40 Natural Ways To Induce Labor
Things to Know Before Inducing Labor Naturally
- Natural induction should only be a helping hand. You want the method to be gentle enough that you won’t go into labor if your body isn’t ready. It’s not recommended before 39-40 weeks. If you do begin before then, chances are it won't work anyway.
- Don't stress about being overdue. First-time pregnancies are up to 80% more likely to go postdate, and you are not “officially” overdue until 42 weeks. Even then, a doctor cannot legally induce labor without your permission.
- Do your own research. Make sure you know the risks and are taking the correct amount of any herbal product. Don't overstrain yourself with labor inducing exercises.
- If you aren't sure, talk to your doctor. This is especially true if your pregnancy has been complicated or is considered high risk.
Good luck with natural induction. Hopefully you'll be meeting your gorgeous new addition very soon!
Natural Labor Induction Timeline
40 Ways to Induce Labor Naturally
1. Acupressure - In addition to alleviating morning sickness and stopping bleeding or spotting in the early months of pregnancy, acupressure massages can also induce labor. Before using, though, you’ll want to make sure that your acupressurist has experience working with pregnant women. Typically, there are acupressure points in the ankles and in the webbing between your thumb and forefinger that can cause muscle contractions, including in the uterus.
2. Bananas - Bananas have lots of potassium, which is crucial to muscle contractions. So, being low on potassium could potentially delay labor. Note that you should eat bananas in moderation and avoid take potassium supplements as they can be poisonous when take incorrectly.
3. Basil - Basil is an emmenagogue, an herb that stimulates blood flow to the uterus and can stimulate menstruation. Throw some in your cooking.
4. Black/Blue Cohosh - Black and blue cohosh are two different herbs that, when taken together as a tincture can help induce and regulate contractions. Some midwives use it even during labor to strengthen uterine contractions. There have been some studies claiming that it can have bad side effects for mother and/or baby however. I'd recommend further research first. Here are a couple of articles to get you started. If you decide to use cohosh, make sure you don’t take anymore than the manufacturer recommends.
5. Borage seed oil - Along with primrose oil and black currant oil, borage seed oil is a natural source of prostaglandins - a fatty acid that helps induce labor. The borage oil prepares the body for birth by softening the cervix and increasing the flexibility of the pelvic ligaments. With that tissue softened, labor often quickly follows because of the pressure exerted on the cervix by the baby’s head.
6. Bouncing on birth/exercise ball - ball exercises can help turn your baby and move him or her into the birth canal. Midwives and doulas have been using this technique for years to speed up the dilation and move the baby down into the pelvis. Find a comfortable position and gently bounce up and down to encourage your baby to move into position.
Induce Labor with an Exercise Ball
7. Castor oil - Statistically speaking it only works on 57% of women and causes lovely things like diarrhoea and sometimes, vomiting. The theory is that the cramps in the bowel set off contractions. Opinion is still out on whether castor oil causes babies to pass meconium in the womb but a) most women using castor oil are overdue and b) babies that are overdue are more likely to pass meconium, so you do the maths! WARNING: Please read the linked article before attempting and make sure you're fully informed on the safe methods to induce with castor oil.
8. Clary sage oil - Research shows that clary sage oil aromatherapy can help promote labor and relieve pain. In fact, it is so effective in promoting labor that it’s use is contraindicated at any other time during pregnancy. This method should only be used by a trained midwife or practitioner – it’s not one to do by yourself as it can cause harm if used incorrectly.
9. Dates - Six date fruit a day in the leadup to your EDD has been shown by studies to make labor start sooner, make labor shorter, and help with dilation. Plus, they're yummy!
Did You Know?
- You can legally refuse any medical procedure - whether an internal examination or an induction via pitocin.
- The average first pregnancy is 41 weeks and 1 day.
10. Evening primrose oil - Can be taken orally from 35 weeks on or used internally from 38 weeks. If you decide to go with the second route, I would recommend doing it at night and using a pantyliner. However keep in mind that it DOES have risks, so do your own research.
11. Golden seal - Its active components of hydrastatine and berberine have long been taken to induce labor. It’s most easily taken orally in tablet form. As it can be dangerous during pregnancy, if taken incorrectly, seek professional advice first.
12. Kneeling on all fours - A friend of a friend was told to do this. Swing the hips back and forth. Her waters broke just a few minutes later. Coincidence? Maybe!
13. Licorice root - Try to get the root, not the candy. You can see what the root looks like in the picture below. The root contains more licorice and usually less sugar. Like castor oil, it has a laxative effective that causes cramping in the bowls, which in turn can lead to uterine contractions.
14. Massage - Find a massage therapist qualified to work with pregnant women. Many will know various points to massage to induce labor. This is why massage is not recommended during the early stages of pregnancy.
15. Motherwort - This is a great herb to use at the end of your pregnancy. It makes your contractions more effective, regulates the Braxton Hicks contractions, and stops false labor. Taken shortly after birth, motherwort can also calm your nerves and potentially prevent postpartum depression.
