I will never forget the last two weeks of my pregnancy. I was over it. Completely. So I totally understand why you'd want to get that baby out of you ASAP, but there are definitely reasons why you shouldn't try to induce labor naturally, and they range from making you even more uncomfortable than you already are to possible life-threatening issues.
“So while we can potentially stimulate contractions and labor before the due date, the question is, should you? As a general rule, the body knows what to do and when to do it. Studies show that spontaneous labors tend to be faster with a higher likelihood of delivering vaginally,” Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, OB-GYN, author of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pregnancy (But Were Too Afraid or Embarrassed To Ask) and one half of the Twin Doctors for TwinDoctorsTV tells Romper in an email interview.
Samantha McClellan, a certified birth doula with more than six years of experience and owner of The Carolina Doula Collective adds, “The truth is, no home induction method is going to put you into labor if your body and your baby aren't ready. You can try every trick in the book, but if your body isn't ready to go into labor, you will only end up tired, crampy, and frustrated.”
Amir Nasseri, an OB-GYN at Her Choice Women’s Clinic says, “As of now, it is recommended that any labor induction be only performed under controlled, direct medical supervision in a hospital setting for the health and safety of both the mother and the fetus.”
Abdur-Rahman says, “Some patients, however, will take matters into their own hands and try to stimulate labor naturally, but there are risks when doing this.” So take a look at this list before deciding to try to induce labor on your own naturally at home. As always, talk to your healthcare provider before trying anything at home and discuss your situation and pregnancy with them, because every pregnancy and pregnant body is different.
1. Fetal Risks
"While the majority of fetal development occurs during the earlier parts of pregnancy, major organ systems including the lungs and brain are still developing right up to the very end. If you stimulate labor early, your baby can be born with immature lungs, which can lead to breathing difficulties and even the need for a breathing tube to be inserted," Abdur-Rahman explains. "Early babies also have problems with keeping their body temperature at appropriate levels. Babies are adding fat right up to delivery, and this fat is necessary to keep their body temperatures at appropriate levels. They also have problems eating well and frequently can’t maintain their blood sugar levels."
“Additionally, inducing yourself can cause hyper-stimulation of the uterus — having too many closely timed contractions — which can cut off the blood and oxygen delivery to the fetus, placing it at serious risk,” says Nasseri.
2. Risk Of Infection
Abdur-Rahman says while there is always a risk of experiencing a uterine infection during labor, the risk is higher in an uncontrolled setting (at home) without appropriate monitoring.
"... especially if labors are prolonged or the bag of water breaks long before delivery. Uterine infections can lead to more serious infections for mom (including sepsis, a blood infection) and baby," Abdur-Rahman says.
3. Risk of Uterine Rupture
"While the uterus is a strong muscle, labor can put the uterus under a great deal of stress," Abdur-Rahman says. "Even though rupture of the uterus is rare in lower-risk pregnancies, the uterus can open at the site of previous surgery in women who have had prior C-sections or other uterine surgeries including fibroid removal."
But don't let this scare you. If your doctor induces you, Abdur-Rahman says that the effects of "traditional medications used to induce labor are well-studied in women who have had prior uterine surgeries."
4. Risk of Bleeding
When trying to induce at home, Nasseri says you could disturb a blood vessel that's close to the cervix (because blood vessels are already engorged during pregnancy). "This may lead to hemorrhage, placing both the mother and fetus at risk," she says.
5. Risk Of Premature Rupture Of Membranes
"Inducing at home may lead to premature rupture of membranes, known as breaking the bag of water. When it happens sooner than full labor, it can lead to infection inside the uterus, placing both mother and fetus at risk," Nasseri says.
6. Unpleasant Side Effects
"The biggest risk of trying to self-induce labor may just be unpleasant side effects from your chosen method. Things like red raspberry leaf tea, evening primrose oil, and acupuncture/acupressure are pretty innocuous, but other methods (mainly old wives' tales) like castor oil and eating spicy foods can lead to some pretty vicious side effects including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and heartburn," Abdur-Rahman warns.
McClellan adds, “Certain methods, such as castor oil, can set you up for a harder labor experience even if they do work. Castor oil works by causing intestinal cramping and diarrhea which, in turn, can stimulate the production of prolactin and cause contractions. This may put you into labor, but it will likely happen after a night spent in the bathroom feeling sick, and you could risk fatigue and dehydration before ever even going into labor.”
7. Unneeded Exhaustion
Walking up and down stairs is a method many women use to try to induce labor, but experts want to know why we put ourselves through the madness. "Is walking up and down the stairs really the way that you want to spend the day before going into labor?" McClellan asks. She does not recommend going into labor with tired and sore legs. "You'd be better off resting, hydrating, eating healthy food and enjoying those final moments before your family grows," she says. So even though your cousin's BFF's sister-in-law went into labor after walking six miles, it might not be the best idea for you.
Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, OB-GYN, author of 'Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pregnancy (But Were Too Afraid or Embarrassed To Ask)' and one half of the Twin Doctors for TwinDoctorsTV.
Amir Nasseri, OB-GYN at Her Choice Women’s Clinic.
Samantha McClellan, certified birth doula with more than six years of experience and owner of The Carolina Doula Collective.