Why Does Pumping Induce Labor? Here's What You Should Know


When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my due date came and went, and it looked like she had no plans on ever leaving. I was a week overdue, and tried every natural way I could find to help get my labor started. I walked for hours, got massages, and ate tons of pineapple. Nothing worked, and eventually my doctor had to induce me with an oxytocin IV at the hospital. I've known that nipple stimulation is supposed to help induce, but I've recently learned that using a breast pump may work, too. Why does pumping induce labor, I wondered, and what's the science behind it?

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and registered nurse, Mary Kay Smith, tells Romper that there are numerous studies that show that nipple stimulation can accelerate or incite labor due to the oxytocin release. A 2005 study conducted on 719 women through six trials found that breast stimulation can increase the levels of the hormone oxytocin in your body, which can induce labor by causing the womb to contract. The study, however, found that with high risk pregnancies, there isn't enough evidence to back up the safety of using breast stimulation, so if your doctor has labeled you high risk, you should avoid this method.

Using a breast pump for oxytocin release through nipple stimulation may be just as efficient, if not more, than a medically induced labor. A 1986 study in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine, found that using a breast pump to induce labor was a quicker way to get labor started when compared to an oxytocin infusion, which is when the oxytocin is administered intravenously.

If you are considering using a breast pump to induce labor, you must consult your physician first to rule out any complications or concerns. If you get the green light from your doctor, Trimester Talk recommended pumping for 15 minutes on each breast at 15 minute intervals. If you notice the release of colostrum when you pump, Essential Baby suggested collecting it in syringes and freezing it so that you can feed it to the baby after delivery.

Using breast stimulation as a method of inducing labor has been a method used for centuries, but luckily in this day and age, the invention of the breast pump has made it much easier to achieve. Plus, you get a chance to try out that fancy contraption before you're too sleep deprived to use it.