YOUR DUE DATE
First, Is your due date accurate?
I’ve written before about the reliability of assigning due dates based on last menstrual period (LMP). The long and the short of it is that no one knows when your baby is actually ready to be born or when is too long to wait for it to come on its own. Though it is way past my comfort zone, I know some women who are comfortable going to 44 weeks as long as everything looks good. And some do go very late–that’s just when their babies and bodies are ready. But sometimes, to play it safe, women need some help getting the baby moving.
Next, Remember that late is the new post-term.
Last year, ACOG recognized that the cesarean rate was out of control and that more needed to be done to lower it. Because so many cesareans are done for failed induction, one of the things they did was make 40-42 weeks “late term” and only count women who made it to 42 weeks as being truly overdue or post-term. The great wheel of institutional change moves mighty slow, though, so you may need to stick up for yourself to avoid induction scheduled merely for lateness before you hit 42 weeks. You need to know when and why your provider would recommend medical induction early on.
Let’s get it on: induce labor naturally at home
Eat 6 date fruits each day starting at 36 weeks. This study showed that women eating dates were more likely to go into labor on their own, be more dilated when they arrived at their birthplace, and have shorter labors.
Have regular sexual intercourse, especially toward the end of pregnancy. Perhaps I can put it in a more sexy way: The prostaglandins in semen break down the collagen in your cervix, causing it to soften or ‘ripen.’ Get some semen on that cervix! No, apparently I can’t sexify it for you, sorry. Remember: NO SEX if your water is broken!
Have daily orgasms. Can’t hurt, for sure. But wait! There’s science! In order to go into labor, you need to be producing plenty of oxytocin–the hormone of love, sex, empathy, breastfeeding and…wait for it…contractions. Both the uterine contractions that bring the baby, and the pelvic contractions that bring the heat. So if you can orgasm, you can produce the oxytocin to birth a baby.
Exercise daily. Get that heart rate going and that booty shaking. Squats and stair climbing are both excellent, as is taking a good old walk in fresh air. But feel free to get creative and dance–maybe a few shimmies.
Bellydance. Do some pelvic circling, hip circles, hula hooping. I especially recommend the cervix spiral, as taught by Maha al Musa in Dance of the Womb. Imagine your vagina is holding a pencil and drawing the tightest spiral you can on the floor. Then trace it backwards.
Nipple Stimulation for the win. Brings on the oxytocin in a big way. You can do this, a breastpump can do this, or your partner can do it. Early on you can do it for fun and for a little push toward labor. When an induction is looming, you should be more business-like about it and do it more. It really works. So be careful. Rub/massage your areola for about five minutes, wait 15. If nothing happens, go again for a bit longer. Stop when a contraction starts and start up again when you want to bring more contractions. Don’t do it for reals until you are at term, and keep in contact with your care provider about it.
Try stimulating pressure points or reflexology points. Press the center of each thumb for a minute. Rub the webbing between your thumb and index finger. There are a few around the ankles as well. Here is more about acupressure to induce labor.
Smell and use essential oils on reflex points. Clary Sage is a uterine tonic and can bring on contractions. In fact, you’re not supposed to use it until you are at term and it is safe to go into labor.
Think positively and feel ready. You can birth this baby. Stress, anxiety, worry, or fear will inhibit your body’s production of oxytocin and could prevent the “all clear” signal from being sent to send baby out. If you are in fight or flight, your body won’t stop you to have a baby. Adrenaline is the chemical enemy of oxytocin. You are trying to keep yourself and your baby safe. Just like the gazelle who can suck a partially born baby back in when a lion appears on the horizon. Your body listens to your mind. Tell your baby it’s OK to come out now, and believe it.
Indulge in an old wives tale. Some of those old wives knew a thing or two. Choose your own adventure: spicy food, bumpy car rides, pineapple, bouncing on the trampoline (gently) or an exercise ball.
A little help here?: Induce labor with professional help
If you have the resources, the following practices can help get your body prepared for labor and help induce labor.
Chiropractic. The balance of your body and its ability to send messages through your spinal cord impacts your pregnancy, labor, and birth. It also can influence the position of the baby. Look for a chiropractor certified in the Webster technique or one who specializes in mama/baby.
Hypnotherapy. Taking a look at idea #9 above, you will remember that your mind has a strong influence on the rest of your body. You may need to let go of some things through hypnotherapy before your body can easily bring on labor. If a qualified hypnotherapist isn’t available to you, there are some hypnosis mp3s you can get online for bringing out baby.
Massage. Oxytocin, feeling good, getting the energy flowing. Plus it’s a nice treat for you. Massage therapists who understand the pregnant body know the pressure points that can bring on labor. Ask them to make full use!
Acupuncture. Very fine needles are placed at energy points around your body and, in the case of labor induction, can stimulate the production of oxytocin.
Homeopathic. You should consult a homeopath to find the remedy that is just right for you. But Caulophyllum 30 is often used six times a day to stimulate labor.
Midwife/Naturopath/Herbalist. Black and Blue Cohosh can be taken to stimulate labor, but you should do it under the supervision of someone with experience in these matters. You might consult your care provider about trying Start Up, an herbal formula that is supposed to bring on labor.
When you’re down to the wire: Induce labor medically
Your doctor has a few ways she will attempt to induce labor. The longer you can wait to do this, the more likely it will work (read: not end in a cesarean), the less intervention you will need to effect labor, and the safer it is your you and baby.
Cervadil. This is the fake semen, prostaglandins that soften your cervix, allowing it to open more. It is given as a cream right on the cervix and in a tampon-like form so it can be pulled out if it brings on labor too fast.
Pitocin. This is fake oxytocin. It causes contractions–often that are stronger than your body would make. It cannot give you any of the feel good aspects of oxytocin because it cannot cross into the brain in its synthetic form. If you need pitocin, the most gentle way to get it is to start on a low dose and slowly ramp up if needed.
Cytotec. This is an ulcer drug that you either take orally or have inserted vaginally/rectally. The manufacturers have warned against its use on pregnant women, and lawsuits have been filed. People have died. Please don’t take it.