Thinking of ways to induce labour? I’m currently pregnant for the second time and I am just weeks away from having my second baby. I wanted to share some of the things I will be doing to hopefully induce labour at home and help me have a positive birth experience. If you are currently pregnant and want to induce labour it is important to talk to your midwife about this and discuss ways that will be safe for you. There is little scientific research on whether naturally inducing labour works. It is important to note that some forms of induction of labour can lead to higher rates of assisted deliveries and c-sections. Did you try to induce labour at home? I would love to know if any of these worked for you!
Why Induce Labour?
Many women when they reach full time are both excited about meeting their baby and anxious about the birth. Usually they’re feeling a bit fed up, especially as things start going over the due date. You might find having a due month easier to deal with. It is important to note that only around 5% of babies are born on their due date and most babies are born in week 41 of pregnancy. Your baby will arrive in perfect time on their own schedule. There might be things you can try to help bring labour on at home and avoid going overdue. You don’t have to do any of these things and can simply wait. If you are offered medical intervention or induction and there are no known risks or complications you are within your rights to refuse induction of labour.
Why Do I Want to Induce Labour?
I want to induce labour myself, at home, because I want to avoid having another c-section. I had a lot of problems getting over about 4cm dilated during my last labour and I think one of the big issues for me is fear. This time I am doing a lot more to eliminate fear by planning a home birth and hypnobirthing. Hiring a doula is really helping me prepare for labour and birth too. My enviornment is completely different now. I’m in a happy, loving relationship too and that has made a huge difference to how I am feeling now we are approaching birth.
The Benefits of Oxytocin: The Love Hormone
The main hormone needed for your uterus to contract well and for labour to start at home is Oxytocin. When pregnant women are induced medically they can be given synthetic forms of Oxytocin. However, there are plenty of ways you can naturally allow Oxytocin levels to rise which then bring on contractions.
1. Educate Yourself – learn about how your body works to birth your baby. We know how they come out but often we don’t know what type of environment we need, how our uterus contracts and that in itself can lead to fear. Fear is the enemy of oxytocin and can get you trapped in the fear, tension, pain cycle. This doesn’t need to be from NHS antenatal classes. In fact, I actually recommend The Positive Birth channel on YouTube or a Hypnobirthing class. If you want to induce labour learning on how to increase oxytocin is an amazing place to start.
2. Learn to relax – Again, Hypnobirthing can really help with this. There are plenty of guided hypnobirthing sessions on YouTube that can be really beneficial. Listen to this before you go to sleep, drift off to it. I’ve heard that 16 times is the magic number for your subconscious to start listening so if you can listen to a video for 16 times to help you get in a relaxed state this will massively benefit you during labour. It will help to eliminate fear, get you into the labour land zone and can make inducing labour at home a very relaxing experience. I recommend Mindful Hypnobirthing which includes some free hypnobirthing recordings and creating a playlist on YouTube of your favourite hypnobirthing videos so you can plug in and listen when in labour.
Natural Ways to Induce Labour at Home
Firstly, it’s worth considering that they only way to really induce labour is to relax and wait. Try and eliminate as much stress as possible. I say this because if you’re trying to bring labour it’s still not exactly natural. This is because you’re not waiting for it to begin spontaneously but in fact trying to rush and encourage things. Induction of labour is a completely personal choice. However, if you want to try to induce labour at home without medical intervention there are a few things that are usually safe for you to try. As always, discuss with your midwife first to make sure it’s suitable for you, your body and pregnancy.
The most talked about way to get labour going is sex. A lot of people say what got the baby in will help get the baby out and this is because sex raises your level of Oxytocin, the love hormone, and this can start contractions. You might find in the second or early stages of the third trimester that sex or an orgasm can lead to Braxton Hicks contractions. This is because your body is producing that hormone and, if you think about it, its a pretty natural thing to happen. It seems that three times is the magic number. Lets face it, if you’re feeling up to it why not enjoy yourselves a bit as a couple before your baby is born anyway. Sex is usually completely safe in pregnancy unless you have a medical reason not to or your waters have broken.
Breast Massage & Nipple Stimulation
Another way to get Oxytocin flowing is breast massage and nipple stimulation. I believe the idea is to stimulate a baby suckling at the breast. You may find, however, that you’re feeling a bit tender and sensitive. So if you try and it is actually causing discomfort then it may cause more stress and frustration. It is really important to be kind to yourself during these last few weeks. Focus on things that will make you feel good, relaxed and happy.
