Non-Medical Induction: What Really Works?

It's pretty common knowledge that induction is a bad idea unless you absolutely need it for real medical reasons, and yet most pregnant women start getting antsy towards the end of their pregnancy and hit a point where they just want the baby OUT.

Birth club groups start filling up with "Should I try castor oil?" and "I keep walking in hopes that it'll work" and even "I'm eating Mexican food tonight!"

But what doesn't get brought up enough is why anything works, and what the risks are, if any, to non-medical induction methods.

You never want to actually start labor. It will start when it's supposed to, and any artificial start is just bad news. However, there are things you can do, if you feel the need to do so, that can help encourage contractions to stay regular if you're feeling prodromal labor (pre-labor) and other things that can create some contractions or help soften the cervix. There are also methods that do nothing at all, or just cause problems.


Some people are highly opposed to any and all suggestions to even encourage contractions, and other folks are okay with only certain methods. Where your comfort lies is up to you, but you should run any ideas by your doctor first, and if you're not near your due date, chill out and wait a bit before you try any of the following (IF you even try them). Well, except for this first one, which is good anytime:

Sex -- Not all women who are ready to pop want to even entertain the idea. In fact, it can be downright awful to even think about having sex when you're miserable, but sex naturally induces labor so do it anyway. Not only does your husband probably desperately want it, and sex will be a no-go after birth anyway, but semen contains prostaglandins, which can really help soften the cervix and help you prepare for labor. Sex contractions can help encourage birthing-related contractions, and both orgasms and nipple stimulation make your body release oxytocin, so you've got your own NATURAL pitocin right there at home in your bedroom. Take advantage of it.

Spicy or specific foods, enemas, and castor oil -- Believe it or not, these are in the same category for a reason. They can give you the runs or major gas. There is some suggestion that doing something to clear out your intestines can cause intestinal cramping, which can encourage contractions. Now, there isn't an issue with eating a spicy taco and getting the squirts, other than just being kind of gross. But castor oil is still debated. It's possible it makes the baby pass excess meconium, which can be inhaled and cause lung problems, and it's also disgusting, and this is your and your baby's lifelong health at risk, so just skip it. The American Academy of Family Physicians performed a study that found that women who used castor oil didn't go into labor any sooner, but often felt really nauseous. Diarrhea can also dehydrate you and make you weak and cause contractions, but is bad news and can land you in the hospital with a saline IV drip. Don't give yourself diarrhea -- it's NOT worth it.

Acupressure and acupuncture -- Pressure points done by you or a professional, or acupuncture (NOT done by you) can help encourage labor. To do some at-home acupressure, pinch the webbing of your hand and massage in a circular motion for 30-60 seconds at a time. When you finish with a contraction, wait a couple minutes before starting again. You can also press firmly about three or four inches above your ankle bone, on the inside of your leg. It should feel sore if you've found the right spot. Press and rub in a circular motion until you have a contraction; again, wait a little bit afterwards once the contraction ends.

Walking -- Not only does walking give you something to do, and exercise is never a bad thing, but it stimulates the Achilles Tendon and the acupuncture point mentioned above. It also enlists the help of gravity and puts pressure on the cervix, which can encourage the body to start releasing hormones to get the show on the road. Be careful not to make yourself tired, though. Go easy. The last thing you want is to be exhausted after a long walk and then start labor without the energy you need to get through it.

Will you try any of these if you needed to?


Image via pmarkham/Flickr

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