Getting Labour Started

I’m currently 38 weeks pregnant, and it’s been a rough few weeks. With my iron levels so low, and the awful pelvic and back pain I’ve been having, I’m ready for M to make an appearance.

At my most recent appointment, my midwife handed me a bright orange piece of paper. “I think you need this,” she said, and when I read the title, I almost hugged her.

‘At-Home Induction Techniques’, it said- or ‘How to jump-start labour safely’.  I’m hesitant to share these here; not because I don’t want you try them out, but because I’m not a medical professional. So please note- these are things to try once you’re safely to term, and only after getting clearance from your health care provider (okay…you probably don’t need someone to sign off on walking or sex…but be careful). Also, important to note, that if your body isn’t ready to go into labour, these techniques probably aren’t going to help. They won’t dilate your cervix or necessarily cause contractions; but they’ll help things along naturally.

  1. Evening primrose oil: In capsule form, this oil can either be swallowed or inserted internally. It helps to get your cervix ready for labour; it won’t cause you to dilate, but it certainly helps. My midwives recommended 500mg twice daily in capsule form from 38 weeks on.

2. Red raspberry leaf tea: There are many conflicting opinions on when to start drinking red raspberry leaf tea. Some sources indicate that it is safe any time after the first trimester, others warn to avoid drinking it until you’re full term. My midwives recommend 2 cups daily from 36 weeks, then doubling doses at 38 weeks and again at 40 weeks. Red raspberry leaf is a uterine tonic; it will help your body contract more efficiently and effectively.


3. Nipple stimulation: Whether manually or with a breast pump, nipple stimulation releases oxytocin (the natural form of pitocin used in inductions). I used my pump when I was overdue with Little Oats, and the contractions certainly ramped up while I was using it, but ultimately died down when I stopped. Other people swear that they’ve gone into labour from nipple stimulation alone.

4. Homeopathics: This is one to be cautious of. Talk to your health care provider and be sure that you are buying the correct dosages of the correct homeopathic from a reputable source. I talked to three midwives and my doula before using homeopathics with K, and will not start them this time until closer to my due date. The one recommended by my midwives is caulophyllum, or blue cohosh. I take 3 of the homeopathic ‘pellets’ once per day for 4 days, then take a 3 day break, and take them for 4 more days. I didn’t end up getting to a second round of these with K; she came on one of my homeopathic ‘days off’. bocath2080

5. Sex: You’ve heard it before, I know. The best way to get baby out, is the same way you got baby in (in most cases). Between the oxytocin released, and the prostaglandins in sperm, my midwives have often said that this is the ONLY method that works reliably for the majority of people. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who actually find sex appealing at 9 months pregnant, that’s even better.

6. Belly massage: Mix 6 drops of clary sage oil into a few tablespoons of castor oil, and store in an airtight jar. Rub a small amount of this into your belly nightly. Some people swear that it causes contractions. At the very least, clary sage oil smells incredible, and the oils will moisturize that tight belly skin.


7. Walking: For about a week and a half when I was pregnant with K, we headed to the mall after dinner and walked laps. This time around, walking the mall is tough when you have a easily-distracted toddler (and its back-to-school shopping season), so we haven’t really gone walking as much. But not only does walking provide you with some much needed exercise, gravity also helps baby settle into place and put needed pressure on your cervix.

8. Mental and Emotional preparation: This is often overlooked in preparing for labour. With K, I got so focused on the fact that her due date had come and gone, and I was uncomfortable, that I didn’t spend any time mentally preparing for labour. Spend some time sitting in the quiet, visualizing how you’d like your labour to go, and thinking through the task you have before you. Sometimes, just dealing with some of the fears and worries you have surrounding birth is enough to allow your body to relax enough for labour to start.

9. Stretch and Sweep: This is on the list, but isn’t something that you can (or should!) do at home. Once your health care provider has assessed you and is comfortable with your progress, they may gently separate your bag of waters from the cervix, which releases hormones and can jumpstart labour. It can be incredibly effective if your body is ready for labour; but it can also be painful and ineffective if your body isn’t quite ready.

10. Castor oil: This is the last thing on the list from the midwives, and the one that comes with the most warnings. Castor oil WILL clear you out. The whole reason it is supposed to help with labour is because it causes gastrointestinal discomfort (read: diarrhea), which is sometimes enough to irritate the uterus. I’ve heard a hundred horror stories about women who take it and spend the next several hours on the toilet…and usually don’t go into labour because of it! The warnings on my sheet are this: wait until the midwife thinks that you are effaced and dilated enough to give it a try, make sure you keep hydrated to avoid losing too much liquid, and don’t plan to leave the house in the 24 hours following your dose (other than to head to the hospital). Honestly…I know that there are several mamas who have successfully used castor oil, but I think I’ll give it a pass (until I get REALLY desperate).

There are dozens of other tips you can find for getting labour started if you look around, and everyone has an old wives’ tale or horror story about the way that these methods work. In my opinion, you should do what you’re comfortable with. If, like me, you’re the type who gets anxious and stressed out, maybe you want to set a limit on what you’re going to try. Ultimately, baby is going to come when he or she is ready, regardless of what you try. So if raspberry leaf tea grosses you out, or you can’t imagine having sex at 9 months pregnant, don’t stress about it. There are plenty of things to try, if you want to.

Have you tried anything on the list? Have they been successful, or were any of them colossal failures?

One thought on “Getting Labour Started

  1. I LOVE red raspberry leaf tea! And I can’t stress #8 enough. I didn’t mentally or emotionally prepare for G’s birth and it messed with me. I had to be induced on his due date and I was convinced I’d have him at least a week after that. I wasn’t ready at all. I was a lot more mentally and emotionally prepared for L’s and he was early! I’m so glad that was on your midwife’s list — I agree it isn’t talked about as much as it should be.

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