Walking and Exercise
If you feel up to it, walking and exercise are other ways that might induce labour. Long walks are good for you and they might actually help you through those initial contractions. Apparently, the pressure of babies head on the cervix as you walk can encourage your cervix to ripen and thin. You can also try sitting on a birthing ball at home or even just sitting on the toilet. These also help your baby get in a good position for birth. It is safe to exercise all the way through pregnancy until you feel like you want to stop. You do want to retain some energy for labour and birth but if walking or exercise make you feel good then continue!
Drinking Raspberry Red Leaf Tea
This one is an interesting one there really isn’t a lot to say that drinking this tea can induce labour. However, it’s quite tasty, contains antioxidants and apparently can help with breast milk supply. It’s really just a nutritional tea. You can start drinking raspberry red leaf tea at 32 weeks of pregnancy. You start drinking one cup a day and gradually increase to up to four cups. Supposedly, building up the levels in your body prior to giving birth can help your uterus contract more effectively. This may help shorten the second or pushing phase. If you like herbal teas and you want to drink this then go for it, however, some people do not recommend starting it after 40 weeks as it might make contractions intense. It is also not recommended for women that have had a C-Section because of the risk of scar weakening or rupture.
I remember hearing this when I was pregnant with Evie. Apparently, for enough Bromelain to build up in your system you need to eat 7 fresh pineapples to help induce labour. There is conflicting evidence about pineapple though. Some say it’s the acidity of the fruit reacting with your gut that causes contractions which then might stimulate the uterus. However, Bromelain is there and that can help your cervix dilate. I really like pineapple so I’m happy to add that into my diet in the last few weeks leading up to my due date.
Now this is a new one for me but again I really like dates so I’m happy to try this one. Apparently, eating dates in the last four weeks leading up to your due date might lead to a quicker first phase of labour, more effective dilation of the cervix and intact membranes after contractions had started. Eating dates might not induce labour but they’re tasty and sweet, easy to add to smoothies and easy to snack on. Apparently, six fresh, medjool dates a day is needed to benefit labour. I’m going to start eating more dates from week 36.
I think eating spicy food to induce labour is a really popular choice for some people but I’m not sure how nice it is. I personally eat quite a lot of spicy food so I will probably continue to do so until labour begins. The idea is to eat something hot and spicy that will stimulate the bowel and that then leads to possible stimulating the uterus to start contracting. Again, just be kind to yourself. If you don’t like spicy food don’t eat something that’s going to make you feel uncomfortable or unwell, it’s really not worth it.
Forms of Medical Induction
If your Midwife or consultant does advise medical induction it’s really important to do your research. Sometimes scaremongering tactics come into play here but it’s important to note that the alternative to induction is to wait and be closely monitored. If you have had a healthy, risk free pregnancy you can absolutely say no to being induced. If, however, you do want to be induced then there are lots of ways that this can be started.
Cervical & Membrane Sweep
A cervical membrane sweep can be offered at around 41 weeks of pregnancy. You may be offered up to three cervical membrane sweeps to induce labour. Some women swear by them and sometimes they fail. If a membrane sweep is going to work it will usually bring contractions on within 48 hours. This is where a midwife or consultant will use their fingers to feel your cervix and try to sweep the membranes away. As they come back into contact with the cervix, hormones are released which may trigger labour to start.
Cervical Ripening Balloon
Depending on your hospital, the cervical ripening balloon can be offered in place of a hormonal gel. The balloon is inserted by a small, soft, silicone tube and filled with a saline solution. It can put pressure on the cervix to encourage dilation to begin. This is usually for around 24 hours and might be enough to induce labour and for contractions to progress.
Artificial Rupture of Membranes
This is usually done to encourage contractions to progress or for speeding up labour. You can always refuse this method of induction if you are feeling well. You can always refuse any form of medical intervention. It can lead to contractions to become quite intense, increase pain and pressure with the babies head directly on the cervix.
Syntocinon is a synthetic form of Oxytocin. It can speed up contractions and is often used when women are overdue. I had this alongside an epidural because I was told I would not be able to handle the intense pain of the contractions. You do not have to automatically have an epidural at any point in labour, however, if you do want one, make this very clear if you are going in to hospital to be induced so they can have this administered before they use Syntocinon. Having the drip and an epidural increases your chances of an assisted delivery or even unplanned c-section.