There's nothing more tedious than the wait for labor to begin, but ladies hoping for a VBAC, or vaginal birth after C-section, are particularly keen to find out how to naturally induce labor for a VBAC. If they can find a doctor who will authorize the procedure, many women may find their hopes dashed when labor doesn't begin naturally, and that's because obstetricians tend to shy away from medical inductions for VBAC moms. Armed with Google and and maybe some success stories from their friends, expectant moms hoping to avoid a repeat C-section may turn to all kinds of independent interventions to start contractions before their doctor calls the game.
First, it's important to speak with a doctor or midwife before undertaking any at-home remedies to get labor started. Every body and baby is different, and some methods carry risks that should get the go-ahead from an expert first.
"Every situation is different, and while I have strong opinions, every woman has their own set of health issues, socioeconomic circumstances, and past trauma (from a previous C-section) [that] plays a part," says Rachel Hart, a certified midwife, who runs a home birth practice in North Georgia. "Women need to be able to speak their mind and feel heard. If that happened and they feel they've collaborated on a good decision for them, that's what they should do," she tells Romper.
Once expectant moms have gotten the all-clear, it's safest to stay with more innocuous methods of stimulating labor because if their body isn't ready, no amount of intervention will work besides a dose of pitocin at the hospital — which is a no-go for most doctors during a VBAC anyway, Hart says. Uterine rupture is a real thing, though the risk is small, and forcing a previous incision raises its risk to one chance in 500, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
"If I had to choose between the two, I'd go with the most natural thing," she continues. "I’m not ever an advocate for castor oil — those are my personal preferences. I think there’s a delicate balance within the body that needs to be respected."
Sex seems to be the most direct of harmless measures to get the baby moving, thanks to prostoglandins in semen that ripen the uterus, according to a study by The Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group. A few sessions in the sack, combined with an orgasm or two that releases oxytocin, the same hormone that stimulates contractions, could put a willing body on the path to labor.
"Definitely sex is the first option," says doula Lisa Maltz in an interview with Romper. She runs the New York City-based practice Birth Your Own Way. She also recommends booking a session with a chiropractor to align the pelvis to take pressure off the spine and ligaments to assist the baby into the pelvis, known as the Webster technique. Developed by the late Larry Webster, DC, founder of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, the method is suspected of also releasing hormones to stimulate labor. And good news for future pregnancies is that the American Pregnancy Association says there is no reason to give up a good realignment during pregnancy in the first place, since all chiropractors are trained to safely work on expectant mothers.
Getting over a fear of needles and booking a session with an acupuncturist could also expedite the process. A 2017 study by the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group found that while the method didn't reduce C-section rates, it did assist the cervix toward maturity. If your body is already on the way to labor, getting poked a few times might be the little push it needs.
"Acupuncture could start labor and I think it's pretty OK," Hart says. "If the baby isn’t ready, it’s not going to work, and if you’re up against that instead of being induced medically, I’m for that."
From a doula's perspective, Maltz says the most important thing to remember is to relax. She says other beneficial alternatives might be curb walking or another form of light exercise, ball bouncing, hypnobirthing, or asking your obstetrician for a membrane sweep — where a physician manually separates the amniotic sac from the uterine wall — "but a watched pot doesn't boil," she says and getting anxious is a pretty quick route to driving yourself crazy. She suggests that repeating affirmations and exercising can help expectant moms keep cool ahead of delivery, no matter whether the VBAC happens.
"The more stress you put on yourself — if you don't do it by this date —starts to stress the moms out," Maltz says. "I always try to tell people to relax, stay calm, do some breathing exercises — the most important thing is not freaking out."
Should you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of your impending labor and delivery, your doctor or midwife is the person to contact for updates and methods to speed things up, calm you down, and make sure you have the best possible outcome and experience. Happy pushing!