Can You Really Induce Labor Naturally?

Reviewed on 6/10/2021
inducing labor naturally
Natural ways of inducing labor aren’t backed by science, so talk to your doctor about whether they're right for you

Your due date is an educated guess, based on your last menstrual period and your ultrasound examinations. However, the day you actually go into labor may be two weeks before or after this estimated due date. This is normal, and many women deliver healthy babies around this time frame. 

While it’s best to allow the process of labor to begin naturally, you may start to get anxious after week 40 and be tempted to try to do what you can to increase your chances of inducing labor. However, natural methods of inducing labor aren’t backed by science. It’s best to wait it out. If you are way beyond your due date, your doctor may suggest inducing labor at the hospital with a hormone infusion.

What are the benefits of giving birth after a full-term pregnancy?

Of course, you should never try to induce labor early. Babies born after a full-term pregnancy tend to be healthier and have a lower risk of health problems compared to preterm babies. Other benefits include:

Possible ways of inducing labor naturally

When it comes to inducing labor naturally, there is no concrete scientific evidence to support these methods. So it’s best to consult your doctor before trying any of them. 

Exercise

Walking, light exercises, or guided workouts by a trainer with experience in training pregnant women may help. Getting your heart rate up can increase body strength as well as your chances of going into labor.

Sexual intercourse

Having sex, especially if you experience an orgasm, can release oxytocin, which is a hormone that can induce uterine contractions. The prostaglandin hormones in semen can also help ripen the cervix

You should not have sex after your water breaks because it can increase the risk of infection. Sex is also not advised in the case of placenta previa or bleeding episodes during pregnancy.

Nipple stimulation

Stimulating the nipples triggers oxytocin production, which can cause the uterus to contract and induce labor. This is why mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their babies right after delivery, since this helps the uterus contract and return to its normal size. You can try stimulating your nipples yourself, ask your partner to help, or use a breast pump.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture may help, but it’s not clear how it works. Some studies have shown that it may induce labor by stimulating the uterus and promoting cervical ripening, possibly due to the effects on hormones or changes in the nervous system. Acupuncture should be done only by a licensed acupuncturist.

Acupressure

According to some studies acupressure can help induce labor as well, in addition to alleviating pain and discomfort during labor. It should be done only by trained acupressure professionals. 

Castor oil

Drinking 1-2 ounces of castor oil can promote the release of prostaglandin, which can help ripen the cervix and induce labor. It should only be consumed under the supervision of a midwife or doctor because it can sometimes cause severe cramps or loose stools.

Dates

Eating dates in the final weeks of pregnancy may increase the chances of cervical ripening and dilation, which can induce labor. Dates can also help decrease the need for certain medications used during labor.

Pineapple

Fresh pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which breaks down the proteins in tissue and is commonly used as a meat tenderizer. It is believed that bromelain from pineapple breaks down tissue in the cervix, softening it and stimulating labor.

Herbal remedies

Herbs may not always be safe to use. Blue and black cohosh, raspberry leaf tea, and evening primrose oil have been used to help prepare the uterus for labor. However, cohosh has been associated with fetal heart failure and stroke as well as maternal complications during labor. So avoid consuming any natural herbal remedies without consulting a doctor or midwife beforehand.

Membrane stripping

About a week before your due date, your doctor may begin membrane stripping. This is where they use their finger or an instrument to separate the lower part of the membranes from the uterine wall, and is possible only if the cervix is dilated. 

Membrane stripping can cause some discomfort as well as increase the chances of going into labor spontaneously. It is also associated with vaginal bleeding, cramping, occasional membrane rupture (breaking of water).

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References
Cleveland Clinic. What Natural Ways to Induce Labor Actually Work? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-natural-ways-to-induce-labor-actually-work/

Kids Health. Inducing Labor. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/inductions.html

Westmead Hospital. Natural Ways to Bring on Labour. https://www.wslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/1346/Natural%20ways%20to%20bring%20on%20labour%20v3%20AB%20June%202019.pdf.aspx

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