Often when I talk to women in the last weeks of pregnancy, what I hear is a recollection of all the “natural” methods they have tried to induce labor. It’s an experience that I haven’t much experience with. I have to admit, the most after my due date that I’ve gone was 2 days…and I was in denial that I was in labor when it started because “I’m not having this baby for another week–I have things to do!” For the most part, this was my pregnancy experience–it was only my 5th baby when I reached a point of just being D.O.N.E-DONE!, and that wasn’t until I stood in the preschool pick up line in tears the day before I went into labor with her…so I didn’t have much time to try natural labor induction with her.
So anyway, bottom line…I’ve not been one to eagerly pursue induction (though I was induced with my second–water broke but no labor). But I’ve also not gone through the waiting many women experience when they go past their “best before date.” Oh, wait, that’s an “ESTIMATED due date!” I can’t really say if I wouldn’t be in the “what can I do to get this baby out?” camp if I did go much past my due date. But the thing I find most disturbing is the women who are starting the natural induction techniques as early as 37 weeks.
Just because it is “natural” does not mean that it is “risk free,” which I think is a distinction that many people fail to make. Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac are all natural. So is a bite from a Viper. Blue and Black cohashes have been linked to heart problems in the infant. Castor oil usually causes the mother to feel nauseous after just one dose, causes diarrhea, and has limited research as to it’s effectiveness. Nipple stimulation and walking really don’t seem to work to induce labor so moms may needlessly tire/discourage themselves trying these methods (but they can be very effective for augmenting labor). Most importantly, if the natural method does trigger labor a few days sooner than it would have started on its own, who is to say that the baby is quite ready yet? Or the mom’s body? My own experience with having my membranes stripped in my first pregnancy (without my consent) was that I had a very long labor–I think in part because my body was not quite ready to labor yet. There were other factors too, but I think that one was high on the list.
So when moms ask my opinion on labor induction, my first advice is that they try to hang in there…the average nulipara (woman who hasn’t given birth before) will be pregnant for 41 weeks 1 day, while the average multipara goes to 40 weeks 3 days. So for many women, they are stressing about being “late” when they haven’t even reached the average gestation for their situation. Further, for there to be averages, some moms have to go even longer than that. Adding to the reasons to avoid induction is research that indicates that induction in a first time mom may double or even triple the risk of having a cesarean.
Beyond that, I encourage moms–really and truly–to QUIT trying to start labor. Try to take their minds off the question of “will I EVER have this baby???” I know…hard to do. With my 4th pregnancy I experienced for the first time being tired of being pregnant…and I was only 6 months along–LOL!
But seriously, adrenaline, created from stress, can inhibit labor. So I think that trying to relax and just giving the whole “I’ve got to get labor going!” thing a break may be very helpful.
I encourage expectant women to take a day for some pampering. If she has older kids, she might want to get them involved in this, though she should use her own judgment on whether they would relax her, or keep her “on the ready.” Anyway…I encourage a woman to take a nice long soak in a tub complete with dim lighting, scented candles, and some soft music. When she gets out, perhaps her kids or partner can have heated towels waiting, and maybe they could have been preparing the master bedroom to be a haven while the woman was bathing–putting fresh sheets on the bed, setting up a light snack and some candles, music, and dim lighting. Let the kids (if they can do it well) give a foot massage. Let partner give a full body massage (kick the kiddos out of the room for this of course–LOL!). If the massage leads to something…hey, go for it. But if it doesn’t–a woman shouldn’t stress herself and think “I need to have sex, it might kick start labor.”
The woman should then take a nap. A nice, long, deliciously decadent one. One of those ones that the woman wakes up feeling kind of like a cat who was basking in sunlight, and wonders with thankful amazement at how the kids didn’t wake her up (because they were sent outside or to friends to play, or her partner kept them busy reading books).
When she wakes up, her kind partner will have dinner ready for her (yes, he will, let him know that is his job. 😉 ), or will have made arrangements to take her to a restaurant that makes her feel relaxed & pampered. This is not the time for a buffet or fast food. The woman should let someone else serve her.
The woman can tuck her kids into bed to get those nice maternal hormones going. Then more massaging if she is in the mood–at the very least, a nice cup of chamomile tea, and off to sleep early.
If calming down the adrenaline in her system allows labor to begin–GREAT! She is well rested for the task. And if it doesn’t–GREAT! When is she going to get a chance to rest like that after the new baby comes? Taking the break will allow her to be more energized to pick back up on trying some way to give labor a kick start.
And that’s it. It’s worked for several of my clients. 😉