Contrary to well-known fact, there are several other natural ways to induce labor other than prescription drugs. Doctors and midwives have recommended natural labour methods to mothers who passed their due date. But with so many people recommending outlandish natural labour methods, a first-time mom could mistakenly pick the wrong one.
So, how do you induce labour naturally?
Childbirth experts have recommended using castor oil to having sex to acupuncture. While there are various natural ways to induce labor, only a handful work. Mothers should consider doing extensive research and keeping up a diet for the whole term.
What is Labour?
Before going through the natural ways to induce labor, a mother should fully understand the signs and symptoms of labour. Labour is the "process of delivering the baby, placenta, membranes, and umbilical cord from the uterus to the vagina and the outside world." There are three stages of labour.
The first stage of labour starts when the cervix begins to thin and dilate. Contractions will also occur, lasting for 30 to 45 seconds. At this stage, the cervix will open from seven centimetres to 10 centimetres. By that time, contractions will occur every 3 to 4 minutes and last for 30 to 90 seconds.
The first stage of labour is the most lengthy part of the process.
The second stage, regarded as the "pushing" stage, marks the passage of the baby to the birth canal. It begins when the dilation of the cervix entirely occurs, and the mother has already started pushing. In this stage, the baby is delivered through the head first, though there are situations where the delivery of the baby is in reverse.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the delivery should be completed in 2 hours if there is no regional anesthesia administered. However, if the application of anesthesia takes place, the delivery of the baby must be completed within 3 hours.
To make the delivery easier, doctors often recommend mothers to kneel, squat, or lie down on their hands and knees during labour. These positions can ease the birthing process. Compared to the first stage, the second stage is quite shorter.
The third stage marks with the successful delivery of the baby and the placenta. After the birth of the baby, the body expels the placenta and membrane from the body in a process known as after birth. Usually, this stage lasts to five to 10 minutes, but there are certain cases where the phase has continued for 30 minutes. This stage marks wild contractions and a bit of bleeding.
What You’ll Need to Know
Although doctors may pinpoint a mother's due date, there is still no way to determine the exact start of labour. Labour could even start three weeks before the due date or two weeks after the due date.
During childbirth, doctors track and monitor the health of the baby. Doctors use two types of fetal monitoring: one is internal monitoring and external monitoring. Internal method refers to the use of a small electrode to monitor the baby’s heartbeat. As the namesake goes, the device is attached to the baby’s scalp through the cervix.
Meanwhile, external monitoring uses a transducer that’s attached to the maternal abdominal wall. The device will then detect the baby’s heartbeat through the wall and display it through visual tracing.
So, what type of monitoring should be used to track the baby's status? The choice depends on the healthcare provider. The doctor will assess the mother's situation and weigh in the factors involved. Then, they shall decide whether to use internal or external monitoring. In general, there is a conducting of fetal monitoring when the use of epidural anesthesia or oxytocin is involved.
The doctor will also perform fetal monitoring in high-risk pregnancies or difficult labour.
How to Induce Labour Naturally?
With so many "verified" natural ways to induce labor, this begs the question: “how do you induce labour naturally?” Researchers recommend a selected number of methods.
Having Sexual Intercourse
Doctors and midwives have recommended sex as a natural way to induce labour. Research studies found that human semen contains prostaglandins, which arouse labour.
Moreover, sexual intercourse help release hormones that facilitate labour. However, mothers who are looking for natural ways to induce labor should still ask the advice of a medical professional before trying these methods.
According to midwife Elizabeth Stein, CNM, couples should only try having sex when the mother's water is not broken and advised by the doctor. She also added that it is essential that the partner ejaculates inside the vagina.
How often should the couple engage in sexual activity to induce labour? Doctors and midwives say: "three time's the charm." Three ejaculations are supposed to be the equivalent of a Cervidil medication, which is used to jumpstart labour.
Aside from sexual activity, nipple stimulation can help induce labour. This kind of stimulus is also beneficial for slow or stalled labour. Nipple stimulation can be done by the mother or with the help of her partner. To perform the stimulation, doctors and midwives recommend stimulating the whole breast, particularly the area behind the areola, for this method.
Mothers also have the option to use breast pumps to stimulate the nipples. However, this should only be done when the labour is slow or stalled.
Using Castor Oil
Some research studies showed that castor oil could induce labour. It first causes the intestines to contract, which in turn causes the uterus to contract. However, warning mothers that castor oil can cause diarrhea or, at worst-case scenarios, dehydration is necessary.
For this reason, castor oil must be used in moderation and possibly with the advice of a healthcare professional.
If a mother wishes to use this method, the mother must drink at least 16 ounces of water to replenish her electrolyte levels. Despite the possible side effect of this birthing method, ingesting castor oil is one of the most recommended natural ways to induce labor.
