Those last few weeks of pregnancy can feel like torture, and women often feel they'd do almost anything to get that baby out. Dozens of rumours circulate about the best ways to induce labour and get things moving along. Here are some researched methods of natural labour induction. It is advised that you don't attempt any of these until you are after 40 weeks and, as always, consult your medical professional to find out what they recommend for your specific case.
Prostaglandins and Oxytocin
Prostaglandins are a great natural way to induce labour, as they serve to encourage the dilating and effacing of the cervix, thus moving you closer to labour. The greatest source of prostaglandins is found in semen and, thus, sexual intercourse is potentially a great way to speed up labour. For some, this is a great way to spend those last few days of pregnancy, whether it gives results or not. For others, this may not seem desirable or viable depending on personal circumstances of the pregnancy.
Oxytocin, a natural form of pitocin, is what causes contractions of the uterus, a necessary part of labour. It can be released through orgasm, making sexual intercourse doubly effective in inducing labour. However, if intercourse is not an option, it has been shown that nipple stimulation is another way to release oxytocin into the uterus. To stimulate your nipples, mimic the motion of a baby sucking. If you own a breast pump, this will work very well. If not, grasp the areola and begin rubbing in a circular motion. The recommendation is one nipple at a time, roughly 15 minutes per nipple every hour for several hours, which can make this method very time-consuming. Also, it has been reported by some women that this may only serve to produce very intense contractions--stronger than normal labour--without increasing their effectiveness.
Evening primrose is an excellent source of prostaglandins and is an oft-used method to help move labour along, but it won't cause you to go into labour if your body is not prepared to do so. Starting at 34 to 36 weeks, you can begin to take oral supplements, starting with two 500-mg capsules a day and increasing to three or four capsules per day around 38 weeks to full-term. At this time you can also start using supplements inserted into the vagina (not if you increased your oral dosage). The softgels will dissolve easily. Another option is to purchase an oil form of evening primrose and use it for your perineal massage, applying some to the cervix if you can reach it (if not, it will be absorbed into it).
Used for centuries by Native Americans and midwives, red raspberry leaf tea is one of best ways to prepare your uterus for labour. It is completely safe to use throughout your pregnancy. Essentially, it tones your uterus and helps it to function more effectively. It also helps the uterus to shrink back quicker after the delivery.
Black and blue cohosh are two herbal methods that have been shown to regulate and strengthen contractions, respectively, and are often taken together. Both come in an alcohol- or water-based tincture form (avoid the capsule form). Typical use is to take 10 to 15 tinctures of the blue every hour, and five to 10 of the black every half hour, and continue until labour starts or for one full day. Then take one day of rest before trying again. Be warned that cohosh can lead to blood thinning. This can be dangerous, so talk to your medical professional before beginning use.
Many women have used castor oil to try to induce labour, but most professionals agree that this will only work if your body is ready to deliver. Otherwise, it may only create more problems for you. The way castor oil induces labour is by creating cramping in the intestines and diarrhoea, which will stimulate the uterus, releasing prostaglandins that will cause contractions.
Castor oil is taken in doses of two tablespoons but has a very unpalatable taste. To help get it all down, it best taken mixed with a milk shake or soda or scrambled into a few eggs. Also, the best time to take castor oil is in the morning following a good night of rest so your body has the energy to deal with the side effects of castor oil (instead of being kept up all night).
A danger of taking castor oil is that it may only serve to tire you more, giving you less energy to deliver. It may also cause dehydration, which may affect your milk supply and will sap more of your energy.
There are two pressure points on the body that are said to produce contractions when stimulated. The first is located in the webbing of your thumb and index finger and is stimulated by pinching the webbing and rubbing in a circular motion for 30 seconds to one minute, then breaking for one to two minutes before repeating. The second point is about four finger-widths above the inside of your ankle bone. You'll know you've found it if it feels sore when you press down. To stimulate, press firmly and rub in a circular motion until you have a contraction, then stop and wait for the contraction to end before beginning again.