In most cases, mom is either trying to avoid a medical induction that has been coerced on her by her providers or she's ready for the baby to come out now for various reasons – some medical, most personal.
Well, if you've stumbled upon this post early in pregnancy, wonderful - you have time to comfortably make the choices for provider and birth location that support the biology of birth. On the other hand, even if you're late in pregnancy - you still have plenty of time to politely say, "No thanks" or any other rendition of that statement that allows you to practice your legal right to make your own decisions for your body and birth. Oh, and of course, time to read this post and see how you can encourage baby into this world.
STEP 1 – How to Induce Labor Naturally
Learn what your body and baby need to move from the gestating phase of the childbearing year into the birthing phase. What is that? Well, beyond the obvious need of the baby to be fully developed - which takes somewhere around 37-43 weeks... give or take depending on your luteal phase of your cycle, when you conceived, and simple biology - there is an immense need for moms to feel safe.
If you don't feel safe, supported... i.e. RELAXED... then your mind is basically the one telling baby, "Stay in, it isn't safe to come out yet." So, get that support. Relax. Take a bath. Take a walk. Listen to happy music. Get a massage in all the tense places, including your uterus. Most of all, TALK to someone about ANY questions you have.
While ideally your provider AND educator/doula would have prepared you so well during pregnancy that darn near all of these questions and concerns are ancient history, that may not be the case or there may be new questions that have come up. You need to talk with your TRUSTED birth team about all of these - or you need to speak with the individual that these concerns are hinting. If there is stress at work, take some time off... or ask for a different task... or ask for help... or take some meditation music to work with you and use all of your breaks to listen, pray, and just breathe. YOU can MAKE this WORK. You having gotten here in this life, you can get to the next step, too.
Step 1 Recap to Induce Labor Naturally:
- Learn – Join a Birth Series or Schedule Mentoring Sessions (online or locally)
- Reduce the must-do’s and want-to’s
STEP 2 – How to Induce Labor Naturally
Build oxytocin. This goes along with relaxation, in a sense, but let's think about this a little deeper for a moment.
During your pregnancy, building oxytocin is THE relaxation "method" that I encourage here at Esali Birth. It is the safest most natural and productive relaxation method. Why? Because not every technique works for every mom and because it is with oxytocin that our uterus will contract and progress labor (provided baby is ready).
Keeping STEP 1 in mind, do more eye-gazing, skin to skin touching and abdominal massaging, flirting with/loving our birth partner, building a RELATIONSHIP with our birth team. Stay intimate with your partner throughout pregnancy and in the end. This doesn't have to mean sex - it just means keeping that relationship strong - or making it stronger - so that it is enhanced during birth and mind blowing through the parenting stages. At the same time, intercourse does increase oxytocin - especially when it includes breast stimulation and results with orgasm (high levels of oxytocin are created to orgasm) and ejaculation internally. Semen is an incredible prostaglandin (i.e. something that "ripens" the cervix, or makes the cervix soft and stretchy to encourage dilation) and orgasm creates the highest amounts of oxytocin in our body, apart from the moment after a biological birth. Yea... biological birth is that amazing. This does NOT mean just go have sex. This is more about the connection - the relationship - the joy - the trust that you're creating with this person you've chosen to spend your life with and be a 50/50 partner on parenting. You NEED that trust and building this relationship now makes you that much more confident to bring a baby into this world.
Therefore, we are increasing our oxytocin naturally by the trust. THEN, we are getting adequate sunshine (for Vitamin D and all that hormone-balancing and happiness it creates as well as building stores for our baby during the first year of their life). We are eating balanced wholesome and whole foods meals and snacks that have been properly balanced. We are getting enough water and of course enough physical activity. We are going to bed at a decent hour and ensuring we are sleeping well.
You see, oxytocin isn't the only player in the labor game. There are so many hormones, but particularly with this contracting-hormone, we need dopamine (our happy hormone) and melatonin (our sleep hormone) to be at their peak. These hormones are at their correct levels with all of the mentioned above. Yes, yes, this is often why we see so many labors peaking at night. Sometimes this is because the only time a mom relaxes is during the night. This brings me to our next step.