16. Nipple stimulation - Gently rub or roll the nipple to try to induce labor. The stimulation releases oxytocin, a hormone that causes contraction. The jury is still out on this method though: some claim that it causes very strong contractions which can be dangerous. If you’re concerned, some experts recommend only massaging one breast at a time, or only massaging for five minutes and then waiting to see what happens before continuing. I tried it and I had barely more than cramps! For increased stimulation try a breast pump.
17. Pineapple - Best taken fresh and raw. Pineapples contain the enzyme bromeliad, which can soften your cervix and and can bring on labor. It can also stimulate your stomach, which could also help get some contractions going. Statistically speaking, the chemicals which pineapple contain, which are said to start labor aren't very high. So that means about seven pineapples should put you into labor!
18. Raspberry leaf - Taken either as a tea or pill. Start at about 34 weeks. Opinion is divided as to whether it will start labor, but it definitely strengthens the uterus, leading to a (hopefully) shorter labor, because each contraction can achieve more. It has been shown in one study to shorten the second stage of labor, pushing.
19. Relaxation excercises - Try some relaxing music and just lie back or even join a meditation class. Any of the relaxation exercises you learned in a childbirth class would work here. The key here is that tension works against labor. Letting everything go may help bring on labor.
20. Sperm - If you feel up to sex, this is a good start towards getting ready for labor. The sperm contains natural prostaglandins that help soften and dilate the cervix.
21. Spicy food - A very well known labor starter! The reason it works may be because of the upset it causes to the digestive system which then upsets the uterus. Not highly recommended.
22. Squats - Doing a few of these each day often helps to move the baby down and into position. Squats use gravity to push the baby downwards, thereby jumpstarting your birth naturally.
23. Squaw Vine - Old remedy. Not sure how well it works. Can be taken during the last six weeks of pregnancy. Helps to thin and soften the cervix.
24. Stretch and sweep of membranes - Your midwife or doctor can perform this simple procedure. A finger is inserted into the cervix and a gentle 'sweep' of the finger slightly separates the uterus wall and amniotic sac, sometimes leading to labor within hours or days. Some women say it's an easy, painless procedure, others claim it can be very painful. How well it works can also depend on if you are very far dilated or not.
25. Swimming - Relaxed swimming can help bring out the baby - both the water and the movement help.
Did You Know?
- Medical induction greatly increases the risk of complications during labor - bradycardia (low heartbeat in baby) through to hemorrhage.
- Legally, no doctor can induce you without your permission. A big baby is NOT a reason to induce. If in doubt, get a second opinion, refuse the induction, or ask for more information.
26. Visualisation exercises- Many women swear by these. Try making a recording of yourself talking about the baby moving down and preparing to be born, or just imagine it in your head. These are often really good to do along with the relaxation exercises above!
27. Walking - The bumping up and down can help the baby move into the birth canal. In fact, this is one of the few ways that most doctors agree on for starting labor. If walking doesn't work, try walking up and down stairs. Lifting your legs further in its range of motion can help further push the baby downward.
28. Yoga - Many places offer special classes for all stages of pregnancy.
More Natural Labor Induction Methods
While the above methods have the most science behind them, there are still a number of natural induction methods that a number of mothers swear by. While some of them may be "old wives' tales," they certainly can't hurt to try. So if you're overdue and want that baby out, go ahead and try some of these.
29. A bumpy car ride - Sometimes the baby just needs a little bit of jiggling to get into the correct position.
30. Chinese food - Not sure why, but some people have claimed this works a treat. Or maybe they just ate Chinese food all the time anyway, so they thought it was responsible for the onset of labor. Either way, it's worth a try!
31. Balsamic Vinegar - According to the What to Expect book, balsamic vinegar can help bring on labor. However, it might not work until you're already dilated. Add a dash to your salad. Definitely won't hurt to try!
32. Dancing - Don't do anything too drastic: pole dancing might be a bit much! But if you get in there and swing your hips around a lot, there's a chance baby might think about coming out.
33. Mandarin Oil - I had a friend who was told that rubbing mandarin oil on her heels would send her into labor. It didn't work for her, but it's worth a try!
34. Quinine - Be sure to check the dosage with a medical professional. Reputedly, it releases oxytocin which can help bring on labor.
35. Eggplant - A lot of people swear by eggplant parmagiana. Again, it's delicious and good for you, so go ahead and eat as much as you'd like!
36. Swinging on a swing - Similar to a bumpy car ride but probably a bit easier on the mother.
37. Orgasms - Orgasms cause contractions which is one of the reasons they feel so good. It's also why many women enjoy orgasms more during pregnancy! You can try this method alone or with a partner... whatever you're comfortable with.
38. Thyme Tea - Reportedly, thyme tea can cause stimulate contractions, sending you into labor.
39. A glass of wine - Wine helps release oxytocin, one of the hormones that signals the body to go into labor. However remember that drinking during pregnancy is NOT recommended. You might want to check this with your doctor first.
40. Skipping/galloping - You might feel a bit self-conscious skipping around your house or neighborhood, but it works by the same mechanism that walking does. It uses gravity to help get the baby into position.
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More Helpful Links on Birth & Babies
- A Guide for Making Your Natural Birth Plan
- 45 Natural Pain Relief Methods for Labor & Childbirth
- How to Have a Shorter Labor
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