Things to try at home to kick-start Labour

During the last few weeks of pregnancy you may begin to get impatient and want to meet your baby as soon as possible. Ideally you should use this time to ensure that you are ready for imminent arrival. You can check that your birth plan is written clearly and that your hospital bag is packed. You could do some light cleaning and meet with friends. You could also use your time checking that you have everything ready for when you bring your baby home and that you know how to care for her during those early weeks.

It is best to allow your body to enter labour in its own time and when it is ready, however if you are 40 weeks pregnant and have a date for induction you may want to try and induce your labour naturally and give it a kick-start. There are many things that you can try to bring on your labour and although some methods may work for one woman they may not for you. Some of things you could try include:

  • Acupuncture This is the procedure of inserting fine needles into parts of your body that stimulate energy in another part of your body. There has not been a lot of research into why or how acupuncture may bring on labour and although it is safe during pregnancy it is best to discuss this option with your midwife before visiting a qualified Acupuncturist for advice and possibly treatment.
  • Castor Oil: Research shows that 58% of overdue pregnant women who try a 60ml dose of castor oil enter active labour within 24 hours, but it is not known how many of those ladies would have started labour anyway. Castor oil is known to taste disgusting and be very oily to drink and is likely to give you diarrhoea and vomiting as well as possibly making you feel very nauseous. This may be the reason why it works as your tummy and uterus are being stimulated and labour is given a kick start. Although drinking a dose of castor oil is not generally considered to be dangerous to you or your baby it is best to discuss this with your midwife before trying it as there is some evidence to suggest the baby may also have increased bowel movement which could lead to him/her passing meconium whilst still in the womb.
  • Spicy Food/Curry: Many women strongly believe that eating a spicy curry brings on labour. Although there is no real proof that this works, it is thought that spicy food stimulates your tummy and also your uterus in order to kick-start your labour.  You may want to try some spicier foods though it is also possible that they will give you heartburn. This no risk to you or your baby from eating a curry and there is no need to seek medical advice before doing so.
  • Pineapple: Fresh pineapple contains an enzyme called Bromelain and many believe that this helps to soften your cervix and therefore kick start labour. This has not been scientifically proven and some studies show that you would need to eat approximately seven pineapples before seeing a result. You would be more likely to give yourself sickness and diarrhoea which may then result in stimulating your tummy and uterus and starting your labour. There is no risk to your baby from trying this method and again you do not need to seek medical advice.
  • Homeopathic or Herbal remedies: Some women may want to try these remedies to help kick start labour. However, you should speak to your midwife if you wish to try them and also seek advice from professional and qualified specialists as not all remedies are safe for use in pregnancy
  • Raspberry Leaf tea: If you plan to use Raspberry Leaf tea to help your labour progress once it has started it is best to start at around 32 weeks to allow it build up in your system. It will help your labour to progress and it can also speed up the second stage of labour and also reduce the need for an assisted birth. Raspberry Leaf tea can also have a stimulating effect on your uterus and may kick start your labour. It is best to inform your midwife if you decide to try this method although there is no risk to you or your baby. It is also possible to buy this product in tablet form.
  • Walking: Walking can help your baby’s head to push down into your cervix in a rhythmic way with each stride and this can create the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone which helps to start your contractions. Walking can also help your baby get into a better position and possibly engage ready for labour. Once baby is engaged, there is a better chance of you starting labour so walking is good for several reasons. Walking is completely safe during the late stages of pregnancy although it is important not to over-exhaust yourself. If you are planning a walk away from home it may be best to not walk alone or let someone know where you are. Walking is also good for you and baby once you are in active labour as being upright can help your labour to progress and can also take your mind of the pain.
  • Sex: At 40 or more weeks pregnant, sex may be the last thing on your mind and may be quite difficult with a large bump. However, although there is no real evidence to suggest sex can trigger labour, many women will swear that it does. Some people believe that by having an orgasm your uterus is stimulated into action. Others believe that sex helps to create oxytocin which can create contractions and some suggest that your partner’s semen helps to soften your cervix thus helping it to dilate: this is because semen contains a high number of prostaglandins which are sometimes used during an induction of labour. Sex is not recommended if your waters have broken as this may cause an infection or if you are having vaginal bleeding or if you have placenta praevia which means you have a low-lying placenta.
  • Nipple Stimulation: may also bring on labour as it also helps to release oxytocin.  It is believed that the feeling resembles that of your baby suckling on your breast and therefore your contractions may be tricked into starting.

If you ask around your friends and family, you are likely to get many other suggestions as to things that helped kick start their labourand that may or may not help you. The list is probably endless but is likely to include:
• Bouncing on a birth ball
• Crawling on all fours
• Crouching down and standing up
• Blowing up balloons
• Having a good cry
• Having a good laugh
• Driving down a bumpy road
• Going out somewhere nice and spending time getting ready and relaxing

If you try some of these and they fail it is important for you not to worry or get upset. Ensure that you have support from family and friends and start preparing for having your labour induced in hospital. Continue to monitor your baby’s movements and try and enjoy these last few days before you meet your newborn baby.

by Jenny, mum to William and James

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