You passed your due date. You’re huge, uncomfortable, sick of being pregnant, and oh-so-eager to meet your baby. Your midwife or OB-GYN suggests an induction. Do you have any other options? Yes! There are many natural ways to help kick labor into gear and they’re worth trying before scheduling that induction!
Why Avoid an Induction?
But why bother? Why not just schedule the induction? First of all, your due date might not be as accurate as you think. Your midwife or OB-GYN probably estimated your due date from the date of your last period. However, every woman’s cycle is different and you may have ovulated before or after that magical “14th day” of your cycle, especially if you don’t have a regular 28 day cycle (I know I don’t!) Unless you chart for fertility awareness, you really can’t be sure of your ovulation date. And sperm can live in your body for up to 5 days, so even if you know when you ovulated, it’s hard to tell exactly when the egg was fertilized. So, maybe your baby isn’t late after all! This is why inducing before your due date sometimes leads to premature babies. So, be sure to discuss with your caregiver about waiting until you’re a full 41-42 weeks before inducing as long as baby continues to thrive in the womb and your placenta is providing enough nourishment. The amount of development that happens from 39 weeks to 40 plus weeks is astounding. And hte less ready your baby is to come out and face the world, the fussier and more high needs they will be-making your job as new mom even harder.
But what are the risks of induction other than pre-term birth? The most common method of induction with the drug Pitocin (a synthetic version of the naturally-occurring hormone oxytocin which causes the uterus to contract) can lead to a slew of complications. These possibilities include more painful contractions (No thank you! The regular ones are painful enough for me!), a negative fetal reaction to the drug, and significantly increased risk of c-section. Does an induction always cause problems? No! And sometimes it is medically necessary, helpful, and even life-saving. But there’s enough risks to be wary and try out other possible solutions first.
My Overdue Baby Story
My first baby was born a week early, so I was expecting my second child to show up before her due date as well. Especially considering all the crazy Braxton-Hicks contractions I was having in the third trimester! But, to my chagrin, the little lady decided to hang out in the womb until week 42. In addition to nearly losing my mind over the fact that I was STILL pregnant, I was anxious about the idea of an induction, after hearing from friends how badly the Pitocin-induced contractions hurt. I had really hoped to have another natural labor, but I wasn’t sure that would be possible after an induction. So, after doing a non-stress test and a bio-physical profile to be assured that baby was still thriving and happy in the womb, my midwife let me wait as long as possible to schedule the induction and I started doing my research to try to start my labor naturally.
What I Learned
I’ve broken down the natural induction methods into two categories. The first category, “Get Things Moving!” is for you mamas who are overdue and want to get your body ready to jump into labor. The second category, “The Big Guns!” is for you ladies nearing the 42 week mark and trying to avoid an induction. The second category of methods require a ripe cervix to really work and I wouldn’t recommend using them until you’re sure you’re ready to go into labor. Disclaimer: I am not medically trained and this post is not meant to be a substitute for advice from your medical caregiver. Always consult your OB-GYN or midwife when considering natural labor techniques.
Get Things Moving!
1. Make Love. I know you’re a million weeks pregnant and uncomforable and sex might not even sound like fun, but if you try the same thing that got you into your present situation, it might help get labor going. Got something better to do while you wait around for baby?
2. Eat labor-inducing foods: Many women have found certain foods helped kickstart their labor. These include pineapple, eggplant parmesan, and spicy dishes. All of these are worth a try. I noticed that after eating pineapple my contractions did intensify for an hour or so (but unfortunately fizzled out again!).
3. Take a walk. Walking is a great way to open your pelvis and get baby in position. I know women who actually walked themselves into labor (their water broke after a couple hours of walking) so bring a friend to walk with you just in case the exercise gets the ball rolling! (And be sure to stay hydrated.)
4. Take Evening Primrose Oil. This handy substance helps to ripen the cervix. I start taking it once I hit 36 weeks. I’m a fan of the capsule version that you can take orally.
5. Acupressure. Similar to acupuncture in that you are stimulating the energetic meridians and pressure points on your body, but you are just using your fingers instead of needles and it’s more like a massage. Check out Stephanie’s new eCourse, From Maiden to Mother to learn everything you need to know to prepare for motherhood, including a detailed video of where all these pressure points are!
The Big Guns! (Only try after your due date after consulting your midwife or OB-GYN!)
5. Stimulate your nipples. Yep, you heard me right. Nipple stimulation releases oxytocin which causes contractions. You can use a breast pump, manual stimulation, or a hot shower stream on the nipple area. This is also a great method to try if your labor stalls and you’re trying to avoid any artificial interventions to get your contractions going again. Be sure to discuss this method with your midwife or OB-GYN before attempting.
6. Take Castor Oil. For many of my friends who attempted it, castor oil really kicked their labor into gear. However, NONE of them recommend this method because it made them feel so ill. I’ve never tried it after hearing their horror stories and I don’t plan to try it in the future unless I’m desperate!
7. Acupuncture. I HATE needles so I have always steered clear of acupuncture. However, when my midwife recommended it to help me avoid an induction, I bit the bullet and called up an acupuncturist who attends my parish. I had already tried everything on this list (except for the Castor Oil!) and it was last ditch effort to avoid the Pitocin. IT WORKED. After one session I had several contractions that fizzled out, so I went back the next morning for a second session. I started having contractions on the table that started my labor! My daughter was born on a Saturday morning and I got to skip that induction that had been scheduled for the following Monday. So I will definitely be making a visit to the acupuncturist if I’m overdue this time around!