“Every baby comes out eventually” may be true, but that doesn’t exactly provide comfort at the end of a long pregnancy. Whether you are past your due date or just ready to get that baby out of your belly, there are a few things you can do to speed the process up naturally.
While old-wives tales abound, some of the methods have actual research to back them up:
Sex: Although a recent study suggests that there is no correlation between having sex and going into labor, semen contains prostaglandins that soften and ripen the cervix. Women in the hospital are often given a synthetic prostaglandin at the first stage of inducing labor.
Oxytocin, a hormone released while having sex, plays an important role in initiating labor as well as stimulating contractions.
It’s also thought that orgasms can stimulate the uterus into action.
Nipple Stimulation: This is used for several reasons during labor, including stimulating contractions. It can also help move from pre-labor to full labor, regulate contractions, and help shrink the uterus after birth.
Herbals: There are herbs, most notably Raspberry Leaf, that help tone the uterus and are often taken throughout pregnancy. It relaxes blood vessels, which is thought to help during labor. Other studies suggest that women who ingest Raspberry Leaf are less likely to require intervention during labor.
Evening Primrose: While there is no scientific evidence to back this up, it is believed to act as a prostaglandin that softens and ripens the cervix. Whether or not you should take it orally or apply directly to the cervix is up to you.
Black and Blue Cohosh: LoveToKnow has a great run-down of what the two types of Cohosh do. In my experience, they were very effective so I would strongly urge you to only take Cohosh under the supervision of your midwife or doctor.
Acupuncture: According to one study, women who received acupuncture went into labor sooner and were more likely to go into labor spontaneously (without medical intervention). There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that acupressure helps as well. The most common suggestion is to press on the webbing between the thumb and index finger.
Visualization and Relaxation: We all know how powerful mind over matter is, so visualizing the cervix ripening, the uterus contracting, and the baby dropping is worth a try. Tension and anxiety work against labor, so focus on releasing both the best way you know how: yoga, meditation, a long bath or whatever was taught in child birthing class.
Did you try any natural methods to get your labor started? Were they effective?