According to research studies, eating dates have helped pregnant mothers have high cervical dilation, intact membranes, and more spontaneous labours. The research also found that pregnant women who ate dates consumed less oxytocin and had shorter first stage labour. The study thereby concludes that women who ate dates four weeks before their labour had "more favourable" deliveries.
Mothers who do not wish to use other natural ways to induce labor may eat dates instead. Dates are not only helpful for labour, as told by the study, but it also contains nutrients and vitamins beneficial to the baby.
A mother who wants to jumpstart her labour as soon as possible can undergo membrane stripping. Membrane stripping refers to the procedure where amniotic sac separates from the cervix. This separation will then result in labour. According to the statistics, one in 8 women will immediately go to labour 48 hours after the procedure.
Like all medical procedures, it comes with some risks. For one, the process could rupture membranes or break the water after a few days. It can also cause vaginal spotting and cramping. And there is a possibility that, despite this procedure, the contractions will not start soon.
Drinking Herbal Drinks
For non-invasive natural ways to induce labor, doctors and midwives recommend red raspberry leaf tea. It has powerful stimulating effects that tone the uterus for labour. But because of its strength, midwives recommend drinking the tea only after the second trimester.
There is a recommendation for a quart cup of double-brew red raspberry tea leaf for each day during the final week of pregnancy. For mothers who want to go to labour soon, they can increase the dose of their tea for a stronger effect.
To make a double-brew of this tea, the mother must fill 1 quart of filtered water and a cup of tea leaves into a pot before boiling. The tea must be left to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes before consumption.
For centuries, Asian women use acupuncture to jumpstart labour. A research study from the University of North Carolina found that women who received acupuncture were more likely to undergo labour without a medical "push."
However, the sample size of the research study is still too small to establish the facts. Nonetheless, the research study gave promising results on the effect of acupuncture on natural childbirth.
A mother can choose to undergo acupuncture with the advice of a medical professional.
What Are The Signs Of Labour?
The following scenarios will characterise the onset of labour:
This refers to the situation where the baby’s head has moved to the pelvis. As a result, the mother may feel a minor pressure on her diaphragm, which allows her to breathe more easily.
But, in exchange, the mother may feel a greater strain on her bladder. She may make frequent trips to the bathroom in the lightening phase.
Loss of Mucus Plug
The mucus plug refers to the layers of mucus that protect the cervix from infection. When the lightening occurs, the expelling of mucus created by the cervical glands may occur. Mothers may see a discharge of stringy mucus weeks, days, or minutes before the onset of their labour.
Before the onset of their labour, a mother may suddenly feel a burst of energy. They may feel motivated to do specific tasks such as grocery shopping, cleaning, or hobbies that require a lot of energy.
Mothers may even feel the urgency to do something. At this time, a mother must remember that this is a sign of impending labour and that they must conserve their energy.
Effacement refers to the thinning of the cervix. As the day of birthing comes near, the cervix will get thinner to accommodate for the delivery. A mother can identify if her cervix is undergoing effacement by seeking a doctor. To know the degree of effacement of the mother, the doctor will conduct tests.
After the cervix has gone thin, it will start to dilate. Dilation is an essential step for childbirth as the cervix is opening to prepare for birth. A doctor would know the degree of dilation by measuring the cervix.
Similar to effacement, a mother would only know the degree of dilation with the help of a healthcare professional.
Once the cervix has opened up to 10 centimetres, then the mother has "fully dilated."
While the "water breaking" scene is famous in movies, only 1 out of 10 pregnant women experience this scenario. On the onset of labour, a mother may feel a gush of amniotic fluid. This occurrence happens when the amniotic sac, which rests on top of the bladder, leaks or breaks.
Often, the amniotic fluid may look like urine. However, unlike urine, the amniotic fluid is odourless. One can tell one from the other is by sniffing the fluid. If a mother suspects that she is leaking amniotic fluid, she must contact a doctor immediately.
If the amniotic fluid leaks, a mother must avoid using tampons or have sexual intercourse. Otherwise, the vagina may get infected by bacteria, which is harmful to the baby and the mother. On another note, a mother must contact a healthcare provider immediately if the amniotic fluid looks greenish or brownish.
When a mother feels contractions, labour has begun. At the early stage of labour, contractions happen at 20 to 30-minute intervals. But as labour goes on, the contractions will last longer times and occur in shorter intervals. Here are the typical characteristics of a contraction:
- Happening in a regular and predictable pattern
- Become progressively closer, longer, and stronger
- Felt in the lower back, which then radiates to the front and vice versa
- Will not stop regardless of body position or activity
- The appearance of mucus plug discharge and rupture membrane
- The presence of cervical changes such as effacement and dilation
If a mother uses any of the natural ways to induce labor, she will need to observe any of these signs.
Aside from doing the natural ways to induce labor, expecting mothers should keep their diet in mind. Their foot intake may affect the onset of their labour. Expecting mothers are advised to eat the following food to start their labour.
