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Inducing Labor

When I got the call that I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, my visions of a completely natural, midwife-assisted childbirth with limited medical intervention felt shattered. Fortunately, a meeting with my (favorite) midwife set my mind at ease in that regard.

However, while I’ll know more after my sonogram determines fetal weight, there is a good chance that my midwife (and, more accurately, the doctors that have now been forced into the equation) won’t let this baby go a full 40 weeks gestation.

I won’t get into the side effects that I’ve read about and discussed with my childbirth instructor regarding Pitocin; there’s enough material there for a separate post. Suffice it to say, I am trying to avoid that route, although it will be preferable to a c-section if more natural remedies don’t work to induce labor.

I should add that a pregnant woman should not try natural induction methods without the advice of her physician or mid-wife. Here is a link to an article detailing why it’s not wise to try to induce labor simply because you are ‘tired of being pregnant.’

However, if you’ve passed Week 40, or have medical and physical reasons for an induction, these tips may result in an easier labor than Pitocin induction, with less medical intervention. Check with your doctor or midwife before trying any of these induction methods in earnest.

Evening Primrose Oil – A regime of 1,500 to 2,000 mg of Primrose oil by mouth (spread out 2 – 3 times daily) ripens the cervix for labor, although by itself, probably won’t start contractions. My midwife recommended I begin this at Week 35. You can also insert one gelcap vaginally at night to help ripen the cervix further. Some women who have tried this method have reported that labor began quickly afterwards. So far, I’ve experienced strong Braxton-Hicks contractions, a sign that the uterus is preparing for labor, shortly after taking the gel caps with meals.

Sex – This is probably the most-frequently recommended ‘homeopathic’ method to induce labor. And why not? You won’t have much time after the baby’s born.

How does it work? Prostaglandins in semen, help the cervix to ripen, soften and open, preparing the body for childbirth. Additionally, female orgasms releases Oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions.

Nipple Stimulation – One midwife told me this should only be done under the supervision of medical personnel, as it can create strong contractions and the baby should be monitored throughout. Other midwives and my childbirth instructor recommended it as a safe ‘at-home’ method to try. It will only work to start contractions if the cervix is already ripe for childbirth, and can also be used for augmentation of labor. It can be done manually, with a breast pump, or orally.

Castor oil and black and blue cohash are often recommended for labor induction, but most of the research I’ve read warns mothers to stay away from these methods. Blue cohosh reaches the placenta, where it can have side effects on the baby, and may also result in elevated blood sugar and blood pressure levels for the mother-to-be.

Along with stimulating contractions, Castor Oil stimulates diarrhea in the mother-to-be, which can lead to dehydration. Castor Oil will only work, however, when the cervix is ripe, and many women report that it was effective in inducing labor. Since labor can begin at any time when the cervix is ripe, this could be coincidence, as few clinical studies have been done on natural induction methods. There are reports of higher incidents of meconium in the amniotic fluid, a danger to the fetus, after the mother-to-be takes castor oil to induce pregnancy.

From breaking waters to reflexology and massage, there are many ways pregnant woman can try to induce labor, with emphasis on the word try. Some are old wives’ tales, while others have basis in medical fact. The truth is, short of a c-section, the baby will come when he or she is ready to enter the world. But these techniques can help the mother-to-be feel ‘in control’ during a very scary time in her life, and, if the stars align properly, they might just work to induce labor.


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