Medical Inductions - Part 3 - 4 "Natural" Labour Induction Techniques...
I do not regret my labours being induced. I did for a bit with my first son, but I have since come to terms with his birth and I know now that it was the best thing for us given his size and how stubborn he was about being born. However, I was never told about the various methods of natural induction I could have tired. And googling this stuff was not something you did. Back then it was Yahoo...yes, I'm older than Google. I would have definitely tried some of these if I had known.
I will say, no induction is natural. And these techniques below will not necessarily put you into labour, but will hopefully get you closer to the edge so that, if a medical induction is warranted, it will most likely end in a vaginal birth as opposed to a cesarean birth. And these would be considered non-medical because you can do these at home, on your own, or outside of obstetrical or midwifery care.
Sex!!! Sex, sex and more sex - For many, sex got your baby in, and sex can help you get your baby out. And it works on a couple of different levels. Firstly, the birthing parent will need to have an orgasm. That can be achieved a couple of different ways, including nipple or clitoral stimulation. This can be done alone or with a partner. An orgasm will release the hormone oxytocin which is what gets the uterus contracting. Trials suggest that if done when the cervix is ripened or softened, thinning and dilated slightly, more people went into labour within three days of starting. If the cervix was not ripened, there was no significant move toward labour, beyond ripening of the cervix. And this can still help in moving you closer to labour especially if an induction is necessary.
Secondly, in the case of intercourse, one ejaculation of semen during sex is higher in concentration of a hormone called prostaglandin, which helps get the cervix soft and stretchy or ripened. A synthetic form of prostaglandin is often used in the early steps of an induction if the cervix is still long, firm and closed.
We know that birthing parents who have an active sex life throughout their pregnancy are more likely to go into labour closer to their due date. However if you have a high risk pregnancy or a history of miscarriage, please make sure you speak to your doctor or midwife before hand to see if it's okay to get that oxytocin flowing.
Walking - Walking also can help in getting labour moving forward. And while the scientific evidence is weak as to the effectiveness of walking it does have advantages. Firstly, being upright with your hips moving can put baby into a good position for labour and have baby's head putting more direct pressure onto the cervix to get it ripened.
Secondly, walking is a great way to reduce stress. I feel that one reason we are keeping our baby's in longer than we would have historically is because we are constantly under a state of stress (a second reason is because we are generally quite sedentary now a days). And the body's main job at the end of your pregnancy is to keep baby safe and if it feels there is something causing you stress, it will keep baby on the inside. The mind and body don't categorize stress. They don't identify the difference between getting a report done before you go on mat leave, getting the car seat installed properly and on time, or being chased by a saber-toothed tiger. These are all stress, but the later is the one that will endanger you and baby. So finding ways to get relaxed, including walking can help in moving your body closer to labour.
Eating Dates - While the scientific evidence is weak on eating dates, many cultures around the world traditionally consume dates during pregnancy. It is suggested that eating 6-7 large dates in a 24 hour period starting at 37 weeks, could help in ripening the cervix, thus getting it ready for labour and that can be extremely beneficial if a medical induction is already planned.
Dates are also very nutritious containing carbohydrates, heathy fats, 15 types of salts and minerals, protein, dietary fibre and 6 vitamins. However if you have gestational diabetes its possible it could increase your blood sugars so be careful and make sure you speak to your endocrinologist first.
Acupuncture & Acupressure - While more high-quality research is needed, acupuncture and acupressure can help in getting the cervix ripened if done by a trained Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner who specializes in pregnancy. Studies did not find that using these methods put you into labour but they could help get your closer to labour especially if a medical induction was already in the works. The few clients I've had that have done acupuncture leading up to an induction, needed less medical interventions and labour just needed a nudge to get going.
There are a couple of commonly used techniques for "natural" labour induction that actually don't work or would be advisable to avoid. One is Red Raspberry Leaf Tea. RRL is commonly believed to induce labour however there is no research to support this. RRL is known as a uterine tonic and can help make the smooth muscle fibres of the uterus work more smoothly and efficiently. This could mean a more comfortable labour and some suggest a shorter labour. Plus, taking some time to sit and have a cup of tea can help reduce stress and that is never a bad thing.
I personally have an aversion to the use of Castor Oil. This is a bias I have as I have seen it used and the outcome was awful. Castor Oil should never be used unless under the guidance of a medical professional. It is a potent laxative and can cause intense diarrhea and may not actually work in starting labour. It's also possible that it could cause intense contractions on top of the diarrhea, and now you are in labour with diarrhea. If you chose to go this route, be careful and consider extremely low doses.
So as mentioned, these options may not put you into labour. But they can and have shown to ripen your cervix and get your body closer to going into labour as well as possibly making a medical induction more successful, resulting in a vaginal birth.
Remember to talk to your doctor or midwife to ensure none of these options are contraindicated for your pregnancy, or birth.
Want more information on Medical Inductions? Check out my virtual class Induction 101