Labour and Birth, Latest news, Pregnancy

Inducing Labour Naturally

OK. That’s it. It’s eviction time. This baby has outstayed his or her welcome and now you’re desperate to go into labour. Are there any ways to start labour naturally at home? Your gran or best friend or work colleague has probably come up with some suggestions. What really works? Read on to find out more about inducing labour naturally.

Large pregnant tummy

Why do we go into labour?

There are lots of factors which seem to play a part in starting labour. Unfortunately, these factors work in differing amounts on different people. It is therefore impossible to give you a list of things to do which, once you’ve done them all, will start labour. I know this is frustrating. I wish it could be that simple, especially when I see ladies who are so very ready to see the end of pregnancy and meet their baby. However, I can tell you all the factors and you can see if any of them work for you.

Please do not attempt any of these ideas before your baby is ready to come out. This means not before you reach 37 weeks of pregnancy. Even if you are really fed up, you need to keep baby safe inside you until that point if you can so that they are ready to face the world when they arrive.

Factor 1: Pressure

Here’s where I start talking biology again. Those of you who are regular readers know that I like to explain why something happens, not just tell you that it does. Sorry. You can skip this part if you want to. For the rest of you, here is the physiology behind inducing labour naturally.

The bottom of your uterus is where your cervix is. Your cervix is the baby’s exit. It is the cervix which dilates and reaches that magical 10 centimetres everyone goes on about!

We have discovered (not me, but some very clever scientists) that putting pressure on the inside of the cervix, where the baby is, causes your body to release oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone which cause your uterus to contract. Contractions push the baby down onto the cervix. Pressure on the cervix causes more oxytocin to be released. This is an example of a positive feedback cycle and is the reason why you keep being told to stay upright!

Diagram of fergusons reflex

So how do you make this reflex work for you? Here are some things to try:

  • Stay upright. Lying down or leaning back reduces the pressure on your cervix.
  • Try walking at a good speed, or bouncing on a birthing ball. These movements cause regular bumps to the cervix and can stimulate Ferguson’s reflex.
  • You can also try going up and down stairs sideways or doing some good bum wiggling!

Factor 2: Relaxing

I know what you’re thinking. You’re so uncomfortable and tired that you can’t relax. Perhaps your mind keeps going over what might happen and you’re worried about problems you might face in labour. These are very natural feelings. The problem is that all these feelings and overthinking can hinder labour.

You need to do whatever you can to stay relaxed. Our favourite hormone, oxytocin, doesn’t flow well when you are stressed. Have a look at the oxytocin vs adrenaline graphic below.

Oxytocin vs adrenaline

Ways to help you relax might include:

  • Taking time to pamper yourself. Read your favourite book, sing your favourite song, paint your toenails. Whatever works for you.
  • Trust your body. Look at how well your body has managed in pregnancy. Your body grew and supported a beautiful healthy baby all this way. It is designed to go into labour. It is designed to give birth.
  • Trust yourself. You are stronger than you know. You can cope with more than you think. Whatever happens during labour you will find ways to manage.
  • Don’t google it! The joys of the information highway can also bring some lows. Unfortunately people tend to share their negative experiences more readily than any positive ones. Don’t be tempted to read everyone else’s experiences. If some one starts sharing a bad experience, it’s OK to ask them to stop or to turn the page or click out of that site.
  • Surround yourself with people you trust. Choose birthing partners that are calm and positive. You need those who will encourage you when you are flagging and need a boost. Choose people who will stand up for you and what you would like if you can’t express it.

Factor 3: Oxytocin

As you can see from the points above, oxytocin is the key to inducing labour naturally. So lets looks at some ways you can increase the oxytocin levels in your body.

Oxytocin is known as the hormone of love. It is released at three main times.

  • When you have an org*sm (spelt this way to avoid website warning notices)
  • While you are breastfeeding your baby
  • When you have contractions in labour

Take a moment and consider the circumstances that usually surround this first instance of oxytocin release. I think I can assume that you are in a place that feels safe and secure. There probably isn’t a lot of busyness around you, and you are probably focusing on the matter in hand. You are likely to be with someone you love and trust.

Couple in candlelight

Use those circumstances when you want to encourage labour. Don’t invite all and sundry to your house for a labour cheer along. Be close, be intimate, be relaxed. If you feel like it, try having one or more org*sms, with or without the assistance of another person.

Your breasts can also be stimulated to encourage oxytocin release. You could try hand-expressing, whether or not you have noticed any milk production over the last few days or weeks. If you get any milk flowing, you can keep it in a sterile syringe to give to the baby when they arrive. Massage is another great way to stimulate the breasts. Rubbing, rolling and tweaking are all options. See what works for you.

Things I don’t recommend for inducing labour naturally

There are other options you’ve probably heard of for inducing labour naturally. Curry or castor oil for example. The idea behind have a strong curry or a teaspoon of castor oil is to give yourself an upset stomach! I suppose people think that as your uterus sits next to your intestines, if we can get the intestines contracting and cramping, the uterus might follow. It might have worked for someone you know but it isn’t very common. Most of the time, the only thing that happens is that you get a lot of pain and discomfort, and spend a while in the bathroom! In my opinion it’s not a method that is reliable enough to be worth those side effects.

One more thing to try

It is definitely worth considering having a membrane sweep if one is offered to you. Read all about membrane sweeps here to find out how it could work for you.

Hopefully, one or more of the suggestions above will help you get into labour. Don’t leave just yet! Why not read the post on early labour here to find out what happens next and help with some coping strategies.

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Labour and Birth, Latest news, Pregnancy

Raspberry Leaf Tea and Labour

Raspberry leaf tea occasionally comes up in discussions with mums about labour and induction of (starting) labour. What is the big deal about raspberry leaf tea and will it really help you? Read on to find out.

Cup of tea on table

First, a bit of biology. Try not to zone out, I promise to keep it simple and it will help you understand how raspberry leaf tea makes a difference.

The physiology bit

Your uterus is a muscle. As a muscle it is made up of lots of little muscle cells which all work together to contract. The muscle cells in the uterus need to work together to contract in a wave and help make the space inside your uterus smaller. This wave pushes baby down towards the exit.

The important point is that the muscle cells need to work together in a coordinated way. Think of a person trying to start a Mexican wave in a football stadium. If one guy on one side waves, but no one else around him does, no big wave happens. If two guys on either side try waving but aren’t looking at each other and those around them, you still won’t get a good wave.

A good stadium wave needs communication between everyone in the stadium. Everyone needs to be watching and they need to join in at the same time as those around them. When each person is watching those around them and moving in time with them, the wave moves efficiently around the stadium.

The same needs to happen with your uterine muscle cells. They need to work together and communicate with each other so that they coordinate their contraction with the cells next to them. This makes stronger and more effective contractions.

How does raspberry leaf tea help?

The amazing thing that scientists have discovered in recent years it that raspberry leaf tea seems to help your muscle cells communicate. Studies show that drinking raspberry leaf tea increases the number of gap junctions in your muscle cells.

Gap junctions are the communication channels between the cells. They spread messages from one cell to the next. Messages like ‘I’m contracting now. So should you!’. You already have gap junctions in your uterine muscles. The more gap junctions you have, the better the messages pass from one cell to the next. This may make a difference to improve the waves of contractions in your uterus.

Bring on the tea drinking!

The optimum time to start drinking raspberry leaf tea seems to be from about 34 or 35 weeks. This gives time for the gap junctions to develop ready for the end of pregnancy between 37 and 42 weeks.

Just one glass of raspberry leaf tea per day will make a difference. There is no need to drink 15 cups per day unless you really like it! Most women stick to a maximum of 3 cups per day. If you don’t like the taste of the tea, you can buy raspberry leaf tea capsules instead.

If you get any side effects, such as strong Braxton Hicks contractions, bleeding or nausea, please contact your local maternity services provider straight away!

Please be careful when using herbal remedies. Because they are not regulated in the same way as other medicines, the quality and concentration of the tea can vary between brands and between batches.

In conclusion, there may be a small benefit to drinking raspberry leaf tea towards the end of your pregnancy. However, the benefit seems to be in the coordination and efficiency of your contractions, not in making labour happen sooner. If you do not drink the tea, your body can and will still be able to go into labour, have contractions and deliver baby. It’s designed to do so, so trust it!

For more tips and tricks on making labour happen and coping when it does, have a look at the other articles on this site here.

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