Oh, mama, I know you are tired of hoisting yourself up out of chairs and feel like you may go insane just trying to get comfortable at this point in your pregnancy. When you’re 36 weeks pregnant, though, you should try to be patient. That’s a little soon to want to induce labor.
Even at 37 or 38 weeks, you should do all you can to keep that baby growing inside you. If you wait for nature to take its course, you will have a more comfortable recovery, and your baby will gain more muscle and strength. You also have a much lower risk of infection, and the baby will breathe better and have increased brain development.
Did you know that the brain grows the most between the 35th and 40th week?
But let’s say you’re in week 39, week 40, or even beyond. You can try a few things if you want to induce labor naturally. Do they work, though? I’ll tell you that, too, so read on!
12 Ways to Naturally Induce Labor at the End of Your Pregnancy
With each of these, I’ll let you know if it’s a fact or fiction so you won’t waste your time trying to get the baby out of there. Before you do, though, please make sure you talk to your doctor before you try anything to speed things along. I don’t want any of you going into labor too early!
Let’s talk about sex, baby
For some of you, this will be a fun way to see if you can make things happen in that last week of pregnancy. For others, you might not want to be touched. I enjoyed sex while pregnant, even at the end of my pregnancy.
Sex is totally safe to do while you’re pregnant, even in the last few weeks. Because it releases oxytocin, it could be effective in getting contractions to start, but there is no full proof that it does so. Still, it could be fun to try.
Word of caution…as you go to your weekly appointments, ask your doctor to make sure your water hasn’t broken. You do NOT want to put anything up there after that happens because it’s riskier for infection.
Work it out
If the thought of a spinning class has your head, well, spinning, don’t stress out. Exercise can help bring on labor as well as ease labor. This is why the hospital staff will try to have you walk around when you’re in labor (unless your water broke like a gushing river, in my case) to move things along.
There’s no guarantee exercise will bring on labor, but it is good for you and builds your endurance for when you do. You don’t need to do something hardcore. Simply walking each day near the end of your pregnancy can surely help. It will also help you relax and sleep better, so you will be better prepared even if you don’t go into labor just by exercising (it’s not common).
Only try this one if you’re really ready
One way seems to be somewhat scientifically valid for getting you into a state of labor in week 39 or later. Stimulating your nipples can also create contractions in the uterus. It’s that oxytocin that makes the uterus contract and signals breast milk production.
As it turns out, this will also help you get your uterus back to its regular size after birth (a fundal massage can do the trick)…that stimulation from your sweet baby suckling at your nipples for milk is the cure!
You can stimulate your nipples, have hubby jump right in (and maybe even get between the sheets if you’re up for it), or use a breast pump. Whatever you do, you need to mimic the kind of intensity nursing puts on your nipples to have this potentially help you.
Get a massage
I could do with a massage myself right now, to be honest. But there are labor induction massages that a licensed massage therapist can perform. However, you should know that it might take more than one labor induction massage session to get the ball rolling. Some studies suggest that it’s a valid way to help encourage labor. However, if you make a habit of getting massages while pregnant, it can help you recover mentally and physically faster.
In any event, getting a massage in the last week or two of pregnancy can’t hurt. And if you run past 40 weeks, you might just want one anyway to soothe your jangled nerves.
Put aside your fear of needles
With a Chinese husband who grew up with acupuncture culture all around him, I can tell you many people think acupuncture is excellent for bringing on labor. It certainly helps you release oxytocin, though my huge fear of needles has kept me from ever trying such a thing.
That being said, though, studies can’t conclusively prove that acupuncture will bring on labor. It can help you with other things like depression and stress, which might be worth exploring if you’re struggling with everything. I personally prefer a massage, though!
Try it needle-free
Then, there’s acupressure, which applies pressure to the same points used in acupuncture rather than using needles. But, like acupuncture, there’s no significance to pushing into labor.
There is some good that can come from acupressure, though. It can help relieve your discomfort and any pain you might be in before and during labor. You can also perform some techniques on yourself or have your husband pitch in, but ensure you’ve learned them from a professional acupuncturist first.
Eat something spicy
Maybe your grandma has told you to have some spicy foods to go into labor. No study has been able to confirm this at all. If you like spicy foods, by all means, eat them and enjoy them. But if you typically can’t handle something like fiery hot wings, then now is not the time to start eating them.
Those who start eating spicy foods now when they never have before could find themselves with stomach upset. So again, unless you regularly eat spicy foods, keep your spice levels tame.
Order some Italian
Confession time…I must tell you that I love, love, and LOVE eggplant parmigiana. It is one of my favorite dishes of all time. My mom taught me how to make an impeccable version of it. Anyone that eats it swoons.
The problem is that it takes hours to make. 🙁
And it uses up all the dishes. It’s a labor of love, pardon the pun. I wouldn’t mind, except the girls won’t touch it, and my husband prefers eggplant done in Chinese cooking styles.
