These days more and more pregnant moms are opting to induce labor instead of waiting for labor to happen on it’s own. Even those who have had healthy pregnancies with no complications are encouraged to move things along before they have even hit the 40-week mark. Some in their 38th week are encouraged to schedule for induction in their 39th week. If the mamas do reach their due date, the pressure increases, and if by 41 weeks labor has not begun on it’s own, there is almost certainly a push to start labor artificially.
The reasons for induction can be simply because the mama is tired and uncomfortable and feels social pressure to have this baby sooner rather than later.
Other mothers are afraid of having a big baby, but keep in mind that it is challenging to accurately tell the baby’s true size in the last month or so of pregnancy.
“Time and time again, researchers have found that it is very difficult to predict a baby’s size before it is born. Both the care provider’s estimate of the baby’s size and ultrasound results are unreliable. Researchers found ultrasound was accurate less than 50%. (Chauhan et al. 2005) In three studies that were done, the accuracy of ultrasounds to predict extra-large babies was only 22% to 37%. (Source)
What is a Bishop Score?
If you are considering induction, whether it is artificial or natural, consider your Bishop Score. A Bishop Score is a way to determine how “ripe” a woman’s body is and how receptive she will be towards induction. The things that are looked at in a Bishop Score are:
- Is the cervix dilating at all?
- Is the cervix effacing at all?
- What is the baby’s station?
- What is the consistency of the cervix?
The more the mother’s body is naturally ripe for labor, the higher the Bishop Score will be and the more likely the induction will be successful.
Inducing too early with a low Bishop Score can bring about unwanted interventions, and leads towards more complications in labor and delivery.
Evidence-Based Birth has some fantastic information on the pros and cons of inducing labor that I would encourage you to check out in making your decision.
Ways to Induce Labor in the Hospital
1. One of the first ways the hospitals want to induce labor is to soften the cervix using drug Cytotec.
Contrary to popular notion, it’s legal in the US and in other countries to use drugs off-label. What most people (including many midwives) may not know is that (with the exception of oxytocin and Cervidil), almost all drugs used in obstetrics are prescribed off-label. This means there may be experimentation with drugs on pregnant women, and women often won’t be aware that the drug prescribed for them is experimental in nature. If a drug turns out to have some harmful side effects, it’s very difficult to learn about.
The FDA Website confirms this:
2. Another alternative to Cytotec is Cervidil. Cervidil is approved by the FDA and is a safer albeit artificial way to soften the cervix and begin labor. However, it is more expensive, and not all hospitals carry it, so be sure to speak with your health care provider to see if that is an option.
3. A Foley Bulb (or Cook Catheter) may also be inserted into the vagina. The Foley inflates like a balloon and mechanically stretches the cervix to help bring along dilation. The Foley Bulb is a valid alternative for those who want to avoid chemicals since it merely stretches and encourages the cervix to dilate. It is, however, only an option until you are dilated to around 3 centimeters.
4. Pitocin is a synthetic form of the natural hormone Oxytocin. When it is medically necessary to induce, it can be very useful. However, it is essential to be aware of the risks of Pitocin and the increase in interventions that can occur when you use it. This article explains more: Pitocin: Hemorrhage, High BP, Low Apgar Scores
5. Breaking of the Water
Using a plastic amniotic hook, the practitioner will go up and gently break the bag of waters (amniotic sac). Breaking the water is painless and considered one of the more non-invasive ways of augmenting labor, but not recommended to try and start labor.
It is important to be informed and consider the ramifications before you take this step.
- Once your water is broken, some doctors will strictly enforce a 24 protocol, where if the baby has not been born within that time, they will begin to talk about a c-section.
- Once your water is broken, you are more prone to infection, so limiting vaginal exams is essential.
- Once your water is broken, the contractions can be much stronger. This is because there is no longer the “cushion” that was there before between the baby and the cervix.
All of these things being said, if you have tried all the other natural remedies, then gone to the Foley Bulb AND baby is nice and low in the pelvis, this might be considered as the next step if you are trying to avoid using chemicals.
A word of caution. Always request your doctor break your water in an upright or semi-upright position, rather than being flat on your back. Using gravity like this reduces the risk of cord prolapse.
Once you are in labor, remember:
A first-time mother’s labor can be long. This is normal and the way God designed it.
It’s easy for moms to become discouraged or pressured by the doctors who want to “move things along.” According to this study, the dilation rate can be as slow as 1/2 cm dilation per hour.
9 Natural Ways to Induce Labor
If you are overdue and need to encourage your body to start being labor on its own, many natural alternatives can help move things along.
