Natural ways to bring on labour

Natural ways to bring on labour

You are in your last few weeks of pregnancy, and you may be itching for baby to come out now. But, if your cervix is far back and there is no early sign that labour is on its way, then you may be thinking of ways to induce labour naturally. But what brings on labour? Below is a list and infographic of some proven ways to bring on labour naturally, as well as some old wives’ tales which are fun to try and some which may be best avoided.

Natural ways to bring on labour

Walking

The motion of being upright while walking can potentially help bring on labour as the gravity and movement will encourage your baby to place themselves in the correct position for birth, which is by your cervix. The gentle pressure of the baby’s head can stimulate your body to release oxytocin, which is a hormone that encourages contractions to start.

Slow down and relax more

Getting labour started may be a tense process, but nothing will progress if you try too hard or you’re feeling worried. Find ways to relax, by getting some fresh air, having a bath, taking a nap or reading a book. Click here for an A-Z guide of relaxation techniques (and infographic) that you can also use to kickstart labour too.

Pregnant yoga

Yoga – deep squatting


Squatting during labour is very effective because it helps to open your pelvic outlet by 10 per cent. But, when you’re inducing labour yourself, then squatting creates more room for the baby to move down into the birth canal, as well as decrease your labour time by 11 minutes!

Visualisation

Visualisation is a relaxation technique when you’re in labour, but it can also be used to psychologically trigger contractions. Draw a picture in your mind or on paper of what is going on in your body. Feel your cervix open and visualise the baby coming through. You can also look at pictures of a baby coming down and through the pelvis, but if you can imagine the process, then you’re helping your body to understand what it needs to do. It’s a very effective tool when you’re unsure of what will happen in the immediate future. Even using a picture or video of a flower opening can be a useful visualisation technique as well.

Eating curry or spicy foods

This one is an old wives’ tale, although some people swear by spicy food to induce labour. You can try it, but if you have a full stomach when you go into labour, you may feel sick and even throw up. Like the pineapple, too much spicy food irritates the bowels which may be why it feels like it can bring on labour. Just be careful not to overdo it, or you’ll end up with heartburn or indigestion.

Nipple stimulation

Some women massage their nipples as a way to bring about the release of oxytocin, which is the natural form of Pitocin. Oxytocin brings on contractions, which can induce labour. Again, be careful with this technique as it has been known to lead to strong uterine contractions which can last for a long time and can result in the fetal heart rate slowing down. Most practitioners do not recommend nipple stimulation as a way to bring on labour.

Taking castor oil or primrose oil

Again most practitioners do not recommend this technique because it can cause nausea, diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting, which can also lead to dehydration. Some women have mentioned that castor oil can help with constipation and when labour has stalled. After castor oil, women stated that they were able to relieve their bowels and their labour progressed, leading to birthing their baby. A recent study indicated, however, that there was no evidence of a difference between castor oil and placebo treatment, when related to instrumental delivery, meconium-stained liquor or an Apgar score of less than seven at five minutes. It’s best to err on the side of caution and leave this natural induction technique out.

Having sex/orgasm

Sex is one of the most popular ways to start labour. Semen contains natural prostaglandins, which is a hormone that is involved at the beginning of labour. After sex, elevate your hips to help the sperm stay on the cervix so that it can help to thin and dilate it. Not many women in late pregnancy are in the mood for sex however, so simple foreplay can help too. Studies show that the female orgasm can open the cervix up to two centimetres. But don’t do it for too long as overstimulation can have counterintuitive effects.

Eating a pineapple

Like curry, eating a pineapple has very similar effects, in the sense that it irritates the bowels, so one hopes it will trigger the uterus to contract too. This is an old wives’ tale and one I tried to no avail. But, pineapples are healthy and do contain an enzyme called Bromelain which may be able to bring on labour. Try other tropical fruits like mango, kiwi and papaya as they contain traces of the enzyme too. Just don’t overdo it or you’ll end up on the toilet!

Pregnant raspberry leaf tea

Drink raspberry leaf tea

Raspberry leaf tea is known to be a uterine tonic which also has benefits after birth too, including re-contracting the uterus back to its normal state, helping with bleeding, aiding breastmilk production and general recovery after childbirth. Women also drink raspberry leaf tea (as did I) believing it may help with shortening the length of labour. Studies have shown that there is no difference during the first stage of labour (contractions), but the second stage of labour (the pushing part) was shorter. There was also a significant reduction in using instrumental delivery as well. It is recommended to drink raspberry leaf tea at any time after 12 weeks for low-risk pregnancies. But, as with anything, don’t overdo it!

Massage/acupuncture

Trained massage therapists work on certain acupressure points (which are normally avoided during pregnancy) to help kickstart labour. A massage helps because it relaxes and calms the body, as well as eases any tension and worries. Make sure your therapist is specially trained, as certain oils cannot be used during pregnancy.

Acupuncture can help to bring on labour in overdue women, but only a few studies support this technique. However, one study did the show, that acupuncture helped induce labour in 88% of pregnant mums. Acupuncture works by inserting needles into specific parts of the body, to stimulate the energy of a particular organ or system.

Other mums have sworn by therapies like reflexology and shiatsu, but, again, they all help to calm and relax the body down. So as long as you’re with a trained professional, there is nothing wrong with going for a gentle treatment to rest before the storm of parenthood.

Blowing up balloons

Nope, your eyes don’t deceive you. Apparently blowing balloons builds pressure in the abdomen which apparently gets labour going. Again there is no evidence to show this, but it’s worth a shot as it’s not harmful and it could be quite fun – especially if you’re around a party on your due date!

Membrane sweeping by a midwife

Not my favourite of the bunch, I have to say, as membrane sweeping can be painful and uncomfortable. It’s not entirely natural either, but it is drug-free. Your midwife sweeps the membranes to separate them from the cervix via a vaginal exam. Some spotting/bleeding may occur as a result afterwards, and it has been known for women to have irregular contractions after a sweep, which may or may not progress into labour. This method should be your last resort as it is invasive and not entirely natural. Plus, you want to avoid any unnecessary bacteria in your vagina and up to your cervix as much as possible to prevent infection to you and your baby.

I know it’s not long for you now, and you’re feeling quite uncomfortable, but it’s important to let your body do what it naturally wants to do. If your baby is not ready to come out, then they’re just not ready. Try the above natural ways to bring on labour tentatively. If you don’t feel comfortable, or you’re feeling rushed through pressure from friends and family, remember that it’s your body and it’s your right to take things at your pace.

Good luck!

Leyla Preston (599 Posts)

Leyla Preston is the owner and Editor of Motherhood Diaries global magazine for parents. Leyla is a busy mother of two even busier boys; Aron, 8, and Aidan, 7. When Leyla isn’t feeding, managing a gazillion tasks or cleaning the infinite mess at home, she is busy working on this magazine and a new cooking channel coming very soon – no rest for the wicked! You can follow Leyla on Twitter (@M_Diaries) or join the busy Motherhood Diaries Facebook group where all mums get together and share stories and solutions with one another: https://www.facebook.com//groups/motherhooddiaries/