By the time your pregnancy has reached full term – that is, any time after 37 weeks – you may be wondering if there's anything you can do to help jump-start your labor, especially if your due date has already come and gone. While plenty of unproven old wives' tales exists, certain methods for inducing labor naturally can help to get things moving.
One of the most talked-about methods for inducing labor naturally is what caused you to get pregnant in the first place: sex. According to Dr. Laura Riley, an obstetrician and gynecologist, sex can trigger labor – but only if the baby is fully effaced and ready to be born anyway. The theory is that semen contains prostaglandin, which is a fatty acid that helps to soften and dilate the cervix and bring on contractions. Prostaglandins mimic the drugs that are often given to women to medically induce labor. Provided that your partner is game and your water hasn't broken, there is no harm in trying this method, of course.
As the only scientific method to trigger labor, nipple stimulation works by helping your body release oxytocin, a hormone similar to Pitocin, a drug that helps labor progress. For it to work, however, you'd have to spend at least an hour at a time, three times a day, intimately addressing your female anatomy. It can also cause strong contractions that affect your baby's heart rate, so consult your doctor before attempting it on your own.
Nudging With Needles
If you're a proponent of acupuncture, you may find that it can help with other pregnancy-related ailments, such as morning sickness or back pain. Whether it can help to trigger labor, however, is a theory with mixed results. According to the What to Expect website, there have been conflicting results from studies on the outcome of acupuncture for labor induction. One small study of women showed no difference in medical induction or labor length, while another study showed that acupuncture did, indeed, reduce the need for Pitocin, a drug that speeds up labor in overdue women. Moreover, acupuncture in and of itself is harmless and can help to relax women who are stressing about delivery day.
Another natural method some women swear by is swigging castor oil. The theory is that the liquid laxative stimulates the bowels to contract, which will, in turn, stimulate the nearby uterus to contract. While the Fit Pregnancy website reports that some studies have shown that castor oil can trigger labor to begin, the side effects, which include severe diarrhea, are not worth it and can, in fact, be dangerous, because they can cause an expectant mother to become dehydrated. As with any other natural remedy, consult your doctor before trying this method.
The most tried-and-true method of all of the natural remedies? Good old-fashioned patience, coupled with rest and relaxation. It may be hard to hear, especially if you're past your due date, but Dr. Riley states that the safest labors are the ones that are allowed to start naturally. It is common for babies to be around nine days overdue, in fact. Use the last few days before you deliver to rest, take short walks, and eat healthfully. Before you know it, all of the waiting will be forgotten, and you'll be snuggling your little one in your arms.