Whether you have a blissful pregnancy or you're like my sister's friend who announced her soon-to-be bundle of joy by snapping a photo of a toilet bowl, there comes a point where you are ready to get the show on the road. I was one of those annoying as hell women who loved being pregnant. But when my due date came and went, you better believe I was outside walking like a maniac in an attempt to get things moving. But what about other tricks, like do spicy foods jump start contractions and can I make my cervix dilate?
"Unfortunately no matter how badly you want your baby to come out you cannot make your cervix dilate," Dr. Jaime Knopman, director of fertility preservation at New York's Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM), tells Romper in an email interview. "While there are certain home remedies (e.g. teas, tablets and certain activities, like dancing, intercourse, and nipple stimulation) that can increase your chances of going into labor, nature will usually just take its course."
Knopman says the confusing part, of course, is that knowing when you are in labor can sometimes be a bit confusing. "Unlike a multiple choice exam, it isn’t always black and white," she says. "The most obvious sign of impending labor is/are regular uterine contractions." Knopman explains that contractions that come and go in a regular fashion — you may have heard of the 511 Rule — are a sign you are in labor. But that doesn't mean your cervix won't take a bit to catch up in terms of dilation.
Knopman says another way women often know they are in labor is when their water breaks. (And if you're me, then it happens in the greeting card aisle at Target.) "Although in certain instances there can be a period of time between when the water breaks and active labor starts, this is a sign that you should call your OB-GYN," Knopman says.
If you do want to try to speed things along, Carley Mendes, a registered holistic nutritionist, childbirth educator, and expert at The Tot, tells Romper in an email interview that you need to tread lightly. “Any medicine, herb, or technique used to begin birth before the body and/or baby is ready can have unwanted effects and disrupt the delicate cascade of physical changes that happen during labor. Once you stimulate labor either naturally or medically, the potential for further interventions or complications increases.”
There are, however, some safe ways to stimulate labor when a baby is full term, including walking, squatting, and climbing stairs to “move your hips and encourage your baby to descend,” Mendes says. Sex is also helpful in encouraging labor because "the prostaglandins in semen can help to prepare the cervix and the female orgasm can softly stimulate the uterus,” she says, adding that sex is only safe if your water has not broken yet. Nipple stimulation might also help, as it releases the hormone oxytocin which can help stimulate contractions.
Other methods include castor and evening primrose oils, as well as mechanical inductions and membrane sweeps, but they come with a list of warnings ranging from diarrhea to premature rupture of the membranes to the need for further methods of induction. And do you really need to add something to your plate?
Acupressure might also bring you results in the contraction department. Josie Bouchier, a Colorado-based acupuncturist and women’s holistic health expert at Tot who created the Pregnant Woman program, tells Romper in an email interview that you can also try vigorous shoulder rubs at the top of the trapezius muscle, foot massages, and massage the area between your thumb and forefinger.
"Be sure to massage each area for several minutes at a time and get a pretty strong stimulation," Bouchier says. "You can also massage the triangular fossa of your ear, where the uterus is represented in Chinese medicine."
Certain drinks like raspberry leaf tea, and even oral sex, are said to help encourage labor contractions. Of course, conventional methods of induction, like Pitocin or Cervidil, which help your cervix to open, are available, too. But both must be administered by a healthcare practitioner.
Truth time? As hard as it might be to believe when you are at the end of your pregnancy, your baby will be born. As I started to get antsy about meeting my little gal, my mom said, "She's not going to stay in there forever." And wouldn't you figure mama was right — again.
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