Picture the scene – you’re somewhere between 38 – 42 weeks pregnant and nothing seems to be happening. Not even getting any pre-labor symptoms. You’re uncomfortable, you’re tired, you’re fed up, and you just want to meet your baby.
If you’ve ever been in this situation before, you’ll know the feelings only too well.
The good news is that there are many ways you can help to gently bring on labor naturally and safely, and encourage your bundle of joy to make an appearance in the world a little sooner.
There are some warnings we need to cover before we go on to explain these ways to encourage labor to start, because you should never try to bring on labor before a minimum of 40 weeks of pregnancy.
The chances are that if you try it won’t work anyway, but even though these suggestions are gentle there could be risks. If you’re concerned or you have any questions about labor and why it’s just not happening, have a chat with your doctor or midwife rather than trying to figure it out on your own.
Now, we should also mention that if nothing seems to be happening, you shouldn’t stress about it too much, especially if it’s your first pregnancy. Statistics show that first time expectant moms are up to 80% more likely to go over their due date by up to two weeks. Those babies are just so happy and comfortable inside the womb.
Proceed with these gentle tips if you have:
- reached your due date
- you don’t have any risk factors in your pregnancy
- you’ve had a chat with your midwife or obgyn and you’ve been given the all clear
So without further ado let’s go through these eleven ways you can gently encourage labor to get started, and say ‘hello’ to you new bundle of joy a little bit sooner.
1. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Red raspberry leaf tea is a favorite of midwives the world over. It tastes pretty nice when you make it as a tea, but you can also take a pill supplement for pregnant women. Nobody has any solid evidence on whether drinking or taking red raspberry tea actually helps to bring labor on, but it does strengthen the uterus, and that has the effect of shortening labor overall. It’s worth a try anyway.
Any holistic therapy in pregnancy should be approached in caution, but there is some evidence to suggest that acupressure may bring on labor a little earlier. We all have pressure points on our ankles, and between our thumb and forefinger, and when pressure is specifically applied during pregnancy, the effect can be contractions of various muscles, including those in the uterus – the effect? Hello labor! On top of this acupressure has also been shown to reduce pain in labor.
We’re not sure about this one because there is zero evidence that bananas could help encourage labor or assist with uterine contractions but certainly taste good and won’t do you any harm :). In China bananas are a big no-no for women during pregnancy, because they are believed to increase the chance of miscarriage and premature labor. Many believe this is because bananas can bring about uterine contractions, and you don’t want that occurring in the first few months of your pregnancy. When baby is due however, some people munch on bananas in an attempt to bring labor on. A word of warning if you’re going to try this though – eat real bananas, and don’t take supplements of potassium.
4. Evening Primrose Oil
Evening Primrose oil is used around the world as a natural way to ripen the cervix. You can either use an evening primrose oil capsule and insert it into the vagina, or you can massage it into the perineum. Evening Primrose oil is particularly effective because it is a source of prostaglandin in a natural form, which is one of the medications used in hospital to soften and thin the cervix and medically induce labor. By doing this, labor is encouraged.
5. Using an Exercise Ball
Many women swear by bouncing on an exercise ball or a birthing ball to get labor started. There is some evidence for this because the movement can help encourage the baby to move lower into the birthing canal and press against your cervix. This will increase the chances of dilation and also push the baby down into the pelvis a little more. You don’t need to be too vigorous with your bouncing; simply gently moving up and down will do the trick.
Get your comfortable shoes on and pound the pavements a little! A gentle stroll or walking up and down the stairs can help the baby to move into position and down into the birthing canal. The idea is basically the same as the exercise ball trick we just talked about, so be gentle about it and get some fresh air whilst you’re at it! Walking up the stairs is a good way to push the baby’s head down also, as you will be lifting your legs higher.
You’ve probably heard this a hundred times already, but sex really can help bring labor on. Orgasms are especially helpful. It might have been sex that got you into this, but it could be the way out of it too! A man’s sperm contains a natural prostaglandin, which helps to soften the cervix and may help to bring on contractions. Oxytocin is also released as part of the process, which will also help move things along.
8. Spicy Foods
We’ve all heard about this one and it actually has zero evidence to back it up but if you’re a spicy food lover, it’s definitely worth a try. Spicy foods are thought to help because they irritate the digestive system and this works to cause a little disharmony in the uterus too. It could just be enough to get you moving into labor.
9. Clary Sage Oil
Clary Sage Oil is an essential oil that has a reputation for helping to bring on labor. You shouldn’t use clary sage oil at any other time during your pregnancy other than when trying to bring on labor. This is because it is quite effective at doing so, and you don’t want to go into labor too soon. You should only use clary sage oil with the help of your midwife, because it does have a few potential problems and can cause harm if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Studies have shown that in the lead up to your due date, if you eat seven dates per day, your cervix may ripen sooner and may encourage the labor process to start. The other perk is that it could also stop labor from being too prolonged, and that’s always a plus point!
11. Nipple Stimulation
Jackpot! Nipple stimulation is one of the best ways to gently and naturally bring on labor. Evidence shows that it actually works. It will take a lot of effort because you’ll need to stimulate your nipples for up to 3 hours per day but if you’re desperate to avoid a medical induction then it could be worth it.
Once you’ve tried some of these options look out for the very early signs of labor. You never know. They may be just around the corner.