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Natural Ways to Encourage Labor
Now there is something to be said for being patient. Your baby will come out when s/he is ready and some just like to take their time. But if an induction date and medical intervention is looming, you might feel like you want to give him/her a gentle nudge. Here are some of the alternative methods of bringing on labor.
Before you proceed, we should warn you that there is very little hard scientific evidence relating to either the effectiveness, or the safety of any of these methods. The studies that have been done tend to be small and evidence is difficult to verify: if labor is due any way, how do you know whether it was the curry you ate last night that actually brought it on?
Be sure to talk to your midwife or doctor at your next check-up before you try any of these methods. This is particularly important if there are any complications in your pregnancy, as there is even less evidence about the safety of these methods in a high-risk pregnancy.
Various methods of natural and non-medical ways to ripen the cervix and induce labor include:
Sex is safe as long as your waters have not broken. Once this has happened, making love may increase the risk of infection. You should also avoid sex if you have a low-lying placenta (placenta previa) or have had vaginal bleeding. Men often feel uncomfortable making love to their partners with a baby so obviously present, but the baby will be unharmed.
Be careful not to wear yourself out. Labor can be exhausting and you don’t want to use up all your energy before you have begun. This is not the moment to take up power walking, particularly if you have not done much exercise earlier on in your pregnancy. A gentle stroll is probably the best you will be able to manage.
(a) PN6 (PreNatal 6 = Squaw Vine Herb, Blessed Thistle Herb, Black Cohosh Root, Pennyroyal Herb, False Unicorn Root, Red Raspberry Leaf, and Lobelia Herb ) – can be used for the last 6 weeks of pregnancy as directed;
(b) 5W (5 Weeks = Black cohosh root, squaw vine herb, dong quai root, butcher’s broom root and red rasberry leaves) can be used for the last 5 weeks of pregnancy as directed.
Evening Primrose Oil
Raspberry Leaf Tea
There are many herbal combinations in capsules, teas, and tinctures. Many health providers encourage their use, but as scientific studies are lacking, we do not recommend any of these preparations at this time due to safety issues.
Unfortunately, the statistics are out on this one, there is simply not enough research to support that any foods are effective in inducing labor. Anecdotally, women have sworn the following are foods that will induce labor: Pineapple, Spicy foods, Chinese Foods, Eggplant Parmesan, and Licorice.
The most well-known of these would have to be spicy foods, like hot peppers or any other spicy Mexican dish. What the research is now showing is that these foods may be something to avoid prior to labor. Certain spicy foods release capsasins, which may be counterproductive in labor. When the baby descends down the birth path, the pressure exerted releases endorphins which are a natural pain killer. In effect, the capsasins counteract the endorphins and rob the mother of her natural ability to have a pain-free birth.
The eggplant parmesan was also in vogue for a time. While this dish may have been contributing to labor, it is probably not due to the eggplant but rather to the seasonings in the dish. Both basil and oregano are herbs contraindicated in pregnancy due to their potential ability to start labor.
Pineapple is not supposed to induce labor, but rather is thought to be a cervical ripening agent that stimulates prostaglandins, although this has not been proven.
Licorice, real licorice candy, the black kind, is thought to also stimulate the production of prostaglandins. This is due to the chemical, glycyrrhizin. Eating lots of licorice might also result in mild diarrhea, which causes intestinal contractions that may lead to sympathetic uterine contractions. This type of licorice can also be found in tablet form. Again, no definitive research suggests that licorice can induce labor.
When looking for foods that induce labor, only consume them if they are something you normally select. There’s just not enough evidence to say they work for certain, and in which cases they may cause more harm than help, so the choice is yours.