By the end of 40 long weeks of pregnancy, most women are willing to do just about anything to get labor started. From walking miles to having sex to eating spicy foods, pregnant women have tried just about everything to kick-start labor.
But is that always the best course of action? Could it even be harmful to the mother and baby? The answers are not so cut and dried.
Experts say many at-home, natural induction methods are fine, but there are definitely some to avoid. Also, they warn not every pregnant woman should try to get labor started on their own, even if they have reached their due date.
Pregnancy is considered full term at 38 weeks and the baby is not considered overdue, technically, until 42 weeks gestation. So, even if the mom is ready for delivery, the baby might not be.
Consulting a medical professional is key when considering any method of "natural" labor induction.
Some of the things that moms-to-be do to induce labor naturally (like having sex or getting a massage) may not help the process along, but they also most likely will not hurt things either.
However, doctors say that several "natural" induction methods that may seem like good ideas, are really not much more than old wives' tales and can cause issues for pregnant women.
Here are some ways moms-to-be should NOT use to induce labor (unless directed to by a medical professional):
1. Castor oil
Besides having a wretched taste, if you're not already in active labor, castor oil can cause intestinal spams that simply give a pregnant woman a bad case of diarrhea, which is not something she will want close to her delivery date.
2. Nipple stimulation
Though twisting and massaging one's nipples for a few hours each day may bring on contractions, doctors do not recommend it because it can cause long painful contractions that have the potential to lower the baby's heart rate.
3. Evening Primrose Oil
Many midwives will advice clients to apply the herbal evening primrose oil directly to their cervix. However pregnancy can cause unexpected and adverse reactions to just about anything. For that reason this, or any herb, should only be used when the woman is being monitored closely by a medical professional with a strong understanding of herbs and natural medicine.
Since each baby is different and may need more or less time in the womb to mature, it is not aways medically advisable to try to kick-start labor on one's own. Though the process of carrying a baby to term can seem long and grueling, a healthy, happy baby is surely worth the wait.
Pregnancy-calendars.net. Web. 7 May 2012. "Induce naturally". http://www.pregnancy-calendars.net/inducenaturally.aspx
Whattoexpect.com. Web. 7 May 2012. "Natural ways to induce labor". http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/photo-gallery/natural-ways-to-induce-labor.aspx#/slide-1
Reviewed May 8, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith