Top Tips for Inducing Natural Labour
In this blog, I suggest the natural tips to assist with adding the body to go into natural labour.
Please note, these tips can be used together and in different combination’s and different tips will work for different women.
However, I also wanted to exercise caution. We all know that at the end of our pregnancy we feel heavy and awkward and just wishing it was over!
Please note that your body and the babies work hand in hand to bring on labour when the time is perfectly right for both of you. The baby secretes hormones into the mother’s body which begins the process of labour.
So please note as much as you want to go into labour, please do not force a labour to occur as this can have issues such as spurious labour where contractions come on hard and fast and die out. This can cause the mother to become very tired and labour can drag on.
These tips are designed to help you go into natural labour, but we also need to take into consideration the position that your baby is in, how many weeks pregnant you are – past factors such as a c-section or posterior baby and also if the baby is actually ready to begin its journey.
Acupuncture Induction – many women seek out acupuncturists in desperate need of going into labour. My response to these women is yes, we can fit you in and yes, we will do an acupuncture induction session – yet this does not mean that you will automatically go into labour that day, or night. During these sessions my aim is to decrease stress, anxiety and fear, enable the energy to flow freely and remove any emotional blockages that may be preventing labour from occurring. I also would like to know the position of baby. We focus on calming the mum down, providing a haven for her and giving her some rest as well as support.
Acupuncture induction is completely different from what a “medical induction” is in that we are working with the mother and the baby and using acupuncture to enable the body to assist itself to go into labour naturally.
Most of the below tips are used to assist with softening the cervix and enabling it to become soft so that it begins to thin out and dilate.
So, what are our top tips?
Eat Dates throughout your pregnancy and from 35 weeks onwards
Eating dates throughout your pregnancy gives you a good wealth of nutrients. Dates are high in energy, potassium, calcium and magnesium, folate and vitamin K. This all aids with assisting with cramps in pregnancy providing a good source of fibre as well as natural sugar for energy. When eaten from 35 weeks onwards – you need to consume either 6 delget noor dates or 3 medjool dates daily.
How do the dates assist with a natural labour?
- Has an oxytocin-like effect on the body, leading to increased sensitivity of the uterus.
- Stimulates uterine contractions.
- Reduces postpartum haemorrhage the way oxytocin does.
“Date fruit contains saturated and unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids, which are involved in saving and supplying energy and construction of prostaglandins. In addition, serotonin, tannin, and calcium in date fruit contribute to the contraction of smooth muscles of the uterus. Date fruit also has a laxative effect, which stimulates uterine contractions.”
Dates assist with a natural labour by inducing oxytocin which stimulates the uterine contractions. From studies undertaken and published in the Journal of Obstetrics and gynaecology, those women who ate dates throughout their pregnancy and from 35 weeks had a shorter and easier labour than those that did not consume the dates.
Published in the Journal of Midwifery & Reproductive Health, this study looked at date consumption in late pregnancy as it related to cervical ripening, and found that women who ate 70-75 grams of dates per day after 37 weeks pregnant had:
- 50% higher Bishop scores at admission to birthplace
- 43% lower rates of cesarean section
- 51% lower rates of vacuum/forceps
Eating Pineapple From 35 weeks.
Pineapple can be used to induce labour because they contain a type of proteolytic enzyme called bromelain that help soften the cervix and induce labour. Eating pineapples is beneficial because they help ripen your cervix and make labour easy. Be sure to select fresh pineapples because only they contain bromelain.
Some risks can be involved as pineapple also contains vitamin c and to much may induce diarrhoea. If you have gestational diabetes, you may need to be careful with the amount that you eat and check your blood sugar.
Fresh pineapple should be eaten only – no frozen or dried pineapple as they do not contain the Bromelain which effects the softening of the cervix.
SEX – but only if you want to!
Sex can be very useful for assisting you to go into labour naturally as sperm contain prostaglandins which act on the cervix to soften it and enable it to ripen. These prostaglandins are also present in the gels that the obstetricians use to assist to dilate your cervix when you are being induced! Nature designed its own natural way!
