Natural Ways to Induce Labor

Natural ways to induce labor may be chosen for many reasons, such as avoiding invasive medical ways to induce labor or for maternal/fetal risks that may result in a medical induction. It's important to note that none of these methods for inducing labor at home will work when the body and the cervix are not ripe. These methods may help ripen the cervix - making it soften, efface and dilate - but will not start labor on their own unless the body is ready.


Before attempting any of these methods, review the valid reasons to induce labor. Also included is a guide to determine the Bishop's Score, a measure of whether medical or natural labor induction is likely to be successful and what conditions prohibit induction of any kind.


Commonly cited natural labor induction methods include:


Sex

Does sex induce labor? While rumor and anecdotal reports abound on this topic, research evidence also exists. Two hormones are of particular significance in its effectiveness as a labor inducer. But, at nine months pregnant, the answer may - or may not - be what women want to hear.



Food

This is a topic steeped in old wives tales and personal tales of heartburn, indigestion and stomach upset. Are there really foods that induce labor? As maintaining appropriate nutrition is an essential component of a healthy pregnancy, it should not be neglected in the later weeks in attempts to self-induce labor.

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Nipple Stimulation

Using nipple stimulation to induce labor is a less familiar method, although one of the most effective of the natural ways to induce labor. While it may not be commonly known, it can also be utilized as one of the most effective techniques for stabilizing regular contractions once labor begins or getting a stalled labor back on track.



Herbs

Before artificial means of labor induction such as pitocin and cervidil were available, women in need of induction turned to herbs. Midwives and family physicians understood that certain herbs induce labor and the appropriate quantities in which to administer them. Unfortunately, much of this herb lore has been lost through the ages and widespread environmental pollution has robbed many herbs of their historic potency, limiting their current effectiveness as labor inducing agents.

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Castor Oil

The practice of using castor oil to induce labor is somewhat controversial, as its use has been associated with the potential for adverse effects in the baby, namely meconium staining at birth. Its use also carries some transient unpleasant side effects for the mother. Caution should be exercised when considering this method. It should only be used with the consent of your care provider after 41 weeks of pregnancy.



Acupressure

Using acupressure to induce labor is the most comfortable, enjoyable technique to attempt. Acupressure serves many purposes during pregnancy from alleviating common aches and pains to relieving nausea and morning sickness symptoms. Like the other methods, it is only effective when the body is demonstrating signs of readiness. As it carries no known adverse effects, it can be attempted at a later date if unsuccessful initially.

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The last method of merit is the easiest to implement. Every time you walk, you are using one of the natural ways to induce labor. Walking is a time-honored method of speeding labor. It uses the force of gravity to help the baby descend further into the pelvis and aid in ripening the cervix to prepare for the birth of the baby. With every step you take, you're one step closer to holding your baby.



References


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Induction of labor. Practice bulletin no. 10. Washington, D.C.: ACOG, 1999.

Edwards RK, Richards DS. Preinduction cervical assessment. Clin Obstet Gynecol 2000;43:440-6.

Adair CD. Nonpharmacologic approaches to cervical priming and labor induction. Clin Obstet Gynecol 2000;43:447-54.

Hadi H. Cervical ripening and labor induction: clinical guidelines. Clin Obstet Gynecol 2000;43:524-36.

Foong LC, Vanaja K, Tan G, Chua S. Membrane sweeping in conjunction with labor induction. Obstet Gynecol 2000;96:539-42.

Zeeman GG, Khan-Dawood FS, Dawood MY. Oxytocin and its receptor in pregnancy and parturition: current concepts and clinical implications. Obstet Gynecol 1997;89(5 pt 2):873-83.
Stubbs TM, Oxytocin for labor induction. Clin Obstet Gynecol 2000;43:489-94.

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Page Last Modified by Catherine Beier, MS, CBE

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