There comes a point in every pregnancy when you’re just done. Like get-this-baby-out-of-me-right-now done. Unfortunately, your baby might have other plans and may be in no rush to make an appearance until well after your due date. If you want to get this party started, there are some safe ways to encourage your body to go into labor naturally.
Before you even consider inducing labor on your own, you should speak with your OB first. “I have seen women try to induce labor at 37 weeks because they were tired of being pregnant,” Dr. Renee Wellenstein, a double board certified physician in obstetrics/gynecology and Functional Medicine, tells Romper. “A woman should not attempt to induce labor prior to 40 weeks due to the risk of unexpected health conditions that may develop in her baby due to the earlier delivery."
Keep in mind that even if you’re past your due date there isn't one surefire method to kickstart your contractions. After all, if your baby just won’t budge, then doing any (or all) of the suggested ideas just might not be effective. The suggestions on this list are all suggestions made by a medical doctor or certified doula, but bear in mind that all experts in the field of labor and delivery may not always see eye to eye, so it's important to consult with your own medical advisor before attempting any of the below.
1. Drink Castor Oil
Sure, it’s gross, but castor oil can get things going for you, labor-wise. “Castor oil is a laxative that stimulates the intestines and, in turn, can irritate the uterus enough to contract,” says Dr. Wellenstein. “I have seen — and smelled — it work!” But just be careful before taking a swig of the stuff. In addition to causing contractions, castor oil can also give you diarrhea and cause dehydration, What To Expect reported, so stay close to a bathroom if you can.
2. Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
The jury is out on whether red raspberry leaf tea actually works. It’s believed to make your uterus stronger and expedite labor and delivery. “It can tighten the muscles in the pelvic area, including the walls of your uterus which can help make delivery easier,” Lisangelica Ortega, a certified doula, tells Romper. And while it can make you run to the bathroom more frequently, (it’s also been known to increase your chances of having a miscarriage in your first trimester), it’s definitely good for you, too. In fact, red raspberry leaf tea is rich in antioxidants and contains good-for-you nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and E, as well as calcium, iron, and potassium, as per What to Expect.
3. Have Sex
It may (or may not) be the absolute last thing on your mind, but sex can start labor. “The prostaglandins in semen can cause contractions and cervical dilatation,” says Dr. Wellenstein. “And an orgasm can also cause uterine contractions.” While sex isn’t always a guarantee that you’ll go into labor, Dr. Wellenstein says it’s worth a shot. “Although sex may result in false labor, at least you can have fun trying since you won't be having sex for 6 weeks postpartum!”
4. Get Acupuncture
Acupuncture has been used for centuries to alleviate all sorts of aches and pains. But a study from the University of North Carolina found that pregnant women who got acupuncture were more likely to go into labor naturally — and less likely to need a C-section, too. “Acupuncture has been proven to target areas to help reduce nausea prior to labor as well as during labor and delivery,” says Ortega. “It also reduces lower back and pelvic pain as well as the reduction of anxiety, which can stall labor from starting.”
5. Try Nipple Stimulation
Although you might not want to bother your boobies right now, nipple stimulation just might get your labor up and off the ground. “Nipple stimulation definitely brings on uterine contractions due to the natural release of a hormone called oxytocin,” says Dr. Wellenstein. “However, it may just bring on contractions without necessarily causing labor.” Dr. Wellenstein advises doing it for as little as five minutes (and up to 15 minutes, max). But you should only stimulate one breast at a time, though, to keep it safe.
6. Get In Some Exercise
If your goal is to get that baby out, then engaging your pelvic area is one way to do it. You can do exercises (with your OB’s approval, of course), that open your hips and relax the pelvic floor such as bouncing on an exercise ball, The Bump reported. And if you’re not quite ready to break a sweat, try low-impact exercises like walking or swimming — the buoyancy can feel great when you’re lugging around a big ol’ belly. But mostly, just get up and get moving, advises Ortega. “Even swinging and swaying can help position your baby,” she says.
7. Just Relax
You might be so stressed out about labor starting that you can actually prevent it from happening in the first place. “Stress and anxiety will impede labor,” says Ortega. “So relax by breathing, taking a warm bath.” If you’re totally tense, you should book a prenatal massage with a masseuse who specializes in pregnant women. Or you could try breathing in the zen by smelling soothing scents like lavender or sage. That way, you can release tension and worry...and welcome your baby.
"A randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for initiation of labor in nulliparous women."
Harper, TC, Coeytaux, RR, Chen, W, Campbell K, Kaufman JS, Moise KJ, Thorp JM. (2006)
Dr. Renee Wellenstein, a double board certified physician in Obstetrics/Gynecology and Functional Medicine.
Lisangelica Ortega, a certified doula, in Florida