The Truth About "Naturally" Inducing LaborFeb 14, 2023
According to the 2013 Listening to Mothers III survey, 41% of mothers in the United States reported that their care provider tried to induce labor. Out of those mothers, over 60% said they were induced because they were close to their due date or “overdue.” (YOU NEED TO READ THIS IF YOUR BABY IS “PAST DUE” or if you’re worried about going past your “due date.”)
Many providers (both OBGYNs and licensed midwives) are pressured by state regulations into forcing their patients/clients into labor before 42 weeks, and before their bodies and babies are ready. Induction (of all kinds— “natural” or medical) multiplies the risk of serious complications and interventions such as shoulder dystocia, fetal distress, forceps-assisted delivery, cesarean section, and more. In reality, there is NO NATURAL WAY TO INDUCE LABOR. All labor induction is inherently unnatural.
I understand that you are nearing the end of your pregnancy. Your ankles and feet are swollen, your low back hurts; you are tired; you have heartburn constantly. In other words, you are forgetting how magical this experience is and you are ready for it to be over. Almost every mother reaches a point when she’s ready for pregnancy to end. It’s a normal transition into the next stage of life. If you’re too comfortable, you’ll never be ready to let go of those sweet little flutter kicks in your abdomen. But if your goal is to have an intervention-free, natural, undisturbed labor + birth, then you need to trust that your body and baby know when it is time to begin labor.
If you choose to induce labor, even “naturally,” before your body + baby are ready, then you will have to continue forcing labor throughout the entire experience. This means you will endure a long, grueling labor in which you are constantly fighting your body to force it to contract. Most of the time, this ends in a hospital transfer, Pitocin, and an epidural due to extreme exhaustion and lack of effective contractions.
Seriously, read this article if you are worried about going past your due date.
Labor WILL start when your body and baby are ready. It is simply a variation of normal for women to go past 42 weeks of pregnancy. I myself have gone to 42.5 weeks of gestation and I have a few dear friends who routinely reach 43 weeks and even round the corner toward 44 weeks. Yet they have perfectly intervention-free, safe birth experiences and healthy babies.
These interventions are considered “natural” induction methods, but truly have detrimental consequences which result in a cascade of further interventions: “stretch and sweep” (it is never natural to allow a provider’s fingers anywhere near your cervix), castor oil, breast pumping, herbal tinctures (cotton root bark, cramp bark, black or blue cohosh, Wish Garden’s Labor enhancer), foley or cook’s catheter, artificially rupturing the membranes (breaking your waters), and even evening primrose oil, to name the most common ones.
There is NO such thing as a natural induction. All inductions carry great risk of leading to a cascade of interventions.
However, there are a few things you can do to help prime your body for labor. The key is to be relaxed, well cared for, and to increase your oxytocin levels. Mammals have to feel safe and secure in order to give birth. This is a natural, instinctive mechanism that ensures the safety of our young. If we feel anxious or unsafe, our hormones tell our uterus that it is not time to deliver because our baby might not be safe in this environment.
This is why it is imperative to work WITH our hormones rather than against them. The best way to hinder and sabotage labor is to stress a woman out by putting her on the clock and poking/prodding her body til it goes into labor, or by intervening in her natural bodily processes in any way. One of the first questions I tell my clients to ask when interviewing potential care providers is “Do you place any restrictions on mothers who are nearing or past their estimated day of delivery?” Because if they have ANY protocols for routine interventions that are triggered by “due date” based deadlines, it is a huge red flag that they do not trust the natural process of birth, and that they answer to the state first rather than giving individualized care for their clients/patients.
Here are some self-care techniques you can follow to prepare your body + mind for labor:
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Don’t wait til 38 weeks to start drinking this uterine-toning tonic! Start sipping on this concoction once you enter your second trimester. Increase your consumption as you get closer and closer to your due date. Red raspberry leaf tea is known to strengthen the uterus and pelvic floor. A strong uterus means strong, efficient contractions. To function properly, the uterus needs a lot of vitamins and minerals and this tea is full of them. Red raspberry leaf is high in Vitamin C, A, B, E and has significant amounts of important minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. It tastes similar to black tea.
Another great option is to drink the NORA tea blend, which provides holistic nourishment for your body throughout pregnancy. Read more about creating your own NORA tea blend here.
Click here to buy a supply of my favorite Red Raspberry Leaf Pregnancy Tea from Birds & Bees Tea Company… This one is great for using throughout your entire pregnancy.
Click here to buy my favorite tea that includes red raspberry leaf that is formulated for when you are in your third trimester. It is called “Ripe and Ready” and it tastes delicious!
Pro tip: Drink it hot with a teaspoon of honey, or chilled mixed with orange juice or lemonade to mix it up a little.
Acupressure / Acupuncture
Using acupressure / acupuncture points is a very gentle yet effective therapy. You must visit a professional to receive acupuncture, but acupressure can be done by yourself or with your partner at home. When acupressure is done with a loving partner, you may get an added benefit of increasing your oxytocin levels. Acupuncture is a great excuse to get out of the house and relax for an hour. Once the acupuncturist places the needles, you can nap and listen to guided birth meditations. I recommend starting to see an acupuncturist during your second trimester, especially if you are prone to tension and anxiety. You can have them stimulate the points that counter anxiety, and encourage relaxation. Relaxation and a sense of calm and wellness is key for a healthy, efficient labor process. Acupuncture is a wonderful modality of preventative, holistic care throughout all of pregnancy. Your acupuncturist can work with you to help lessen your pregnancy discomforts and anxieties, which will have many beneficial effects when it comes time to birth your baby. Once you hit 38 weeks, you can choose whether or not you feel comfortable having them stimulate the points to encourage labor. These points, in my opinion, do not force labor to begin if your body is not ready. They simply encourage the natural processes IF you ARE ready. However, if you do not feel comfortable doing ANYTHING that might interfere with your natural processes, I respect that! I still advise going for general holistic care for any issues you may be having, and for relaxation and anxiety prevention.
