With three pregnancies behind me and another six in the future (just testing to see if Stefen is reading this) I’d like to believe I have lots of wisdom to share. I don’t actually feel that way, although I have done quite a bit of research on the matter and have tried almost every labor inducing trick. I’d still never claim to know it all or tell you to use my advice without asking your midwife or doctor. These are just my personal experiences. You can read each birth story here: Blake’s birth story, Houston’s birth story, and Joelle’s birth story.
First I’m going to list every labor inducing method I’ve tried and then I will go into more detail about each one. Ready? Go!
- Spicy Mexican food and spicy food in general
- Castor oil
- Chiropractic adjustments
- Climbing Stairs
- Walking, jogging, and running
- Jumping jacks
- Red raspberry leaf tea
- Evening primrose oil
- Herbs and tinctures
- More Sex
- Nipple stimulation / Breast pumping
- Membrane sweep / strip
I know some people who are completely against inducing labor in any way, and as hypocritical as this is going to sound, I agree with them. For the most part. I don’t believe in inducing labor just because you’re “done” being pregnant, or because you’d like to have your baby by a certain date just because. This is not always the case though.
With my first pregnancy I tried 16 of the 17 listed above. From simple things I was already doing daily like climbing stairs and eating lots of spicy Mexican food, to more “risky” things like castor oil. I waited until I was past 40 weeks, and most of them were done days before being induced in a hospital at 42 & 1/2 weeks, which also failed. I say all this to say.. I don’t believe any of these “natural ways to induce labor” will magically put you into labor unless your body is ready on it’s own. I still have no idea why I never went into active labor with my first. My only conclusions are 1. he had no desire to come out (he’s still my most chill kid) and 2. God knew where I needed to be, and although my dream home birth with him turned to the complete opposite, pre-eclampsia is serious and I’m glad I was where I needed to be.
So, what do each of these “natural labor inducing methods” actually do to your body? I’ll tell you!
Eating spicy food can stimulate and/ or irritate your digestive system, which in turn can do the same to your uterus. The way my midwife explained it is, imagine your intestines and uterus are rubbing against each other causing friction.
Falls under the same description as spicy food, -to the extreme- and is also one of the reasons it is not recommended to use without consulting your midwife or doctor. It could cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.
This is kind of a no brainer for me, and I don’t mean that to sound like a “know it all” answer. But, everyone who has carried around a baby whether inside or on the outside knows how much it can throw off your balance, cause backaches, etc. Keeping your body aligned how it was made to be so it can birth a baby like it was made to just makes sense.
I was seeing a chiropractor every once in awhile during my first pregnancy, and after my failed home birth turned c-section I got serious about it. My midwife had questioned if maybe he never fully dropped because of a trampoline accident I had as a little girl which effected my hip and pelvis. I was determined to have an HBAC with my future babies so I wad adamant to figure it out. I had x-rays to rule out any problems with my pelvis, bought special shoes and inserts to keep my hips aligned, and started going to my chiropractor regularly.
Once I became pregnant with my second baby I was on the same schedule with my chiropractor as I was with my midwife (monthly appointments, then every two weeks, then once a week) My last adjustment with him while pregnant was the day I gave birth! I was actually in labor when I went to see him.
Do you really need an excuse to get a massage when you’ve been pregnant for almost 10 years, I mean, months? Give your body a chance to relax. Be sure to find a massage therapist who specializes in pregnancy massages. They may have some tricks up their sleeve -aka certain pressure points- that can encourage labor as well.
(swinging, climbing stairs, jumping jacks, walking/jogging/running): Simple exercises like walking may not seem like it’s doing much, but being active for even a short period of time every day will help your baby descend and also dilate your cervix. Don’t just jump right into (see what I did there?) these things if it’s not something you’ve already been doing during and before your pregnancy though. Safety first, always. And extra underwear for those jumping jacks.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
This tea -which don’t be fooled, tastes nothing like raspberries- has so many benefits for women in general. Some call it “women’s tea”. It is said to help with menstrual pain, balance hormones, increase fertility, and many other benefits. Like I mentioned earlier, I really don’t understand what was going on with my body during my first pregnancy. But with my second I was working overtime making sure I was doing everything in my might to get the birth I wanted. By my third I was questioning if things like drinking a special tea and taking certain pills (onto that next) were really doing anything. After delivering my third I was convinced and am sure they played a huge part in my births.
Raspberry leaf tea strengthens your uterus and shortens labor, among other things. These were most important to me. After having a c-section with my first many people like to remind you that your uterus could rupture and you could die. And when you start to research how likely that is of actually happening, it’s not so scary. Did you know that your uterus can rupture without having a previous c-section? Either way, if drinking tea could help my uterus to be even stronger, I would give it a shot.