Not only are pineapples healthy, but pineapples also contain an enzyme called Bromelain. This enzyme helps soften the cervix, easing the process of effacement and dilation. Moreover, Bromelain helps to smooth muscles. A regular intake of pineapple may jumpstart labour.
If pineapples are rich with bromelain, then papayas are rich with an enzyme called Papain. This enzyme helps start contractions, which in turn, jumpstarts labour. However, not just any papaya will do.
As papaya ripens, more of the papain enzyme gets lost. So, if mothers are interested in eating papayas to induce labour, they must choose raw, green papayas instead of the ripe one.
Eating black licorice contains a chemical called glycyrrhizin, which stimulates the production of prostaglandins. These prostaglandins help induce contractions, which then jumpstarts labour.
However, a mother must be careful not to overeat black licorice since it might result in diarrhea instead. On the plus side, diarrhea may cause a sympathetic contraction of the uterus, which could start labour.
Foods Harmful to Labour
Expecting mothers should avoid the following food:
Spicy foods are a common meal choice for expecting mothers since they are believed to induce labour. However, research studies found that spicy foods may cause a painful birth, especially when the mother gives birth for the first time or uses the natural way.
Some kinds of spicy foods release capsaicin, which counteracts with endorphins produced by the body. So, when a mother gives birth to their child naturally, the capsaicin may clash with the endorphins produced during labour; thereby, inducing painful childbirth.
Doctors have repeatedly advised mothers to avoid excessive serving of fish due to its potential potency to the baby. Several research studies have revealed that fish, especially the larger fish, tend to contain high levels of methylmercury. High quantities of this chemical can do severe damage to a person’s nervous system.
However, this does not mean that fish, in general, is harmful to the baby. Doctors recommend fish during pregnancy because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients are quite essential to a child's brain development.
So, where do doctors draw the line?
Doctors recommend eating 8 to 12 ounces of fish with low levels of mercury per week. It means mothers should only eat seafood such as salmon, tilapia, shrimp, tuna (canned-light), cod, and catfish. Expecting mothers may eat white (albacore) tuna, but since tuna contains high levels of mercury, only 6 ounces per week is permitted.
Expecting mothers should NOT eat king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish. These fish varieties have been found to contain high levels of mercury. But, if a mother is unsure whether she could eat a fish during pregnancy or not, she should stick with smaller varieties of fish instead of the larger types.
Raw Meat and Deli Meat
Expecting mothers are not permitted to eat raw meat since these meats are at high threat of contamination with bacteria such as coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella. On the other hand, research studies have shown that listeria can contaminate deli meat, which causes miscarriages. Listeria can cross to the placenta and infect the baby. The infected baby may then develop blood poisoning, which then causes the miscarriage.
It doesn't mean that a pregnant mother should avoid meat at all costs. If she is considering eating meat, she must reheat the meat before consumption.
Raw and Unpasteurized Eggs
Fresh eggs are at high risk of contamination of salmonella, a bacterium that is harmful to a baby. For this reason, mothers are discouraged from eating mayonnaise, ice cream, or custards made from raw eggs. However, mothers may eat commercially-made mayonnaise, ice cream, or custards since they are typically made with pasteurised eggs.
As a general rule, mothers should only eat eggs or products with eggs if the eggs are pasteurised eggs. They could also eat cooked recipes using eggs as cooked food is at low risk of contamination with salmonella.
Harmful Activities to Avoid
Stay clear from the following activities:
Wearing High Heels
Mothers are discouraged from wearing high heels during pregnancy. Due to their swollen bellies, pregnant women's centre of gravity can change. They may be a little unsteady on their feet, which, combined with high heels, would lead to unwanted accidents.
Pregnant women are allowed to wear heels with a maximum height of three inches. But as much as possible, mothers should stick to flats or flip-flops instead.
Dip In A Hot Tub
With the growing aches in their body, an expecting mother may be tempted to get a dib in a hot tub or sauna. However, exposing the body to high temperatures during the first trimester can lead to congenital disabilities to the baby. For this reason, expecting mothers are recommended to have warm baths instead.
Changing Kitty Litter
Expecting mothers with cats should not change the kitty litter under any circumstance. Cat feces contain a parasitic disease called toxoplasmosis, which is extremely harmful to the baby. For this reason, pregnant women are advised to stay away from things or areas that expose them to cat feces, such as kitty litter. But, if a mother must clean the kitty litter, she must wear gloves and make sure to wash her hands afterwards.
Toxoplasmosis is not just in cat feces. This disease can also be found in raw meat and gardening. The likelihood of contracting toxoplasmosis is higher in eating meat and gardening than cleaning cat poop.
In a Nutshell
Labour has always been known as a painful and challenging process, but it doesn't necessarily have to be one. Mothers of all families and backgrounds are advised to follow these tips to avoid complications during labour.