All women experience pregnancy and labour differently. For some, the onset of labour can lead to a quick delivery. In other cases, the labour can go for as much as 50 hours! However long the labour, at the end of that seemingly endless day, the pain will quickly turn to joy when your baby is in your arms.
Normally a baby that reaches 37 completed weeks of gestation is considered at term and can come at any time. Term pregnancies are divided into four categories:
- Early Term: Delivery after 37 weeks through 38 weeks and 6 days
- Full Term: Delivery after 39 weeks through 40 weeks and 6 days
- Later Term: Delivery after 41 weeks through 41 weeks and 6 days
- Post-term: Defined as any pregnancy lasting past week 42
Pregnancies after 41 completed weeks are considered late term and I will be talking to you about an induction of labour, which is ‘to bring on the labour’.
At times, women may seek out natural or non-medical ways to induce the labour at home. It is vital to the health and well-being of the mother and baby that this is discussed with your obstetrician to be sure it is a safe alternative.
There are several methods which claim to help induce a labour. Many of these natural methods lack strong evidence that they are effective and some may not even be safe. Some natural methods which I usually suggest to my patients are:
Relaxation and visualization: Techniques such as guided imagery or self-hypnosis may be effective in some women. These methods will need some experience in relaxation and visualisation techniques.
Nipple stimulation: Nipple rolling or gentle rubbing may induce labour by releasing the hormone oxytocin (the labour hormone). You can do this yourself or ask your partner to perform it for you. For stronger simulation you may consider using the breast pump.
Sex: Labour induction from sex may be related to uterine contractions from orgasm, oxytocin release, and the presence of high levels of prostaglandins in semen. This is a safe method, however sex is not advisable for women with broken waters, a low placenta, or vaginal bleeding.
Evening Primrose oil and Red Raspberry leaf tea: Often it is recommended that taking both together in the evening may bring on labour, however real evidence is lacking. Even if does not work it will help to keep you hydrated.
Exercise: Some women may experience labour induction by walking. Exercise may induce the release of oxytocin and use gravity to move the baby into the pelvis. We recommend walking for about 20 minutes two to three times a day.
Food: There is only anecdotal evidence that certain foods, such as spicy foods, may induce labour. Some foods stimulate the release of the prostaglandins which initiate the labour. However, some spicy foods may even slow the process of labour down due to the release of a substance called capsaicin. It is important that you speak to myself regarding which foods should be avoided.
Acupuncture: This stimulates the release the oxytocin to the body. A randomized trial where 400 women were given acupuncture and membrane stripping has shown that they were both as efficient as the other.
Membrane stripping: This method involves an internal examination and stripping of the membranes from the cervical walls. It is supposed to release the prostaglandins and it is generally safe. It is however quite uncomfortable, and it is often associated with PV spotting. If the bleeding is excessive after the procedure you should contact hospital you are booked at immediately. There are some obstetric conditions where this method can be quite dangerous to you and your baby, for example low lying placenta. This method should only be performed only by your obstetrician.
Acupressure: There are several pressure points in the body which have been claimed to help with labour induction. The mechanism of the action is unclear, however this is usually a safe method to try. Please keep in mind that there is no strong scientific evidence, only anecdotal evidence.
As mention above, there is none or very small scientific evidence to support any of these methods. After consulting with me you can try one or all of them. Please make sure that any unusual changes using these methods should be reported immediately.
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