When your due date is fast approaching, or perhaps already come and gone, you may be wondering if there are safe ways you can encourage things to start moving without actually being induced. You should always talk to your doctor or midwife to be sure it’s safe for labor to start. Once you get the all clear, some of the following strategies are gentle ways to get the ball rolling:
- Sex – Semen contains prostaglandins that can help ripen the cervix, and the act of lovemaking stimulates the release of oxytocin that can help stimulate contractions. Studies have shown that women who have sex late in pregnancy are less likely to go past their due date than women who do not. If your water is broken or your healthcare provider has advised against it, you’ll want to avoid intercourse. Otherwise, if you’re feeling up to it, enjoy yourselves, you won’t feel like it for a while after baby is born.
- Nipple stimulation – Whether you stand in the shower and let the water do the work, you recruit your partner for a little fun, or you do it yourself directly or through your clothing, stimulating the nipples also stimulates the uterus and can cause or strengthen contractions.
- Exercise – Walking, dancing, taking the stairs, or bouncing on a trampoline are all ways women have used to encourage labor to start. Gravity and the movement of your hips may help the baby move a bit farther down and place pressure on the cervix.
- Evening primrose oil – EPO contains prostaglandins that may help ripen the cervix. Either rub onto the cervix or simply place a couple of capsules in the vagina.
- Spicy food – Spicy food irritates the intestines, which may in turn irritate the uterus and increase contractions. There’s really no evidence to prove that it can actually stimulate labor, but if you enjoy some spicy Mexican or Asian food, have at it. You may be more likely to stimulate heartburn than contractions, but it’s worth a try.
- Red Raspberry leaf tea – Red raspberry leaf may not actually kickstart your labor, but may help things work more smoothly and efficiently. Drink small amounts beginning several weeks before you are due to help tone the uterus and get ready. Don’t use if you have a history of premature labors or cesarean section. Don’t suddenly start drinking large amounts, or your baby could go into distress. This is another method that you’ll want to discuss with your healthcare provider.
- Acupuncture or acupressure – Rubbing a pressure points in the fleshy area between your thumb and the palm of your hand and one just above your ankle may stimulate contractions.
- Pineapple – Bromelain is said to be able to help ripen the cervix.
- Relaxation – Stress and anxiety are notorious for slowing and sometimes even stopping labor. The more you can relax, the easier the whole process will be. Warm baths, meditation, or any other relaxing activity can help.
Castor oil is another method that is commonly suggested, but it acts on the bowels, causing vomiting and diarrhea. While this can stimulate some contractions, it can also leave you dehydrated and exhausted before you ever get started.
The last weeks of pregnancy are uncomfortable and you may be ready to be done, but don’t wear yourself out trying to get it over with. For most low risk pregnancies, these methods will help move things along only if baby is really ready. If nothing happens, it may just mean that baby isn’t quite ready yet. Keep in mind that in most cases, labor is safest and healthiest when it begins on its own.
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