How Do You Use a Breast Pump to Induce Labor?

Reviewed on 6/16/2021
breast pump to induce labor
Stimulating the nipples can increase oxytocin levels and lead to contractions

Most pregnancies last for about 40 weeks before labor begins. But what if your pregnancy has gone beyond the 40-week mark? You may be tempted to try natural methods to induce labor.

One of these natural methods involves using a breast pump to stimulate the nipples and increase the levels of oxytocin in the body, which is a hormone that causes uterine contractions. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Choose a suction setting that is comfortable for you
  • Use the breast pump for 4-5 minutes, followed by 4-5 minutes of rest
  • Pump each breast for around 15 minutes each
  • You can do this up to 1 hour daily for 3 days

If you are past your due date, you should talk to your doctor before trying this method.

Does using a breast pump to induce labor really work?

In some women, labor may begin after a few days after trying the breast pump method. For others, however, it may not work at all.

If your pregnancy is high-risk, or even if your pregnancy is normal, you should not try this method without your doctor’s approval. It’s important to keep in mind that most natural methods of inducing labor are not backed by sufficient medical evidence. So before using any home remedy (natural or herbal) to induce labor, make sure to talk to your doctor.

When is labor induced in a hospital setting?

Your doctor may recommend inducing labor in a hospital setting, using medications or other methods, if there are medical reasons that mean continuing the pregnancy further presents risks to the mother's or baby's health

It may also be recommended when labor has not started on its own, 2 weeks past the normal due date. Around 25% of women need to be induced.

How is labor induced in a hospital setting?

Prostaglandin

While there are many ways to induce labor in a hospital, the most preferred method is to administer a synthetic version of the hormone prostaglandin orally or via vaginal gels. This is done to make the cervix ripen (soft and thin out) and simulates natural labor initiation. Prostaglandin can also be administered intravenously. 

Membrane stripping

In another procedure called membrane stripping, the doctor uses a gloved finger to sweep over the membranes connecting the amniotic sac to the wall of the uterus. The stripping causes the body to release natural prostaglandins, which further soften the cervix and cause contractions. 

Amniotomy

Amniotomy (rupturing the amniotic sac) is where the doctor makes a small opening in the amniotic sac using a special tool, which causes the mother’s water to break. Amniotomy may be done after oxytocin is given to the mother, and is usually recommended when the cervix is partially dilated and the baby's head has moved into the pelvis

Cervical balloon

During a balloon induction, a balloon catheter (thin tube with an inflatable balloon attached to its end) is inserted into the cervix, inflated with saline, and rested against the inside of the cervix. It is kept in place for up to 15 hours, which puts enough pressure on the cervix to open.

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Is labor induction effective?

In most cases, labor induction leads to a successful vaginal birth. If labor induction fails, another induction method may be attempted if the mother and baby are doing well. Otherwise, a cesarean section is performed.

In some cases, the labor induction is too risky and should not be attempted. Risk factors include:

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References
Vrees RA. Induction of Labor. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2500091-overview

Barclay L. Guidelines on Labor Induction Revised. Medscape. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/706359

World Health Organization. WHO Recommendations for Induction of Labour. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/44531/9789241501156_eng.pdf?sequence=1

Galal M, Symonds I, Murray H, Petraglia F, Smith R. Postterm pregnancy. Facts Views Vis Obgyn. 2012;4(3):175-187. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991404/

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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