How to bring on labour
The pregnancy waiting game can be a little frustrating for excited parents-to-be. You’ve waited 40 long weeks to finally meet your baby; your hospital bags have been packed and carefully positioned by your door for what feels like eternity. The clock is ticking towards your due date, and each and every twinge feels like it’s time to meet your little one.
And then your due date comes and goes. But where is that first contraction? You’re heavily pregnant, feeling as big as a house and probably hot and a little bothered. So how do you bring on labour?
You’ve probably heard the countless remedies and old wives’ tales about how to induce labour naturally. It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t try most natural ways to induce labour until you’ve passed your due date. It’s also worth noting, there are currently no proven methods to naturally induce labour. But if you’ve run out of patience, be really careful and talk to your midwife before trying to naturally induce labour using the techniques listed here.
Exercises to bring on labour
Try a gentle walk
A gentle stroll will help you relax, but being upright can also potentially help kick-start labour. Gravity and the light movement will encourage your little one to get into the correct birthing position, which is down by your cervix. The gentle pressure from your baby’s head on your cervix could stimulate your body into releasing oxytocin, a hormone that encourages contractions.
Can a birthing ball help induce labour?
You can get hold of birthing balls quite cheaply and they’re very useful during pregnancy and labour, providing gentle support for your body. If you’re overdue, then gently rocking on your birthing ball can help nudge your little one into the correct birthing position.
Can sex help bring on labour?
Although you may not feel like having sex, and it’s not the easiest thing to negotiate when your 40 weeks pregnant, sex is one of the oldest techniques in the book for helping bring on labour. Sex can encourage the release of the ‘love’ hormone oxytocin, which can help to stimulate contractions.
Of course, sex with a big bump can be a little awkward, so make sure you find a position that is comfortable for you. The spoons position, where you both lie on your side and your partner lies behind you, is often recommended. However, if your waters have already broken, sex is not recommended as it can heighten the risk of infection.
Can massaging your nipples naturally induce labour?
Your nipples are believed to be one of the pressure points to help induce labour, and although it might sound strange, massaging them can trick your body into thinking your little one has already arrived. Gently massaging your nipples mimics your baby’s suckling, which can stimulate contractions, again by releasing the hormone oxytocin. The recommended way to do this is to stimulate your breasts for an hour. Gently massage the areoles (the dark part of your nipple) with the palm of your hand for 15 minutes continuously on one breast, and then alternate to the other breast for 15 minutes, until the hour is up.
Does pineapple induce labour?
It might sound a little strange, but pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain which is thought to soften the cervix and help encourage labour. That’s the good news; the bad news is you’re going to have to eat a lot of pineapple for this to have any real impact, and eating that much pineapple is likely to upset your stomach. We’d advise caution with this possible way to help induce labour!
Can eating spicy food like curry help bring on labour?
There is a theory - and remember, it’s only a theory - that the digestive system and the cervix are closely linked. So if you give your digestive system a bit of a nudge with spicy food, it has been suggested you could stimulate your cervix. If you enjoy spicy foods you can try it – but beware the possible unwanted side effects of indigestion, heartburn or emergency trips to the loo!
Does acupuncture help to induce labour?
Acupuncture has been around for centuries and has indeed been used to bring on labour in women who are overdue. There have only been a few studies to support this, but one study did show that it helped induce labour in 88% of expectant mums. Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into specific points of your body. This is thought to stimulate the energy within your body to act on a specific organ function or system. An increasing number of midwives are now becoming trained in acupuncture, but obviously if you want to give it a try, it is very important you only see someone who is specifically trained in acupuncture during pregnancy.
Is it true that hypnosis can help bring on labour?
There is no study that conclusively proves that hypnosis can help induce labour, but it can help to relax you. If you are feeling a little bit nervous or stressed about giving birth - which is perfectly natural - your body might not release the oxytocin hormone which helps trigger labour. So if you know that hypnosis is going to relax you, then it’s certainly worth a try.
I’ve heard blowing up balloons can help induce labour, is this true?
As strange as it sounds, there is a theory that suggests the pressure placed on your abdomen from blowing up a balloon can help to start labour. If you’re at your wits end and overdue, there is no harm in giving it a gentle go!
Are there any things I should avoid when trying to induce labour?
Although some mums swear by these methods, and you might have heard of some of them, the following possible ways to induce labour all carry potential risks for you and your little one. We would only recommend using these if first discussed with your midwife or obstetrician:
- Castor oil. Some people believe it brings on labour because it acts as a laxative. But it can also give you severe diarrhoea.
- Raspberry leaf tea. Many expectant mums drink this during pregnancy because there is a belief it prepares your body for childbirth by helping tone your uterus muscles. However, raspberry leaf tea should not be used to bring on labour as the sudden stimulation can result in strong contractions which can be harmful to your baby.
- Homeopathic and herbal remedies. There is not much evidence to support these bringing on labour, and in some cases they can be harmful to your baby, so best to stay clear.
Remember that it’s always best when labour comes on naturally. If you reach 42 weeks, your doctor and midwife will offer to induce you. If you choose not to take this induction, it is advised that you let the doctors monitor your baby closely, as your little one could be at risk of complications. If you are considering trying any of these methods, please consult your midwife first for their advice, and remember, the natural way is always best for you and your baby.