So while I was researching for you all, I found that there’s a restaurant called Scalini’s Italian Restaurant, located in Cobb County, Georgia. According to the locals, it has amazing food, though it has another massive claim to fame. It seems the eggplant parmigiana is rumored to bring on labor.
There’s no scientific merit behind it, but if you love eggplant parmigiana, the link above includes the restaurant’s famous recipe. And as I’m writing this, we’re still in the pandemic with dining rooms closed (Scalini’s is open for those local to that area for takeout and delivery, though). It’s a great time to try out your cooking skills. Or ask hubby to make it.
Pick a pineapple
There are enzymes known as bromelain in pineapples. These can crush proteins; thus, it’s suggested that they soften your cervix and make labor come on. Don’t get your hopes up.
Truth or tale?
The idea for eating pineapple is interesting, but it’s also off base. Fresh pineapple has enzymes that can break down proteins. One theory suggests those enzymes might soften the cervix to get labor started. But there’s no evidence for that.
Pineapple was something I craved during both of my pregnancies. It was easy to get in China; they’d carve it fresh for you at the street markets. So juicy and sweet! If you like pineapple, enjoy it, but know it will not get you into labor.
Gag on castor oil
A common use for the disgusting creation of castor oil is as a laxative. It also can be used to bring on labor when you’re later in your term. But the reviews from researchers are mixed. Some say it will work most of the time, while others say it’s neither helpful nor harmful.
So, you could try it but ask your doctor first. Your doctor will likely tell you not to do it. And so will your sense of smell and taste buds. Trust me, that stuff stinks! I couldn’t bring myself to take a sip even if you offered me a million dollars!
Perhaps a more pleasant way to do things is to have some red raspberry leaf tea. You’ll find these everywhere, and they’ll often elude to helping with pregnancy. But these statements are not backed by the FDA. There’s zero evidence it can help, though it does taste good, and if your doctor says it’s ok to drink it, then bottoms up! 😀
You must be careful with raspberry leaf tea, evening primrose oil, and other supplements. Certain herbal compositions can cause side effects, especially for pregnant women. Be safe, and don’t take anything without your doctor’s firm blessing!
Soak in the tub
It all could be as simple as taking a hot bath too! But does it work? I’ve just written about that in a separate article, so check it out!
My point in all this is…
- Let nature take its course
- Walking (or curb walking) is good for you, regardless
- If you’re up for it, sex can be a fun way to make things happen or to just, you know, have sex
- Food won’t bring on labor, but man does it taste good
Let your doctor decide if you keep going beyond 40 weeks. There are medical ways to induce labor. I’ll get into those now.
Medical Labor Inductions and Why You Might Need One
If you still haven’t popped, your doctor might want to induce labor. If you’re approaching week 42 with no end in sight or have certain issues, your doctor may urge a labor induction. These things can include whether there is a health issue for you or the baby, the post-term date is approaching, you have an infection in your uterus, or your amniotic fluid levels are low.
Certain conditions like diabetes, preeclampsia and high blood pressure may also require medical labor induction.
Don’t worry, though! Doctors have specific ways of inducing labor through medications and procedures. You’ll be in good hands.
So, what do they do?
- Ripening of the cervix
This procedure helps dilate the cervix by way of a catheter.
- Burst your bubble
Your doctor may also rupture the amniotic sac to start labor or, in the cases where labor has stalled a bit. This is only done if your cervix is dilated wide enough to access the amniotic sac.
- Take prostaglandins
This hard-to-say word is just a type of chemical that occurs naturally in your body. Your doctor may use this to thin the cervix out and get it to dilate. They’ll administer it through your vagina. Sometimes, oxytocin is used to get those contractions going.
- Membrane stripping
If your cervix is dilated, but nothing is happening, your doctor may use their gloved finger to strip the membranes of the amniotic sac connected to the uterine wall. If this sounds unpleasant, it is a bit uncomfortable. My friend Linda had to do this, and while she said it was no fun, it was the least of her pains as she got into labor.
Inducing medical labor involves risks and increases your chance of having a c-section. I’m not trying to scare you, but please know you will be in good hands with your doctor.
One last thing about inducing labor…
Whether you kick things off naturally at home or have no choice at the hospital with your doctor, you should try your best to be calm. Labor will happen on its own most of the time.
I find it amazing that with all the technology and things we know today, doctors still can’t pinpoint exactly what sets off labor. For pre-labor signs like the bloody show, the loss of the mucus plug, and a ripe and ready cervix, just tell your doctor that labor will come soon.
But your doctor can’t find these things and say, “Ok, you’ll be going into labor in one hour.” It’s too bad they can’t, but you can take care of your health and watch for any changes to see when you might need to grab that packed hospital bag and get ready for delivery.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.