And as far as shortening labor. Both of my labors and births were, in my opinion, incredibly short. I was fully dilated by the time my midwife arrived both times, and my last was born within 5 minutes of the midwife arriving, and in under 4 minutes of pushing. So yeah, I will give the tea some credit!
Evening Primrose Oil
This is also said to help shorten labor, as well as helping the cervix soften and efface. I started, with the permission of my midwife, using the raspberry leaf tea and evening primrose oil at 38 weeks up until I delivered. Like I said above, I started to question if they really did anything. All of my births have been so different. My first HBAC was 2 days early, and then my second was almost 2 weeks late. But, when my last baby was ready to come out it happened fast! And I give credit to these natural labor inducing methods, or as I like to call them, natural labor preparation methods.
Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that helps soften the cervix. It can also stimulate your intestines causing you to have contractions, but again that’s if your body is ready. With my first I ate two whole pineapples in a row and started to feel minor contractions, but that was it. More importantly for me was that it helps soften your cervix, again getting your body ready for labor, not a magic tool to put you in labor. Make sure it is fresh pineapple though! The canned stuff does not have the same effect. My amazing sister in law -who may or may not have been just as anxious as I was to meet my daughter- bought and prepared fresh pineapple for me, and reminded me multiple times to eat it all.
Herbs and Tinctures
I don’t have much to say here because this was something my midwife concocted with my first pregnancy, which was over 4 years ago, and I don’t remember exactly what all she used. I do know it included blue and black cohosh, and this was a full day process that also included the castor oil, lots of walking, and being monitored by her throughout the process.
I feel like I should mention this 20 times, because I think that’s how many times it was mentioned to me. Just kidding, it was definitely mentioned more than 20 times. Kind of like people think maybe we never have sex and should try it, even though, “hey, did you see this giant belly?”. But in all seriousness (because sex is serious), the scientific reasoning behind having sex to induce labor is pretty fascinating. Semen is a natural source of prostaglandins, which helps your cervix soften. Synthetic prostaglandins are used in certain forms of medical labor inductions. Why not use the natural stuff that got you here in the first place? Orgasms also release oxytocin which can help bring on contractions. So go ahead, and get it on.
Nipple Stimulation / Breast Pumping
This is also said to release the hormone oxytocin, aka “the love hormone”. That feeling you get right after birthing your baby and they’re lying on your chest while you smell their sweet baby smell. Your body is pumping out loads of oxytocin. You may not relate nipple stimulation to that at this point in your pregnancy, but it may help. With my first, I tried using my breast pump, which I’ll be honest was just weird because I didn’t have a baby yet. With my second I was still nursing my then 19 month old and while it kinda hurt like heck nursing (more so having to lie still) while having contractions, it definitely encouraged those contractions.
Membrane Sweep / Strip
There’s no pretty way to say it. This is when your midwife uses her fingers to seperate the membranes of the amniotic sac from your cervix. Told you it wasn’t pretty. This is a “last resort” in my book. Although I’m surprised when people have told me their doctor went ahead and did this to them before they were 40 weeks and without telling them what they were doing. This is something I would say I did not to prepare for labor, but because I was hoping it would put me into labor. Some are against this and others are all for it, and I’ve been on both sides. I will say it is something my husband and I took very seriously, and prayed about beforehand.
Last but not least, and I will gladly say this may be my favorite! I saved this for last because this was literally my last attempt with my third pregnancy. I was almost two weeks late and by this point was starting to doubt my body again and fear that maybe I wasn’t going to go into labor again, like my first. My midwife was so encouraging during this time and at complete peace that I would be fine, but I couldn’t help let that fear seep in sometimes. She had mentioned acupuncture since it was something I had never tried before, and said she’d like me to try it before doing an at home natural induction again (the same all day process we did with my first), so I decided to give it a try.
You can read more details of that experience in my birth story. I will just say that 1. it was weird at first, because I had no idea what to expect. and 2. it was amazing. It was so relaxing and the acupuncturist’s sweet spirit was almost enough to put me at peace on it’s own. I had two sessions with him, and had my baby within 12 hours of the second session. At that appointment he mentioned I was ready and wouldn’t be going back to him for a third session. I laughed, he laughed, and then oh my gosh, “he was right!”
I know this was a long read and if you’ve made it this far I just want to end by encouraging you to do what is right for you. Everyone has different opinions and different beliefs. If I’ve learned anything through my three very different births it’s that judgement has no place. Every women is different, every pregnancy is different, and every birth is different. Be informed. Find a provider you trust. Stay close to your husband. Pray. Find peace and trust your body. Your body was created to do amazing things, and it’s already doing them by carrying that amazing baby.
And if you’re still reading, enjoy this video my husband and I made during my first pregnancy to pass the time!