Is it safe to break your water to induce labor?
If your water is being broken under the management of your doctor, it is generally a safe procedure. But you should never try to break your water at home without supervision. Your labor could start very quickly after your water is broken, or the baby may be in a dangerous position that could cause a complication.
Having your doctor break your water
Having your doctor break your water is a simple procedure, if recommended. Once you are dilated far enough, your doctor will use a small hook to gently break the bag of waters.
A nurse will keep a close eye on your baby's heartbeat before, during, and after the procedure to make sure there are no complications. Sometimes losing that cushion of water means the baby will shift positions, so it's important that you be monitored during and after your water has broken.
Other ways to induce labor at home
Ways to induce labor at home include the following:
Herbs like blue cohosh and raspberry leaves are sometimes used as holistic remedies for labor induction. But there aren’t any reputable studies on their efficacy. They also carry some risks. You may experience some unpleasant side effects. For example, blue cohosh can lead to diarrhea.
When it comes to inducing labor, good old-fashioned sex might be your best bet. Sex can stimulate the cervix. It's thought that sperm might contain prostaglandins that stimulate labor. Labor onset is common within one week of having sex.
Nipple stimulation is an effective way to help support labor for women who’ve already gone into labor naturally. It might play a role in inducing labor naturally, too. Stimulating the nipples releases oxytocin in the body (the hormone that causes the uterus to contract). Unfortunately, it’s difficult to stimulate the nipples enough to produce the levels of oxytocin needed to start labor.
Experts aren’t sure if exercise effectively induces labor. But regular exercise during pregnancy may lower your risk of having a cesarean delivery. It’s important to continue your exercise routine, even up until your due date.
Using castor oil for labor induction has mixed results. Some studies have found that using castor oil to induce labor in women who are close to their due dates can be helpful, with others have found that it really doesn't work. If you do decide to try castor oil, be sure to talk to your doctor about it and don’t try to induce labor unless you’re at least 39 weeks. Also, be sure to be near a bathroom, because castor oil stimulates the bowels to empty.
What are the risks of inducing labor?
There are risks to trying at-home induction techniques. The biggest risk would be if you’re preterm and your baby isn’t head-down. Induction techniques to break your water may carry a risk of your baby's umbilical cord slipping out before their head. This is a life-threatening emergency called cord prolapse.
What to do in an emergency
Call 911 if your water breaks at home and you notice any bright red bleeding, or a dark brown color in your water. The bleeding or brown meconium could indicate an emergency. If you notice anything that looks shiny and smooth, like your baby's umbilical cord, call 911. You’ll need to get on your hands and knees immediately to try to take pressure off of the cord.
Unfortunately, there’s not one proven method for inducing labor safely. Your best bet is to try to stay comfortable, keep up with your regular checkups, and talk to your doctor about how to help ensure that your labor progresses normally.