Can I Induce Labor? Myths About Getting Labor Started
As your due date edges closer and the excitement of holding your little one in your arms grows, you may be tempted to see if you can induce labor with these time honored old wives tales. The final days of pregnancy can be uncomfortable; there is a lot of baby in there!! We’ve compiled a list of ideas that have done the rounds in the urban legends surrounding starting off your labor the natural way. If you are going to try anything, its always a good idea to double check with your medical practitioner.
1. Have Sex to induce labor
This one is a fun way to get your labor started, although you may need to be a little more creative than usual to make room for your bump. In most circumstances it is safe to have sex while pregnant, your doctor will have already advised you if you should abstain for health reasons. Highly recommended by midwives, there is no medical evidence to support this theory but it has persisted as an urban myth for many years.
The theory this idea is based on is that a woman’s orgasm can potentially trigger labor. It is also believed that the prostaglandins in semen come into contact with the vagina and induce labor.
One important fact to note – once your water has broken you should not have sex – after the amniotic sac has ruptured there is increased potential for infection
2. Have a Breast Massage
When your nipples are stimulated, there can be a release of oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin is one of the cocktail of hormones that are responsible for your contractions starting. Breast stimulation won’t start your labor off, but if you’re already underway it can help to speed it up. Don’t be too rough with nipple stimulation. A few 5 minute massages throughout the day is enough.
If you overstimulate your nipples and raise your levels of oxytocin too high you can have contractions which are too strong. Take care.
3. Raspberry Leaf Tea
Raspberry leaf tea is an herbal tea which actually doesn’t really taste like raspberries. Raspberry leaf tea is actually made from the small green leaves of the raspberry plant. You can buy raspberry leaf tea in tea bags, as loose leaf for a tea pot or in capsules from health food stores. You can add hot water and drink it warm or let it cool and drink it as iced tea. I particularly liked it with a squeeze of orange or lemon added with some ice cubes. Raspberry leaf tea has been used since ancient times, treating such ailments as the flu, gum disease, hangovers, vomiting and menstrual problems to name just a few in addition to pregnancy. Red raspberry leaf has been linked to increasing fertility, preventing miscarriage, easing morning sickness, toning the uterus, reducing uterus pain during labor and after the birth. Raspberry leaf tea can potentially make your labor progress more quickly, reduces the artificial rupture of membranes and regular drinkers have reported fewer cases of forceps delivery. It’s also believed to assist in the production of plentiful breast milk. There is no indication that raspberry leaf tea reduces the pain of cervix dilation during labor or that drinking it will actually induce labor.
4. Spicy food can start off contractions
This one is an age old wives tale, that spicy food eaten when close to term or overdue will kick start your labor. There is no indication of the quantity you need to consume, how often or if you should begin early in your pregnancy. Nor is there any scientific proof that spicy food will in fact bring on contractions.
Something which pregnant moms should consider is that some spicy foods actually cause the body to release capsasins. What are they you ask? When you are in labor and the baby comes down the birth canal the pressure causes endorphins to be naturally released. Capsasins counteract endorphins – so your efforts to kick start labor may in fact be counterproductive as your own body tries to produce some natural pain relief.
5. Eat plenty of fresh pineapple to kick start labor
There is an enzyme in fresh pineapple called bromelain, and this works in a similar fashion to prostagladin (see the paragraph on having sex to stimulate labor). It’s also found in mango and kiwi fruit, although you’d have to eat rather a lot of kiwi’s to achieve the same outcome. So while bromelain is proven to ripen and soften the cervix, eating a whole fresh pineapple is not proven to start off labor. Eat fresh pineapple if you love it, but don’t depend on it to induce labor.
6. Castor oil
When you’re advised to take castor oil to bring on labor, people are essentially telling you to cause so much discomfort in your bowels that your uterus is irritated and labor begins. Remember that once labor has started you are still going to be suffering from the effects of the laxative. Still finding this option appealing?
The intestines surround the uterus in the last stages of pregnancy. As they cramp from the castor oil you have consumed they lead to uterine spasms. Other potential hazards are dehydration from diarrhea. It’s simply not worth kick starting your labor this way.
Labor isn’t proven to start labor off, but it can definitely help once you have begin. The swaying motion as your hips move from side to side can help your baby move into the correct position. The force of gravity may also help your baby to move down the birth canal a little faster and a little father down the birth canal.
Remember that you will tire more easily once you are pregnant. If you walk to far and too fast you may be overly tired once labor begins in earnest. Labor can take a long time or it can be over very quickly. There is no way of knowing how you will go, so try to remember that it is important to conserve your energy for the actual birth of your little one rather than focus so strongly on how to induce labor.
8. Acupressure to start off labor
Acupuncture and acupressure are therapy which is part of Chinese medicine. It is believed that specific areas in the body respond to pressure and can either bring on contractions or cause the baby to descend and press on the cervix (causing the cervix to ripen). There are also acupressure points which work to relax the body once labor has begun and ease the associated tension.
Acupressure is best done by professionals.
9. Take a bumpy car ride
Hmmmmm. Not entirely sure what the idea behind this one is. Bounce your baby out? We think this myth intends the uterus to be made uncomfortable and start to contract. A similar idea to that of using a laxative such as castor oil to irritate the uterus and stir it into action. We don’t suggest this one either.
10. Eat black licorice
Licorice purchased from a health food store has small quantities of glycyrrihizic acid used as a sugar substitute. There is no proof that glycyrrihizic acid will bring on labor, and large quantities of sugar and sweets should not be consumed by anyone who is eating a healthy, balanced diet.
These are all remedies to bring on labor which have been circulating around the world for many years. Are they likely to work? Probably not. Many of these activities will stimulate or expose you to the hormone prostaglandin, but contractions don’t always turn into labor. Despite advances in medicine and science, pregnancy and childbirth remain a mystery. It is a wonderful, spiritual time. You don’t need to know everything, only that in a very short time you’ll be holding your little one safe in your arms.
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