Please note – only have sex if you are feeling up for it.
Acupuncture “induction” is used to assist the body to go naturally into labour without using other forms of “medical” induction. Acupuncture induction involves using acupuncture to assist the body to begin contractions, and to aid with cervical ripening. When treating a woman – acupuncture points will also be used to enhance her energy levels, the blood flow to the uterus and balance her emotions. We aid with reducing stress and anxiety and allowing her to relax and enter a calm state. Sometimes, labour can be delayed due to our emotions, and acupuncture enables us to remove these blockage’s which may help the body to go into labour naturally.
Massage – massage is extremely beneficial for enabling you to relax and rest. Sometimes at this stage of our pregnancy we are tired, sore, frustrated, irritable and just plain over it. Having a massage, enables oxytocin to be releases, tired muscles to be relaxed, stress and anxiety to be lowered and enables mum to be calmer and get a rest. Touch also induces oxytocin which can aid with bringing on labour.
It is also beneficial as mum gets some rest and relaxation time!
Having a warm bath.
Taking a warm bath will help relax your body and help induce labour. Avoid keeping water too hot because your baby will always feel hotter than you do. Keep the water temperature low for a more relaxing bath for you and your baby.
Make it more relaxing by adding a couple of drops of essential oil of lavender and a cup of Epsom salts (magnesium). This will also assist with any muscular pain or tightness in the body and aids sleep and promotes relaxation.
Bounce on a Birth Ball
You can make use of a large bouncy ball called a birth ball to induce labour.
Simply sit on a birth ball with your legs spread. Now, bounce on the ball gently for some time to help the baby move downward.
I also recommend doing pelvic tilts and figure eights and just moving the pelvis as well. You can bounce for about 5-10 mins; it does help move baby down from my own experience.
After bouncing on the birth ball – if you have stairs, walk up and down about 10 times as this also moves baby down into the pelvic area.
- If baby is in a posterior position though, I do not recommend doing the stairs or birth ball as we want bay to be able to turn into an anterior position. Instead, focus on being on all fours, and rocking your pelvis gently side to side.
- You can also use the acupressure combination to change a malposition baby – your acupuncturist will teach this to you when you see them.
- For posterior position baby it is essential that you use the optimal foetal positioning- we want you leaning forward to try and turn baby. All fours and leaning forward on a birth ball are great positions for assisting bay to turn. Swimming can also work well.
- If baby is posterior, you may want to lie on your side with a peanut ball when in labour, or be on all fours during contractions as it takes the pressure off you lower back and sacrum and can make contractions less painful.
Walking is a great way to assist with going into natural labour and moving down into the pelvis. I always recommend a walk for about 10 mins after a labour induction acupuncture session and suggest to my clients that if they can – walk up and down some stairs about 5-10 times – whatever feels comfortable for them. Walking aids with moving baby down into the pelvis (the walking side to side can assist baby to be gently rocked downwards and gravity (downwards movement) aids baby to move downwards.
Walking is also great when in labour, as movement aids baby to move down into the pelvis in between contractions.
Walking moves energy and improves blood flow and can aid with releasing emotions.
Do not go overboard though as you will need energy for labour. Go for gentle walks and conserve your energy.
Nipple stimulation – stimulates the release of oxytocin which in turn stimulates the uterus.
Gentle rolling of the nipples, stimulation (rubbing/rolling/sucking) can assist you to go into labour. Hand expressing colostrum from the nipples stimulates the oxytocin release.
Please note – from recent studies – you need about 1.5 hours of nipple stimulation to aid with bringing on labour.
My suggestion is trying nipple stimulation in combination with using acupressure to induce contractions, bouncing on a birth ball and drinking raspberry leaf tea.
When used in combination it can bring on labour. Nipple stimulation by itself, will require about 1.5 hours or more to induce labour.
