The last three months of pregnancy are a slog. It feels like you go from one minute to the next with a new ache, swollen feet, and a tired mind from all the worrying. When you're done, you're done, and you need to know which natural induction methods actually work if you're going to send your womb tenant packing.
Women have been trying to start labor as long as there have been pregnant women. According to Midwifery Today, midwives of the 18th century would dose their mothers with powerful emetic medications hoping to spur on the birth and prevent the mother from being forced to deliver an over-large child. I cannot imagine being told by my doctor, "Just wait a minute, this is going to make you throw up even more than you did after eating that dodgy meat pie and ale, and that puking will jumpstart the throes of your birth." Meanwhile, Sir John of Essex or whomever you're married to is down the pub being served a delightful meal while he regales the room with the news of the impending birth of what will no doubt be a strapping young son for him to reboot this whole process with in another score and a half years.
Over the next few hundred years, midwives relied heavily on diuretic and aperient medications to speed things along, noted Parents. While this may work, it's not without significant, possibly dangerous side effects. Aperient medical preparations like castor oil or specific diuretics, often containing mercury or high levels of potassium, are not only dangerous to the baby, but also to the mother. Labor requires a lot of hydration, and there are studies that examine whether or not being more hydrated actually shortens the duration of the labor. That means if you were given a diuretic with a long half-life, while it might induce your labor, it may also lengthen it. As for castor oil and mineral oil, or even enemas to stimulate labor, they too have a dehydrating effect on your body, according to the website for OB-GYN North, and do you really want to have diarrhea when you're in labor? Probably (definitely) not.
A lot of web searches will lead you to chiropractic therapy, massage, and acupuncture as means of getting the show started. While chiropractors are ardent in their beliefs that routine adjustments and light instrument techniques can help induce labor, there simply isn't data to support it. As for acupuncture and massage, a 2008 study in Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that acupuncture had little or no effect on the need for labor induction in women who were approaching or past their due dates. Massage is good for relaxation, but the data doesn't show that it is an effective non-medical technique for the induction of labor.
However, there is one tried and true method for inducing labor, says midwife Abigail Ephraim, CNM, and that is nipple stimulation. "Women have been using it for hundreds or maybe even thousands of years to bring on labor. It's not quick, and it's not particularly fun or easy, but it stimulates the release of oxytocin into the bloodstream, and that triggers the labor process," she tells Romper. It's going to take some serious handiwork according to Ephraim — literally. She prefers the method of nipple and areola stimulation for 20 minutes an hour, every hour, using a method similar to hand expressing milk. You can see where this would be a pain in the boob. It's pretty inconvenient unless you've got major IDGAF attitude from being pregnant for so long, and will leave the house while tweaking your nips. It's also a literal pain in the boob, as you're squeezing the hell out of them for the duration of a normal cardio workout.
If you're up to it, you can even use a pump or your partner, says Ephraim. Personally, I cannot imagine telling my husband "Hey, can you just act like you're breastfeeding for 20 minutes?" I'm not judging if that's what you're into, but there's a zero percent chance we wouldn't get interrupted by our kids. But if I was 41 weeks pregnant? There's no telling what I'd do, and I'm pretty sure that goes for most pregnant women.
Skip the castor oil and the spicy foods — they won't do much — but feel free to try some nipple stimulation if you're at least 38 weeks pregnant. Just make sure to run everything by your healthcare provider.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.