Your due date is an educated guess for when your baby might make its arrival. While many women deliver perfectly healthy babies two weeks before or after this presumed due date, it’s recommended that women wait until 40 weeks for delivery. It’s best to let mother nature decide when your baby comes.
In a study published in Birth, 201 new mothers were surveyed about inducing labor at home. Of these women, 50 percent had tried some natural method of getting labor started.
If you are 40 weeks in, here are 9 natural ways to get things moving along. Most of these methods are anecdotal and don’t have solid evidence that they work, so you should always talk to your health care provider before attempting any of these methods. Your doctor may not be able to confirm that they work, but they can let you know if it’s safe to try with your pregnancy.
Be aware: Any type of labor induction increases the risk of cesarean delivery and other emergency interventions. Always talk to your doctor before trying to induce labor on your own.
Theoretically, there are multiple reasons why having sex could induce labor. For example, sex can release oxytocin, which may help jumpstart uterine contractions. Having sex is safe at full term, but you shouldn’t have sex after your water has broken. Doing so can increase your risk of infection.
Stimulating your nipples can cause your uterus to contract and may bring about labor. Oxytocin is the hormone that causes the uterus to contract and milk to be ejected from the breast. In fact, if you choose to breastfeed your baby right after delivery, this same stimulation is what will help your uterus shrink back to its original size. You or your partner may manually stimulate your nipples, or you can try using a breast pump.
Acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin in the body. In a randomized trial published in the Journal of Perinatal Medicine, over 400 women were given acupuncture, membrane stripping, or both procedures before labor. There were no significant differences in the outcomes of the groups, but the vast majority of these women did not require medical inductions.
Some practitioners believe that acupressure can start and restart labor. Prior to applying acupressure to yourself, make sure you get proper instruction from a trained acupressure professional.
If acupressure doesn’t get your labor going, it’s still an excellent way to alleviate pain and discomfort during labor.
Some providers will offer to strip your membranes to encourage labor. Though the procedure is done in the office, there are no medications involved. Your doctor will use a gloved finger to separate the amniotic sac from the area around the cervix. This action releases hormones called prostaglandins, which help the body go into labor. If you have any vaginal infections, membrane stripping is not an option.
Following the procedure, you may experience cramps and spotting. If you experience bleeding similar to a menstrual period, contact your doctor.
There may be increased risk of your water breaking when membranes are stripped. Breaking of the water increases your risk of other medical interventions, including cesarean section. If your water breaks, head on in to the birth center. They will want you to deliver within the next 24 hours.
There is an old wives’ tale that eating spicy foods can put you into labor. However, no studies have made this connection. Do not eat spicy foods if they’re not part of your normal diet.
Red raspberry leaf tea
Midwives often recommend drinking red raspberry leaf tea as your due date nears. Tea may tone and strengthen the uterus in preparation for labor. Even if it doesn’t work, you’ll stay hydrated.
Waiting for labor
While most women at 40 weeks are ready to have their babies in their arms and out of their bellies as soon as possible, there are plenty of perks to waiting until your body naturally decides to go into labor — including recovery. Women who weren’t induced typically recover more quickly than those who were. This means that more time in the womb can mean that both you and your new baby get to go home from the hospital sooner.
Infants who are born after a full-term pregnancy also experience other benefits. More time in the womb typically means:
- more time to build muscle and strength
- reduced risk of low blood sugar, infection, and jaundice
- improved breathing: infants born even as little as two weeks early can experience twice the number of complications
- better feeding once born
- increased brain development, with the brain growing a third of its size between weeks 35 and 40
Let your body do the work for a few more days, and take the time to get as much rest as you possibly can — we know, easier said than done when you’re nine months pregnant. You and your baby will need all your energy soon enough!
Before trying anything that might induce labor, you’ll want to speak with your doctor to go over any risks or possible complications. Though some of these methods are popular folklore among pregnant women, little scientific evidence supports their efficacy. In most cases, it’s best to let baby set their own birth date, even if it means waiting another week or two.