As your due date approaches, and perhaps passes, people will start talking about the possibility of inducing your baby. But when is it safe to naturally induce labour, and how can you go about accomplishing it?
Don't rush it..
You shouldn’t even consider natural induction until you are around 40 weeks pregnant or overdue. That's because your due date could be inaccurate by a few weeks, and if you start your labour before this, you might give birth to a baby before he is ready to thrive outside the womb. There are many things that can be done to encourage your body to go into labour, however, they will only work if your body is ready.
But these might help.....
Evening Primrose/Raspberry Leaf Tea
These are two of the most well-known ways to encourage labour, but neither will actually induce it.
Evening primrose oil is an excellent source of prostaglandins, which prepare your cervix for labour. It can be taken orally as soon as 34 weeks, and can be applied directly to the cervix at 36 weeks. The general recommendation is two 500mg capsules per day until week 38, at which time you increase to 3-4 per day. Applying directly to the cervix is optimal, but the beneficial ingredients are absorbed through the external skin of the stomach as well.
Raspberry leaf tea is a tonic that can be used to tone your uterus. Many women safely use it from the moment they learn they are pregnant at six weeks, until months after delivery. It helps to tone the uterus after delivery as well, shrinking it back to size more quickly and reducing bleeding. However, it is contraindicated for those having complications "just in case".
Remember, it is best to consult an herbalist or your midwife if she is used to working with herbs.
Hot spicy foods, such as vindaloo curry, can also help induction. They work by causing spasms in the intestines, which, because of their close proximity to the uterus toward the end of pregnancy, can cause the uterus to cramp. This could result in labour.
It may be one of the last things on your mind as you approach the end of your pregnancy, but nevertheless sex can help to get labour under way. When you and your partner make love, his semen, which contains prostaglandins, can stimulate contractions. Prostaglandins work to help ripen and soften the cervix.
Some women massage their nipples as a way to induce labour. Stimulating the nipples triggers the production of natural oxytocin which contracts the uterus and can evolve into labour.
May be helpful in inducing labour. Some pressure points you can try are the roof of your mouth, the webbing of your fingers between your pointer finger and thumb, and above the ankle – there is a pressure point approximately four finger spaces above.
Relaxation exercises are another natural induction technique, and are also good practice for when labour actually begins.
It is best to see a homeopath well before your due date to help maintain a healthy pregnancy. Homeopathy can also help to induce labour, but it is best to have a complete homeopathic consultation.
Acupuncture can be very useful in getting things started for labour. However, it is not a quick fix - you may need a few sessions.
Blue and black cohosh
These herbs are often used to induce labour and may be particularly effective if you are having weak or irregular contractions.
Blue cohosh is believed to make uterine contractions stronger, while black cohosh may regulate the contractions. Together, they work to make contractions more effective. There have been no studies to determine that these natural treatments are safe, or whether all versions of the herb available for purchase are of equal potency. It is important to see a herbalist for advice.
Stripping the membranes
This is also known as a membrane sweep, and is usually offered at 41 weeks. Membrane sweeping is done by your midwife or doctor. While internally examining you, he or she will simply ‘sweep’ a finger around the neck of your womb (cervix). The aim is to separate the membranes around your baby from your cervix. This releases hormones called prostaglandins, which may kick-start your labour. A membrane sweep increases the likelihood that labour will start within 48 hours. You have more chance of success if the neck of your womb is already softening and preparing for labour.
A membrane sweep can be uncomfortable because the neck of the womb is often difficult to reach before labour begins and there may be some slight ‘spotting’ of blood and irregular contractions immediately afterwards. You may need two or three, but they will not increase the risk of infection to either you or your baby.
Women have been using castor oil to help induce labour for decades. In fact, many old school physicians and midwives swear by it. Castor oil can certainly be used for inducing labour, but it tastes horrible and should be taken with caution and guidance from a health professional.
It works by causing spasms in the intestines, which, because of their close proximity to the uterus toward the end of pregnancy, can cause the uterus to cramp. This results in labour.
You can take one to three ounces of castor oil mixed with six ounces of orange juice to cut its oiliness. Some practitioners suggest taking a single dose; others suggest repeated doses depending on your response. Castor oil will usually cause your bowels to empty within about three to four hours. Shortly afterwards, you should be in labour. Castor oil should not be taken without discussing with your midwife or doctor as it can cause a baby to become distressed if not taken with guidance
Ultimately, your baby is the one who decides the right time to be born and the kind of birth he or she wishes to have!
As mothers-to-be all we can do is prepare ourselves physically, psychologically and emotionally for birthing our child, and our subsequent role as his mother.
Find out more
Verona Hall has her own website, which has advice and information about the services she offers.
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