As an ND it’s probably fairly obvious that I am going to opt for the natural approach whenever possible, however, it should be understood why it is so important to go into labour naturally. Labour does not happen all at once (hence why the average first time birth is 10- 20 hours long). It is a progression and letting your body progress at its own rate allows for your body produces chemicals to help with pain management and slowly allows you to get into a trance state which can be quite sedating in itself. Another reason is that when you are medically induced (pitocin) there is a higher likelihood that you will opt for other medical interventions such as epidurals, c-section and vaccum extraction. This is again because when the body is suddenly forced into active labour without the natural pain management chemicals and it can be quite strong and overwhelming making other pain management interventions more enticing. Epidurals do cross the placenta and can affect the heart rate of your baby and epidural exposed baby’s can be quite dopey afterwards, making it difficult for them to instinctually latch to breastfeed. Let it be known that this is about education and not judgement, it is important to go into labour with an open mind and nonjudgmental heart. You never know how you will feel until you experience birth, but what I do know is that birth is a natural experience, one we were equipped to handle and allowing labour to ensue naturally allows for your own natural pain management techniques to kick in.
How to induce labour naturally:
- Sex. Yep have fun! It may be the last few times you are having unprotected sex for a while unless you want to continue having babies. Albeit breastfeeding can prevent ovulation but this is not a guarantee, so enjoy the disinhibited carefree sex while you can. It has been found that sex results in prostaglandin release (prostaglandins are found within spermatic fluid) which can aid in labour induction. Make sure to talk to your midwife or OB/GYN if your water has already broken.
- Walk, walk, walk. Nothing stimulates your uterus like a good uphill climb, which is what Ina May Gaskin, a highly regarded midwife, has her pregnant patients do when trying to induce labour. Just make sure you wear proper footwear, have someone go with you to ensure your safety in case you go into labour and hydrate appropriately.
- Use herbs that stimulate uterine contractions. Almost all herbs are off the table once you are pregnant because they can have a strong stimulating affect on the uterus, but near the end of your pregnancy this is exactly what you want. Herbs to stimulate the uterus naturally help to strengthen and allow for appropriate contraction, its a great way to get your body ready for labour. Some of the best herbs are partridge berry, blue cohosh, cramp bark, and false unicorn. Speak to your ND about proper prescription. Herbs can be started at 37 weeks once you are considered full term.
- Nipple stimulation. This can be paired with tip number 1! 🙂 Nipple stimulation can promote the release of our ‘love hormone’ Oxytocin. Oxytocin also has a stimulatory effect on the uterus and can initiate contractions. Remember that you should use nipple stimulation to induce your labor only if your cervix has already effaced.
- Evening primrose oil (EPO). EPO has been widely used by midwives and integrative practitioners as a suppository to allow softening and ripening of the cervix and orally to shorten duration of labour, stimulate labour and prevent post-date deliveries (1). It effectiveness has also been attributed to prostaglandin release. Caution should be taken when considering taking supplemental EPO, as some sources state it may also been linked to delayed rupture of membranes, oxytocin augmentation, arrest of descent, and vacuum extraction (1). Speak to a professional (ND or midwife) to decide if it is the appropriate intervention for you.
- Acupuncture. Again, once pregnant acupuncture has to be used with caution and many points are contraindicated in pregnancy. However, this is a great way to stimulate and prepare your uterus for labour. Weekly acupuncture is a great intervention that an ND (like me!) would be happy to provide. Treatment can start at 36 weeks and frequency can be increased as you are approaching your due date or overdue.
I hope this opens your mind to a more natural approach to childbirth as it is a completely natural experience. You were meant to rock this and I know you will!
Wishing you a pleasant and slow progression into labour! 🙂
In great health & happiness,
Dr. Michelle Peris is a Naturopathic Doctor whose goal is to inspire health through educating, motivating and empowering people. She has a family based practice out of a clinic in Oakville, Ontario.
Contact Dr. Michelle today to book your 15 minute complimentary consult.