Birth expert: Getting labour started
is a diploma-qualified birth educator and founder of Bellies to Babies. She has taught more than 2900 parents to feel confident, informed, supported and prepared. This week Janine talks about the different ways expectant parents might to induce labour and speed up the arrival of your long-awaited baby If your due date has come and gone, chances are you’re pretty eager to meet your baby. If you take a quick look online you will find a range of suggestions that are rumoured to induce labour! Keep in mind they haven’t been medically proven (although there are several studies) and most of the popular legends are more myth than fact (sorry!). There are a couple of interesting exceptions and remember, it’s important you check with your LMC (lead maternity carer) and get the green light before experimenting. Sex: While it may the very last thing you want to do (or the first!) at this point in your pregnancy, sexual intercourse isn’t harmful unless your LMC has advised you to avoid it for medical reasons. Semen contains prostaglandins, hormones that may help soften and open the cervix, possibly leading to contractions. Similarly, an orgasm releases the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates the muscles of the uterus to contract. So, it’s worth a try, if you are up for it! Nipple stimulation: Nipple stimulation, which involves gently rubbing a nipple and areola for an hour, three times a day, is said to trigger oxytocin and may lead to uterine contractions, much the same way breastfeeding produces the same effect in the early weeks postpartum. In a 2005 Cochrane systematic review — more recent studies have not been done — researchers analysed results from six clinical trials with a total of 719 women who were at least 37 weeks along. They found that those whose nipples had been stimulated — typically for between one and three hours a day, one nipple at a time — were 33 per cent more likely to go into labour within the next 72 hours than women whose nipples were left alone. Nipple stimulation also cut the risk of heavy bleeding after delivery by 84 per cent. However, we don’t know how safe it is for women whose pregnancies have complications. So it’s best not to try this if you’ve had any problems. Spicy food: It is believed feasting on a lovely curry may fire up your digestive system and bowels and, consequently, your uterus. But I think heartburn would be more likely than contractions and don’t even get me started on the possibility of diarrhoea. Otherwise, it’s harmless, so go ahead if you fancy it. It could be a good excuse for a night off from cooking. Other foods: There are other foods that are rumoured to help such as bromelain, a mix of enzymes found naturally in fresh pineapple. It’s believed that when pregnant women eat pineapple, bromelain softens the connective tissue of the cervix, bringing on labour. Too much may cause heartburn and diarrhoea! Eating dates: Several recent studies have shown that eating six dates a day starting at 36 weeks can help soften the cervix, reduce the need for medical induction and help promote a shorter labour (yay!) Researchers found that those who ate six dates a day for four weeks had a shorter first stage of labour, a higher mean cervical dilatation, and their cervix was riper for giving birth upon arrival at the hospital. Dates are also loaded with fibre to keep your digestive system running smoothly. And as a result, you’re less likely to deal with pregnancy-related constipation. They are also a source of folate, which helps reduce the likelihood of birth defects. They provide iron and vitamin K too. Iron in your diet can boost your energy levels and fight iron deficiency anaemia. Vitamin K helps strengthen baby’s bones and can improve your muscle and nerve function. Dates are also a rich source of potassium, an electrolyte mineral that helps keep blood vessels relaxed and blood pressure low, so they may or may not help induce labour but offer heaps of other benefits. Castor oil: This foul-tasting vegetable oil is essentially a laxative. When taken orally — you can try disguising the flavour by mixing it with juice — it can cause cramping in the intestines (ouch!!). That’s meant to lead to uterine muscle spasms and then labour. But, and it’s a BIG but, its side effects may be severe cramps, diarrhoea and possible dehydration — stay away from this one. Walking: It may not start labour, but walking aids its progression once your contractions have begun. Yet no research suggests walking actually does this — because no such studies have been done. Researchers have never conducted a trial, for example, in which some at-term pregnant women walk and others don’t, and compare what happens to whom and when. That said, many mothers believe walking incited their labour. Walking makes your hips sway helping to position the baby for birth and uses gravity to guide your baby further down into your pelvis. Word of caution: Don’t walk to the point of fatigue — you need to conserve your energy for the birth. A bumpy car ride: There is no scientific evidence that a bumpy car ride can help to bring on labour. However, many women believe it may help. It is thought that as you move around during a bumpy car ride, the rhythmic pressure of your baby’s head on your cervix stimulates the release of oxytocin. This is the hormone that regulates contractions. There is no evidence that a bumpy car ride works, but it won’t harm your baby either. She’s well-cushioned by your pelvis, tummy muscles and the amniotic fluid that surrounds her. Hypnosis: Hypnotic relaxation has long been used to reduce pain perception in labour but there is no evidence it works to get things going. The theory is it may help people who are extremely anxious about giving birth. This is because feeling very stressed may prevent us from producing oxytocin, which is needed to start labour and help it progress. Hypnotic relaxation is therefore thought to help those with high levels of anxiety relax so labour can start. More research is needed but using self-hypnosis podcasts, apps or downloads may at least help to relax you and take your mind off things. Truly the safest “natural” approach is time. Very few women go on more than one to two weeks past their due date. Just be patient and enjoy the last few days of your pregnancy — life will be super busy in no time. The David Awards recognise the unsung heroes in small businesses. Vote for me! https://www.thedavid awards.co.nz/voteforme/3350325 For information about antenatal classes near you, check out From Bellies to Babies www.hbantenatalclasses.co.nz or phone 022 637 0624. Medical disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians.