There are times when your medical caregiver may suggest your labour needs to be induced. I don’t want to go into the arguments for and against here, I just want to offer some suggested ways you can help start labour without using drugs (via a drip or by applying gel to your cervix).
Medical inductions can increase your chance of an epidural or a Caesarean section – the “cascade of interventions”. Sometimes a medical induction is necessary, and you should listen to your care provider. Sometimes, you may have more time, and an opportunity (or request an opportunity) to try and self-induce using natural labour induction methods, in a less invasive way.
It is always good to be informed, so do your research beforehand if you can, and discuss with your caregiver the reasons, and possible benefits or disadvantages of the induction.
Chances of success with these natural labour induction methods will depend on how ready your cervix is for labour (is it ripe, thin?) – you may request a vaginal examination if you would like some indication of this.
Stimulating your nipples will release oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that also helps your uterus to contract. Nipple stimulation can be tried in many ways – light stroking, or rolling with your fingertips, or licking or sucking, massage the breasts gently with warm, moist towels, or use a double electric breastpump. Start with one nipple, and if you have no contractions within a reasonable period, try stimulating both nipple or an alternative method.
Can be relaxing, and walking up and down stairs helps give baby space to move down, and to bounce on the cervix to encourage it to open.
Acupressure and/or Acupuncture
Certain acupressure points can be used to help stimulate contractions. Use a qualified acupuncturist, or refer to Debra Betts’ DVD “Acupressure for Natural Pain Relief in Labour“. When being induced with acupuncture, you may need two treatments a day or so apart. If you work with an acupuncturist during your pregnancy, they can help your body to prepare, with greater chance of giving birth around your “due date”, when baby and your body are ready.
Having an orgasm can also help stimulate the release of oxytocin, and uterine contractions, and possibly also prostaglandins (also found in sperm) which can soften the cervix. If your waters have already broken, do not try this as you may increase the risk of infection.
Castor oil is a laxative which may cause powerful bowel contractions. This can be painful or uncomfortable, but has been used for generations. Penny Simkin (in The Birth Partner) suggests taking 4 tablespoons of castor oil (mix with orange juice and a teaspoon of baking soda to make it more palatable). If there is no reaction, follow up in half an hour with another 2 tablespoons, and again in another half hour with another 2 tablespoons. Contractions may pick up within half a day. It tastes pretty awful, so is unlikely to be your first choice.
Much more enjoyable is to have a nice hot curry, or drink prune juice.
Under the guidance of an experienced herbalist or homeopath, you may be given blue and black cohosh tea, evening primrose oil, or caulophyllum to bring on or speed up contractions. Raspberry leaf tea or tablets or tonic are increasingly popular to take during your pregnancy.
Using a TENS machine may help kickstart your contractions. Attach it to your back as you would in labour, and just use it without the Boost Button. It will start to build your endorphins, your body’s feel-good hormones. TENS doesn’t interfere with medical equipment, so even if you need to be medically induced, you can still use it for pain relief to great effect (I birthed my third bubba after a gel induction using only TENS, acupressure, vocalising, movement and the birth pool for pain relief).
Sweeping the membranes
This can help start your labour, but may also break your waters, which means the “clock will start” for when you need a medical induction. It will also mean that if a medical induction is necessary, you will need to have a drip – they will not be able to use the gel on your cervix for fear of infection.
Whatever happens, you know you will soon be meeting your beautiful baby. Enjoy this time, and we would love it if you would like to share your story afterwards.
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