Step 2 Recap to Induce Labor Naturally:
- Build Oxytocin
- Be Intimate & Connected
- Get sunshine
- Eat wholesome whole foods with a variety of colors
- Stay hydrated
STEP 3 – How to Induce Labor Naturally
Your gestating and laboring body craves a quiet, calm, and dark space. Dark allows those labor hormones to work. Dark mimics your night - relaxed - state. Dark makes everyone walk a little quieter and speak a little softer. Quiet allows your logical brain to rest and your instinctual brain to take over and work with your baby. Sometimes most importantly, calm, allows you to feel safe which is key to reducing adrenaline.
Adrenalin and oxytocin are antagonistic hormones. When one is high, the other is low. So when stress and particularly caution, question, and distrust is high then adrenaline will be high and labor will not progress. I don't know how many moms I've talked with that have convinced themselves that they're "such a calm person" or "totally relaxed" or any rendition of being at peace with birth when their actions, schedules, and questions clearly show otherwise. A kiss can be "stressful" - as stress is not simply a negative feeling, it is the body exerting more energy routinely without balanced rest that causes hormonal stress - whether you're happy with your life or not. The great thing is, though, they're talking about it. Sometimes, it does help to admit that to your birth team, however.
When a provider scares you, questions your birth, changes your EDD because of an [often inaccurate] ultrasound scan, or has routine practices you don't agree with - adrenaline will constantly be higher than it should be, even if you aren't feeling completely stressed. Whether hospital or home, don't convince yourself your choices are the best when they aren't jiving with your birth view or you're not receiving support from your birth team. This is especially prevalent in births where many moms may actually be friends with their birth team, used that team or provider for a previous birth, or in the case of home birth they assume "home" and "midwife" actually mean they're receiving the best care they should simply because of the title - same goes with an obstetrician. Titles are irrelevant here. You have to be honest with yourself. Every ounce of question, concern, or confusion might be one more day baby stays in when they're actually ready. But all this has to come naturally - you can't stress yourself into relaxation! Let it be.
Likewise, any projects that are ongoing, filled-schedules, and various things that "need done" will not allow this progression. Get away for a bit. Put the screens away. Put the work down. Let it all go for long enough to feel a sense of release. At some point during pregnancy, closer to 41-42 weeks for most, mom's brain does tend to override these thoughts and goes. "OK, enough of that, get all this stuff together we need to have this baby." This is otherwise referred to as the nesting instinct. Often in our culture with all of our modern technologies and house cleaning help...etc., this is seen in mom as having a surge of energy where she feels amazing and totally different from the last few weeks of complaints and ready to be done with pregnancy thoughts. But, those little thoughts of complaints - that little doubt that someone may be giving you in the back of your mind is saying, "Stay in there baby." So, if this is the case, refer back to STEP 1 and read a little about the Art of Relaxation.
Step 3 Recap to Induce Labor Naturally:
- Be quiet
- Be calm
- Be in dark spaces (keep it balanced, of course) – but definitely during labor
- Be honest about your comfort level and make decisions that support it
Get baby and body aligned. Now, ideally we would be doing this constantly through pregnancy with our physically-oriented lifestyles. Our shoulders would stack over our hips and our hips would stack over our ankles and our pelvis wouldn't be tilted and... and... our entire body would be aligned. Our core would be toned and ligaments flexible and myofacia supple to properly support our body structure and uterus and growing baby. We wouldn't have a lot of back pain because of this physical health. We wouldn't be sitting at a desk 20-40 hours a week rocking our pelvis in the wrong position and shortening our leg muscles causing pelvic tilt. We wouldn't be leaning back on the couch with our feet up.
We likewise wouldn't be overworking ourselves physically in any way. We would naturally walk a lot, maybe gathering foods or just for relaxation. We would have quality social time with positive people in our lives that help us feel empowered and don't add stress to our body. We would be barefoot and squatting (with our glutes, not a tucked pelvis) in the garden and the woods pulling [edible] weeds and nurturing our growing plants. We would be eating well and feeling energized. We’d also be receiving abdominal massages that encourage oxytocin release comfort and baby’s position while enhancing the tone of the uterus.
Whether we've been doing this or not, making sure baby is in a good position for birth and our body is aligned to allow this good positioning will help us not only to encourage spontaneous labor but also create a smoother labor and birth for you and baby. Often when all of the above is good to go but labor still isn't happening, doing optimal fetal positioning, seeing a physical therapist, visiting a massage therapist and maybe a chiropractor helps us to realign our spine and pelvis and get baby in the optimal LOA position. There are of course so many births that are wonderful and smooth and amazing without this optimal fetal position, and that is typically because mom feels safe - which is why I place this down a little further on the list.