Here are a few:
Membrane Sweeping or Cervical Massage
During a Membrane Sweep, the doctor or midwife will sweep along the edge of the amniotic sac, separating it with their fingers from the uterine lining. Doing this stimulates the release of prostaglandins which in turn can start labor. This can be a very effective way of moving things along if the body is ripe and ready to begin labor. It can be done more than once if it’s not effective the first time. It is uncomfortable for a short time but is a viable alternative to get things going. Your doctor or midwife can also give a cervical massage which can stimulate the cervix to begin dilating.
Rubbing and rolling your nipples manually or using a breast pump stimulates the hormone oxytocin, which in turn can bring on contractions. According to this study 50% of women in Japan use nipple stimulation to help induce labor. Check out Bellybelly.com’s 7 steps for nipple stimulation to induce labor.
The Midwives Brew is said to have an 80% success rate, and many doulas and midwives (and moms) will attest to this.
While using castor oil is never fun, this recipe has the perfect blend to mitigate the adverse side effects commonly associated with it. The almond butter coats the stomach, allowing the castor oil to stimulate contractions without the violence that can sometimes occur.
✴️ 10 oz of Apricot Juice
✴️ 8 oz of Pure Lemon Verbena Tea
✴️ 2 Tbsp of Castor Oil
✴️ 2 Tbsp of Almond Butter
- Boil some water and brew the tea. Make sure you brew it pretty strong (let tea bag sit for at least 10 minutes).
- Mix all ingredients into a blender, and blend until the almond butter is smooth (no chunks)
- Pour into a glass and drink the full concoction on AN EMPTY STOMACH! MommyLaborNurse says: *It’s more effective at room temperature/slightly warm…but it’s totally fine to drink it over ice if you can’t stomach it warm!
More Natural Ways to Induce Labor
Just as nipple stimulation can stimulate oxytocin, intimate sex and orgasm can also bring about those hormones necessary to push a woman into labor. Semen has prostaglandins in it. In fact, it has been said that Cervidil is actually made from animal semen.
Birthwise Birth Center has this article on Labor Induction where they share these tips:
Making sure your pelvis is aligned, and the baby is in perfect position can make all the difference in encouraging labor to start. Using the Webster Technique, a chiropractor can be an important part of your arsenal for labor induction. While it won’t put you into labor if you are not ready, chiropractic care can tip you over the edge when it is the right time. Caution: even if you have a chiropractor you absolutely love, please make sure you use one who has had the 2 years of extra education for pregnancy and infants. Otherwise, they could inadvertently be tightening the ligaments that are meant to loosen for birth. To find a chiropractor near you, go to this site.
Spinning Babies and other Exercises:
Just like chiropractic care and the Webster Technique, Spinning Babies is an excellent resource for exercises to help get your baby rotated into the proper position and engaged. If the baby remains high or is not aligned properly, this can inhibit labor. Check out this article with important exercises you can do if you are overdue or want to engage the baby. (No matter where you are in your pregnancy, doing their daily essentials will help your body thrive in pregnancy and prepare for labor.)
Homeopathy to Induce Labor:
DrFeder.com, along with many of these same recommendations, has suggestions for homeopathy when seeking to begin labor.
But ScienceDirect.com states two homeopathic remedies for labor induction are cimicifuga (homeopathic black cohosh) and Caulophyllum (homeopathic blue cohosh), which are believed to act directly on the uterus and cervix. These remedies have a long history of use around the world for labor stimulation, especially in Europe and India.
(This Free PDF from RemedySeeker.com can be helpful for homeopathic guidance during pregnancy and also postpartum and breastfeeding.)
Spicy Foods and Dates:
Eat spicy such as peppers and curries in your diet.
Researchers discovered that the women who ate six dates a day for four weeks had a shorter first stage of labor, a higher mean cervical dilatation, and more had intact membranes upon arrival at the hospital. (In other words, their cervix was riper for giving birth.) 96 percent of the women who ate dates experienced spontaneous labor compared with only 79 percent of those who didn’t eat dates. A more recent study, researchers found that the date eaters had significantly less need for medical intervention to induce or expedite labor compared to those who didn’t eat any dates. More research is needed to confirm it would benefit all women. (It sure wouldn’t hurt to nibble on a few a day leading up to your due date!) (Healthline.com )
Hopefully, these tips will help you feel confident to resist the temptation to induce too early if there’s no medical necessity and give you the tools to help bring about a safe, healthy labor and delivery without unnecessary interventions.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” ~1Peter 2: 2-3
Jenny Ervin is the happy wife of Steve, Mama to 8 children, and now Granny to 3. She is a birth doula in Greenville, SC, and the owner of www.intentionalchildbirth.com.
Jenny is also a childbirth educator and offers in-home and virtual live childbirth classes via zoom. For more info, email [email protected]
Head over to her site to get loads of free resources for expectant and new parents.