10 top techniques to safely induce labor

If your due date has come and gone, it can be very frustrating. Although they can be slightly inaccurate, once you hit the 40-week mark we bet you’re feeling tired, uncomfortable and impatient to meet your little one. Needless to say, you’re itching to give your body a little nudge and find ways to induce labor.

These 10 techniques are the safest options, but before you try any of them at home, you should talk to your practitioner and get their okay - they may not be able to confirm they will work but can let you know they’re safe to try with your pregnancy.

1. Sex

An activity that is often advised by doctors, sex releases prostaglandins, a hormone-like substance that can cause contractions. It is completely safe to do throughout the whole pregnancy, however, there is no research to prove that it actually works to induce birth and it’s important to keep in mind that contractions don’t always mean labor.

2. Exercise

Another activity that your doctor might have advised when you come to full-term and definitely important to do throughout. Exercise produces endorphins, which help to relieve stress whilst keeping you fit. Nevertheless, like sex, there are no studies to prove that this will help your delivery to happen faster.

3. Castor oil

Studies have shown that drinking castor oil can initiate labor within 24 hours. It should be done under medical instructions and supervision, as digestion of the oil can cause stronger contractions that you’d naturally have, and with each contraction blood flow to the uterus slows so the baby can be deprived of oxygen. 

4. Spicy foods

Often considered an old wives tale, but spicy food can irritate your intestines (much like castor oil but gentler), which could cause contractions for women who are already dilated. That being said, there’s no evidence to support the theory that it induces labor. It should also be noted that if you’re not used to spicy foods, it’s best to avoid this method as it can cause severe heartburn - something you’ve most likely had enough of.

5. Red raspberry leaf tea

It’s not uncommon for moms-to-be to use this herbal remedy in the last few months of pregnancy - you shouldn’t suddenly start when you’re overdue, but gradually increase your intake from about 32 weeks. The tea is thought to be a uterine tonic that boosts blood flow to the uterus and strengthens the muscle fibers, this, in turn, is believed to trigger contractions whilst also staving off excessive postpartum bleeding.

6. Dates

Naturally high in fiber, dates can have a similar effect to eating spicy foods by causing cramping and digestive issues. Although there is no proof that they can induce labor, dates have been known to give women a significantly higher cervical dilation and more chance of going into labor without medical intervention.

7. Acupuncture

Used widely in parts of Asia for centuries to jump-start labor, acupuncture is a safe method to try. There have not been many studies on its effectiveness, but a few studies have shown that when women had acupuncture in the last few weeks of pregnancy or when overdue, they were more likely to go into labor on their own.

8. Nipple stimulation

The theory behind nipple stimulation is that it mimics breastfeeding causing the brain to release oxytocin, a hormone that triggers contractions. Whilst there isn’t much evidence to show it induces labor, a few studies have shown that nipple stimulation can lead to shorter births - which isn’t the worst outcome in the world.

9. Evening primrose oil

This oil contains a fatty acid which is a precursor to prostaglandins, the hormone-like substance which softens the cervix in preparation for birth. Usually taken in capsules, should start taking this oil at around 38 weeks, but talk to your doctor first.

10. Membrane sweeping

This is a procedure done by a medical practitioner in order to induce labor. A doctor uses a gloved hand to sweep the inside of the cervix in a circular motion. This motion helps to separate the sac, stimulating prostaglandins and triggering contractions. The sweep will often increase the rate of spontaneous vaginal labor and reduce the need for other induction methods. There may be mild discomfort during the procedure and some minor bleeding, but the method has minimal risks.

Whilst most of these methods can help to start contractions and start the process of meeting your baby if your body isn’t ready, then it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider about the next steps to take for inducing labor medically. However, even if these techniques don’t work, they are something to pass the time whilst you wait for the new arrival.

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