alone and suddenly in labor.

Sometimes if the cervix has dilated some but you are not yet in active labor, going for a walk may tip the scales and cause cervical change or kickstart labor.

4. Herbs

A variety of herbs and teas are thought to potentially stimulate labor. These include:

Clary sage oil: While it should not be used earlier in pregnancy, once you're at full term, clary sage can work its uterine magic. Herbal practitioners have used it for ages to induce contractions and improve the effectiveness of contractions in labor. However, it has never been clinically evaluated for this use, so you should always consult your practitioner before trying a new remedy.

Evening primrose oil: There's no evidence to support that it works, but it also has not been found to be harmful.

Red raspberry leaf tea: There's no evidence to support that it works, but it also has not been found to be harmful.

Be aware that a couple of commonly recommended herbs for stimulating labor are not proven safe: Blue and black cohosh and comfrey root have no evidence to support that they work, and they may be dangerous for the baby.

5. Acupuncture

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.

6. Chiropractic

Some chiropractors use a labor induction technique late in pregnancy that combines chiropractic adjustments that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (your relaxation response) and release the ligaments around the uterus and pelvis. As with acupuncture, it's important to find a provider who specializes in caring for pregnant people.

7. 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, unless your provider recommends it and you are okay to try it.

8. 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 eating spicy food works to consistently induce labor. But if you like spicy food, go for it!

9. Enemas

Enemas can be used to induce labor. 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.

Hang in there, mama. These last days of pregnancy are tough. But your baby will come, and we promise that it will be so worth the wait.

Some of the content of this article is excerpted from The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama.

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An expectant mama's to-do list can feel endless… but here's the good news: A lot of those tasks are actually really exciting. Planning your baby registry is especially thrilling: You get a say in what gifts friends and family members will buy for your new addition!

But it can also feel a bit overwhelming to make sense of all the gear on the market. That's why we suggest mentally dividing your registry into two categories: items you need to prepare for your baby's arrival and items that sure would be nice to have.

Here at Motherly, our editors have dozens of kids and years of parenting experience among us, so we know our way around the essentials. We also know how mama-friendly the registry-building experience is with Target, especially thanks to their recently upgraded registry and introduction of Year of Benefits. Just by creating your baby registry with Target, you'll snag a kit with $120 in discounts and samples. The savings keep coming: You'll also get two 15% off coupons to buy unpurchased items from your registry for up to a year after your baby's expected arrival. Change your mind about anything? The Year of Benefits allows for returns or exchanges for a full year. And as of August 2020, those who also sign up for Target Circle when creating a baby registry will also get the retailer's Year of Exclusive Deals, which includes ongoing discounts on baby essentials for a full year.

Here are 10 items we agree deserve a spot in the "need" category on your registry, mama.


A crib to grow with your baby

Delta Children Farmhouse 6-in-1 Convertible Crib

First-time mamas are likely creating nursery spaces for the first time, and that can get expensive. Adding a quality crib to Target registry gives friends and family members the option to join forces to make a large purchase through group gifting.

$269.99

A safe + convenient car seat

Safety 1st OnBoard 35 LT Infant Car Seat

The list of non-negotiable baby essentials is pretty short, but it definitely includes a car seat. In fact, most hospitals will not allow you to leave after delivery until a car seat check is performed. We recommend an infant seat, which can easily snap into a base in your car.

$99.99

A traveling nursery station

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

It's hard to beat a good playard when it comes to longevity. This item can be baby's sleeping place when they're sharing a room with you for the first months. Down the line, it can function as a roving diaper change station. And when you travel, it makes a great safe space for your little one to sleep and play.

$99.99

A swing for some backup help

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

A dependable swing can be a real lifesaver for new parents when they need their hands free (or just a minute to themselves). Because many babies are opinionated about these things, we appreciate that the mamaRoo has multiple modes of motion and soothing sounds.

$219.99

An easy-to-clean high chair

Ingenuity SmartClean Trio Elite 3-in-1 High Chair - Slate

Our best registry advice? Think ahead. It really won't be long before your child is ready for those first bites of solid food, at which point you'll need a high chair. We like one that transitions to a booster seat atop an existing dining room chair.

$99.99

A diaper bag to share

Eddie Bauer Backpack - Gray/Tan

When you're a mom, you're usually toting diapers, wipes, clothing changes, bottles, snacks, toys and more. You need a great bag to stash it all, and if you're anything like us, you'll choose a backpack style for comfort and functionality. Bonus: This gender neutral option can easily be passed off to your partner.

$64.99

A hygienic spot for all those diaper changes

Munchkin Secure Grip Waterproof Diaper Changing Pad 16X31"

We can confidently predict there will be a lot of diaper changes in your future. Do yourself a favor by registering for two comfortable, wipeable changing pads: one to keep in the nursery and another to stash elsewhere in your house.

$29.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby at night

Infant Optics Video Baby Monitor DXR-8

Feeling peace of mind while your baby sleeps in another room truly is priceless.That's why we advocate for a quality video monitor that will allow you to keep tabs on your snoozing sweetheart.

$165.99

A comfortable carrier to free up your hands

Petunia Pickle Bottom for Moby Wrap Baby Carrier, Strolling in Salvador

A wrap carrier may be about as low-tech as baby items come, but trust us, this product stands the test of time. Great for use around the house or while running errands, this is one item you'll appreciate so much.

$39.99

A full set of bottles + cleaning supplies

Dr. Brown's Options+ Complete Baby Bottle Gift Set

Whether you plan to work in an office or stay at home, breastfeed or formula feed, bottles are a valuable tool. To make your life as simple as possible, it's nice to have an easy-to-clean set that is designed to work through the first year.

$39.99

Target's baby registry is easy to create from the comfort of your own home. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with the Year of Benefits featuring exclusive deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

Stylish storage cabinet

Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

White board calendar + bulletin board

With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

Bamboo storage drawers

The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

Laminated world map

I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.

Letterboard

From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

Expandable tablet stand

Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

Neutral pocket chart

Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

Totable fabric bins

My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

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Mama, all I see is you

A love letter from your baby.

Mama,

I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

All I see is you.

When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

You are my everything.

When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

I trust you.

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