This technique should be used SPARINGLY not aggressively. Aggressive use of this technique is not recommended— it would entail using a breast pump at regular intervals. Aggressive nipple stimulation is a labor-inducing intervention that can lead to a cascade of other interventions.
That being said, nipple stimulation can be a totally normal and natural practice! Ideally, it should be done with your partner to stimulate oxytocin, loving sensations, and a sense of security and connection.
Having sex is a great tool for ripening the cervix and producing uterine contractions. Orgasms trigger a release of oxytocin from the pituitary gland, producing uterine contractions. Yes, I’m encouraging you to HAVE ALL THE ORGASMS! Have sex or set aside some “self-love” time—whatever works for you! Added bonus: Sperm contains prostaglandins, which ripen the cervix. Cervidil, a vaginal-insert of synthetic prostaglandin, is used frequently to begin a medical induction (and it is quite dangerous and comes with a very serious list of detrimental side effects for you and baby). Why not use the real thing to naturally induce labor instead?
Evening primrose oil also contains prostaglandins but is very controversial. EPO can cause your amniotic sac (“bag of waters”) to rupture prematurely, so I don’t recommend it.
Have a big cry! Confront any buried emotions you may not be addressing. Watch a very sad movie and cry it out. Pour out your soul into a journal. Listen to music that pulls at your heartstrings. Big emotional releases have the tendency to naturally induce labor once you are full term.
Be Oxytocin Obsessed
Rev up your oxytocin levels by doing anything that makes you feel ecstatic. Snuggle a fluffy baby animal, cuddle intimately with a loved one, hold a friend or family member’s baby, watch romantic movies, get massaged or tickled by your partner. Find what works for you and do it often!
The Webster chiropractic adjustment relieves tension in the uterus and creates space in your pelvis. Closer to your due date, this can help give your baby room to descend further into the birth canal so their head is resting on your cervix. This will encourage your cervix to soften and dilate. The adjustment involves no external forces on the baby directly. It is an extremely safe and even comfortable way to naturally induce labor or encourage optimal fetal positioning.
When you walk, the rhythmic swaying of your hips sifts your baby into a beneficial position. Gravity causes your baby’s head to put pressure on your cervix. Additionally, as you continue to walk, the rhythmic pressure of your baby’s head on your cervix is thought to stimulate the release of oxytocin. So many benefits to walking! It’s great to get into the habit of taking a leisurely walk every day throughout your pregnancy. Get those hips swaying!
Everyone needs an excuse to get a massage, right? Massage activates your parasympathetic nervous system, causing you to relax. When you are fully relaxed, your body knows it is safe to have your baby. If you are stressed, cortisol and adrenaline are pumping through your veins. Those hormones tell your body it is not time to have your baby until you find a safe space. A good massage can also trigger an oxytocin release. There are so many benefits to massage throughout pregnancy that it should be a regular part of your self-care regimen. If you’re looking to use it to encourage labor, I recommend going at least once per week past 36 weeks.
Get out your ball and bounce! Like walking, swaying your hips while sitting on a birth ball is a wonderful way to sift that baby into a good position. Alternate swaying and bouncing. Bouncing will add force on your cervix from your baby’s head, with the help of our good ol’ friend gravity. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of sitting on your birth ball from the start of your second trimester to encourage optimal fetal positioning.
My clients have expressed their love of this ball, available on Amazon, because it comes in a variety of sizes. Also, there is a size chart posted in the product images so you can find the size that will work best for you.
Last but not least— the most IMPORTANT thing you can do to encourage a smooth, unhindered labor process is to unlearn all of the myths and collective fears that you’ve absorbed about birth. I created my one-on-one virtual birth prep course, Birth Alchemy, to guide you along a journey of self-discovery to uncover your fears, blocks, strengths, vulnerabilities, personal and inherited traumas, and anything else standing in the way of your ability to trust yourself, to surrender to the process, and to tap into your own power and sense of authority. My framework intertwines the physical, emotional, psychological, and metaphysical aspects of pregnancy and birth. By the end of the program, you will be prepared body, mind, and soul to experience this miraculously transformative rite of passage without pathologizing your individual journey. Learn more & enroll here.
Remember, your baby WILL come. Due dates are very inaccurate. The best thing to do is take care of yourself, trust your body, and relax.
This post contains affiliate links. I only link to products that I have personally used and feel comfortable recommending. If you use these links, it does not increase the cost for you. It does help support this blog and my family, which allows me to bring you more helpful content. I really appreciate it when you use these links to purchase these products!
Kate Rose is a holistic birthkeeper and birth photographer who serves expecting women both locally in the Texas Knobby Hill Country and online through her holistic childbirth prep program, Birth Alchemy. She also mentors up-and-coming doulas and birth keepers in her virtual apprenticeship program.
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