Step 4 Recap to Induce Labor Naturally:
- Get aligned
- Move aligned
- Stay aligned
- Bellydance, get abdominal and whole-body massages and move the pelvis
- Work with a doula prenatally for optimal fetal positioning, like spinning babies techniques
There are incredible amounts of information for various herbal or OTC "natural" induction methods. Though, the internet, particularly blogs, and most western medical providers are not always the best place for this information sharing with so much misinformation being shared. But let's remember, an induction is an induction whether you do it at home or your midwife at home does it or your midwife or OB does it in the hospital or birth center. Induction of any kind increases the risks of birth for you and baby. In many cases, baby and mom aren't physically OR mentally ready for labor and herbal induction methods just cause some pretty significant uncomfortable side effects at best and increase risks like meconium staining for instance. Take castor oil, for instance, which might work because it is a very strong laxative that causes diarrhea which can stimulate uterine contractions. Not only would diarrhea be uncomfortable to experience during labor - but would also increase infection risks especially with a birth team really focused on vaginal exams. At the same time, it often just causes diarrhea but not labor because in fact, mom and baby aren't ready.
Now, there are some herbal "tonic" teas that you may see around encouraged to be used as induction agents, such as Red Raspberry Leaf (RRL). While we're not going to go into specifics here - I do want to talk about what a tonic herb means. People think of RRL as "the" pregnancy herb. If they don't drink it during pregnancy, they often drink it at the end. The thing with tonic herbs is they don't actually contract, rather, they provide immense amounts of nutrients. They are toning because they are a true statement of "let thy food be thy medicine." If a mom has used a tonic herb to "induce" labor - it likely had nothing to do with an "induction," rather, she was likely providing her body with necessary vitaminerals like calcium, magnesium, and b vitamins to name a few that many of these tonic herbs contain. Without adequate levels of [properly assimilated] vitamins and minerals in the body (which don't come from most Rx or OTC supplements), the body can't work as intended. This is another common reason for prodromal labor aside from misalignment and stress (see above steps).
Now, this is not to say that herbs are not used to induce - they most certainly are, but these are herbs categorized as emmenagogues, abortifacients, and more specifically oxytocics - otherwise known as uterine contractors/menses promotors and strong uterine contractors. Some oxytocic herbs like Black & Blue Cohosh, and various formulas from Wish Garden Herbs and other Midwifery supply stores should NEVER be used without the guidance of a knowledgeable herbal midwife. Others, like castor oil, can pose a number of risks, such as hemorrhage, that I would especially discourage you from using at all, and especially not without the guidance of an educated herbalist midwife. Likewise, you've now made your birth a medical event which now has no place at home (whether you were planning to birth at home or planning to avoid going into the hospital for a medical induction). Remember that reading a list of "this herb is good for this" is nowhere near being an herbalist and often not at all explaining the way it should be used or if it would work with your situation and body type. There is an incredible amount of misinformation about herbs on the internet and also in books. From "do this" with herbs that need more caution to "this herb is poison" for herbs that have hundreds and hundreds of years of safety and herbalist usage but modern medicine extracted one constituent out to study it alone in copious amounts and often on animals, instead of with the other constituents in typical amounts with humans - and this totally changes the way something works.
So, if you're considering induction… Remember that induction doubles your risk of cesarean. If your risk of cesarean is 30%, for example, just by having a certain care provider or walking into a hospital - how could an induction change the course of labor for you and baby? Have you researched induction and whether it is necessary and do you know that studies are pointing to the safety of cesarean over the long-term risks that induction may cause, like ADHD? Is this induction actually necessary and do the risks of induction exceed the risks of not inducing? Is your induction scheduled for days later or are you going in right now? If it is scheduled days later, do you think this is really a true medical need or is waiting a good idea?
Lastly, I would love to talk to you! If you have questions, concerns, or even a possible previous birth that you haven't quite worked through yet - I'd love to chat with you through my mentoring sessions - online or local in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Just send me a message at mdbergum - at - esalibirth - dot - com.