From castor oil to Indian food, natural induction myths abound. While ordering a spicy salsa with a side of wasabi is gross, it's unlikely to harm you or your baby. However, other induction methods — like ingesting castor oil — can actually be life-threatening. If you're asking, "can I break my own water naturally?" it's time to take a step back. As much as you (understandably) want to get this party started, you're probably better off waiting for labor to begin on its own.
"Even though there are so many internet 'myths' about trying to induce labor at home naturally, there is no medical evidence that any of them work, and many of them are unsafe," explains Dr. Rebecca Levy-Gantt of Premier OBGYN Napa, in an email interview with Romper. Women frequently ask for advice on inducing labor on forums like Baby Center, but tempting as it may be, you should never get medical advice from a forum. Especially in terms of breaking your own water, any advice you receive there will be useless at best, and hazardous at worst.
Medically speaking, no one knows exactly what triggers childbirth. "People think taking castor oil will induce labor," writes Levy-Gantt. "But there are reports of women getting severely ill with diarrhea, and even reports that the unborn baby can pass stool (known as meconium, and dangerous if the baby inhales or sometimes swallows it) in utero after the woman ingests castor oil." Additionally, no scientific evidence backs the theory that certain foods — dates, pineapple, or heavy spices — will break you water or start your labor.
So that's the bad news. But while you can't trigger labor yourself, certain activities might "encourage" your body to get a move on. First, and perhaps most effectively, your healthcare provider can strip your membranes to release prostaglandins, which are responsible for those contractions, explains Levy-Gantt. Secondly, remaining upright and active — think walking, hiking, cooking, or shopping — may help your labor to progress, but only once contractions have already begun.
Finally, while it won't start labor on its own, sex can help your labor along, and might even cause your water to break naturally. As Modern Mom wrote, "sex, sex, and more sex" is a generally safe way to get the ball rolling, as long as you're cleared by your doctor to do the deed. Nipple stimulation, penetration, and the naturally occurring prostaglandins in semen really can help get you to the church on time. However, you should never have sex after your water has already broken, due to the risk of infection, advises Levy-Gantt.
Which brings us to the power of amniotic fluid. If you're hoping to induce, it's important to remember that walking around with broken water for any length of time is dangerous because that 'water' is in fact the shield protecting your baby from the outside world. Even a doctor won't try to break your water anywhere but the hospital — and only when labor is in full swing. "I only break water when a patient is in active labor, and the head is well-applied to the cervix, to move labor along if necessary," writes Levy-Gantt.
If your due date has come and gone, it's probably best not to think in terms of trying to break your water. Instead, think about encouraging your contractions. (Give me a C! Give me an O!) Staying on your feet and getting snuggly with a loved one are both tried and true ways to meet your baby that much sooner. As for the host of other induction tricks so rampant on the internet, I'm sorry to report that they're little more than old wives tales, and it's high time we laid them to rest.
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