Waiting for a baby? It can be a long and arduous period of not-knowing, second-guessing and waking up every day saying..."Surely, today is the day." As if being pregnant isn't exhausting enough, being overdue is uncomfortable and you're impatient to meet your little one too!
We're here to help. There are various ways of nudging yourself along by naturally inducing labour - and they're worth knowing about for when you're really at your wits' end. The best thing is, as they're all 'au naturel', there's no harm in trying them out. Of course, every mum-to-be is different and many of these tips aren't particularly scientific, but plenty of women swear by them.
Take your pick from our definitive list, whether it's chewing on some dates, blowing up balloons or spending a little longer in the bedroom one morning... We've got them all, and we bet you won't have heard of quite a few!
Just a few things to be aware of first:
- Natural induction should only be a helping hand. The method should be gentle enough to ensure you won’t go into labour if your body isn’t ready.
- Induction is not recommended before 39-40 weeks.
- Don't stress that you're overdue. Usually, first-time pregnancies are up to 80% more likely to go beyond the due date and you are not officially 'overdue' until 42 weeks. Even then, a doctor cannot legally induce labour without your permission.
- Do your own research, only do what you feel comfortable with and never overstrain yourself. If you're not sure, talk to your doctor, especially if your pregnancy is considered high-risk.
How to induce labour naturally:
1. Use a birthing ballYou'll probably have been told about the magic of birthing balls by your midwife. They aren't too expensive, improve your posture and balance and can actually help with the slow process that is inducing your labour. Not only is a birthing ball more comfortable than sitting on a hard, rigid surface, when your tummy is the size of a house, using it is also gentle excersise that can help shift your baby's position, preparing him for labour.
Birthing ball positions to try:
- If your baby is in a posterior (back-to-back) position, adopting upright, forward-leaning positions can encourage him to switch around.
- Try getting on to your knees and leaning forward over your ball. This may encourage your baby's back to swing forward so he's in an anterior position, with his back towards your bump.He may not stay that way until you go into labour, but it should give you some temporary relief from backache.
2. AcupressureAs well as being a great remedy for morning sickness and helping to stop bleeding/spotting in the early months of pregnancy, acupressure massages can also induce labour. Before you think about booking one in though, just make sure that your acupressurist has experience working with pregnant women. The whole experience is incredibly relaxing, but more importantly, massaging acupressure points in the ankles and in the webbing between your thumb and forefinger can cause muscle contractions, including in the uterus.
3. BasilBet you didn't know this one. Basil is, what's called, an emmenagogue, which is a herb that stimulates blood flow to the uterus, and can stimulate menstruation. Throw some in your cooking!
4. Spicy foodPerhaps one of the most well-known ways to induce labour, eating spicy foods is a bit of an old wives tale, but it can work. Bizarrely, the reason it can help is because of the upset it causes to the digestive system, which then upsets the uterus. So don't go out of your way to eat a Vindaloo if it's not part of your normal diet. However, mums do attest to the fact that spicy food can work - so maybe think of it as a last resort?
5. Nipple stimulationStimulating your nipples is actually one of the most effecttive ways you can induce labour yourself. Why? Nipple stimulation can cause your uterus to contract. The stimulation releases oxytocin, a hormone that causes contraction. This could be a nice bonding experience for you and your partner to try, or you can always use a breast pump if you're going about it alone. As this has been proven to work quite well, make sure you've told your doctor you are going to try out nipple stimulation, before you go ahead.
Nipple stimulation tips:
- Focus on the areola
- Stimulate one breast at a time
- Limit stimulation to just five minutes, and wait another 15 before trying again
- Take a break from nipple stimulation during contractions.
6. Red Raspberry LeafTaken either as a tea or pill, red raspberry leaf can be taken at about 37 weeks. It's not scientifically proven to help induce you, but drinking it strengthens and tones the uterus, hopefully leading to a shorter labour because each contraction is more productive. But don’t be tempted to glug gallons of tea in desperation if you go overdue - it may cause intense contractions and lead to your baby getting distressed. Women are advised to drink red raspberry leaf tea a maximum of three times daily.
7. BananasSpeaking of strengthening the uterus, bananas are another great way to do this. They have lots of potassium, which is crucial to muscle contractions. This means that a potassium deficiency could potentially delay labour. But eat bananas in moderation and avoid taking potassium supplements as they can be poisonous when taken incorrectly.
8. Eat some datesSmall-scale studies have shown that eating 6 dates a day in the final month of pregnancy may encourage your cervix to dilate, and therefore reduce the need for induction! Why not?
9. Blowing up balloonsGot a kids party coming up? Kill two birds with one stone and get started on those balloons. This may be an old wives tale but the theory is that the build up of abdominal pressure gets labour going!
10. SexNow, we know the logistics of having sex can be tricky when you hit 40 weeks, but there is some science behind this one. As a matter of fact, sex can encourage the release of the 'love’ hormone oxytocin, a hormone that you need to get labour kick-started. Also, semen contains a hormone-like substance called prostaglandins, which may help to soften and ripen the cervix. Having sex is safe at full term, but you shouldn’t have sex after your water has broken, as it can increase the risk of infection.
11. OrgasmsIt's not just sex that can help, having an orgasm can also bring on contractions, which is one of the reasons they feel so good. This is also why many women enjoy orgasms more during pregnancy!
Swimming is a lovely way to feel weightless and floaty when you're pregnant, a feeling we're sure you're yearning for at the moment! Relaxed swimming can help bring out the baby as both the water and the gentle movement help. Kate Middleton is rumoured to have gone swimming when she was overdue and trying to bring about the birth of Prince George.
13. Balsamic vinegarAccording to the What to Expect book, balsamic vinegar can help bring on labour. However, it might not work until you're already dilated. Add a dash to your salad. Definitely won't hurt to try!
14. Dancing or skippingNothing too strenuous! Just a light boogie round your living room to your favourite song will do the trick. Gently swinging your hips around will make baby think about coming out.
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