Raspberry leaf tea
Evening primrose oil
Raspberry leaf tea – to bring on a natural labour it is suggested once 40 weeks and over if you are wanting to bring on labour naturally, have a very strong cup of raspberry leaf tea every 2 hours. If drinking raspberry leaf tea is not your idea of fun, you can take a raspberry leaf capsule – it is suggested 2 capsules per 2 hours. The raspberry leaf tea acts directly on the uterine muscle and strengthens the muscles. It can make labour quicker and shorter, due to the uterine muscle contracting strongly – therefore making contraction’s stronger.
Evening Primrose Oil – this can be taken orally or used vaginally. Usually it is taken orally from 38 weeks onwards. A capsule of 500mg is taken. Evening primrose oil is used to assist with softening the cervix, so that it becomes thin and soft which enables it to stretch.
Vaginally – you place a capsule onto the cervix directly to enable it to soften and beginning thinning out. (effacing). Many Midwives now recommend using Evening Primrose oil in place of castor oil.
Castor oil – many women are desperate when they use castor oil. Basically, its action is to stimulate the movement of the bowels. The bowels share the same nerve supply as the uterus, so by stimulating the bowels, it also stimulates the uterus which may induce labour. Side effects though can include diarrhoea if taken to much. It is suggested that you take one dose of 30mg or organic castor oil and wait and see what happens. I recommend one dose daily. I personally would prefer to eat a Curry as the herbs in a curry act the same way.
Eat a good Curry
It’s an old wife’s tale but it works. The spicy herbs in classic Indian curries act on our bowel motions. Inducing a good bowel motion can in effect also stimulate labour as the bowels and uterus share the same nerve supply. The spices can “irritate” the nerve supply causing a great bowel movement and this also stimulates the uterus – which may bring on contractions. Clearing your bowels, also brings baby further down into the pelvis and this can also enable the pressure on the cervix to begin the labour process by enabling the cervix to dilate.
Stretch and Sweep
A stretch and sweep may be offered by your midwife at your check-up. It can be performed from 38 weeks but depends on the individual and her situation. It is used to try and induce labor naturally without using a “medical induction” such as syntocin.
It can be uncomfortable. The basis of the stretch and sweep is to irritate the uterus to induce labour. Your midwife will insert her hand into your vagina and try and stretch out the cervix (palpation of the cervix can also determine whether you are already a little bit dilated, how dilated you are and also if the cervix is soft and lessening or if the cervix is still high up and “tough”. The midwife or Dr will then use a circular movement to try to separate the membranes of the amniotic sac, containing the baby, from your cervix. This action, which releases hormones called prostaglandins, prepares the cervix for birth and may initiate labour. If your cervix is soft – they may try and “stretch” the cervix a bit more by using there fingers to spread the opening of the cervix.
You may have some bleeding after this and feel uncomfortable. The prostaglandins which are released may trigger the beginning of labour.
Having a good cry
It’s hard when you are at the end of your pregnancy and you are waiting and just wanting something – anything to happen. Waiting may also cause added fear and anxiety.
This can cause our energy to become stuck – and block labour from happening. A good cry can remove this blockage and get things started, not to mention iot is also a great physical release.
As well as a good cry – a chat with your best friend, a friend or midwife can also be great for assisting to remove blocked emotions and ease fear and anxiety.
Lastly – patience. Your body knows how to birth your baby and it is an intricate dance between the 2 of you. Your baby secretes hormones into your body 3 days prior to the onset on labour and it is these hormones which are needed for your body to start the process of labour.
Sometimes we want our babies to be born to soon and they may not be ready yet. I always chat with my pregnant clients and explain that while we do the “acupuncture induction” baby will come when baby wants to come and as well as using points which will assist her to go into labour naturally, I am also working with her body to reduce stress and anxiety, ease any fears, boost up her energy and reassure her that everything is ok and that she is doing a great job.
Please rest as much as you can while waiting for baby to come. If you go into spurious labour, it can be really tiring, and you will need rest. If this means taking a panadeine fort to assist you to sleep through the night – this is ok.
I hope you have found these tips useful. Please use the tips that call to you and remember they can all be used in combination!
Written by Dr Julia Bartrop.