When my son was born, I was eleven days past my due date. Those eleven days were amongst the longest days of my entire life. It felt like watching water boil, or viewing each individual sand of time run through an hourglass. Sure, some of it was the anticipation, but I was just done being pregnant. I was getting bigger by the hour. I was as uncomfortable as I’d ever been. I wanted that baby out!
So, I did some research and talked to my OB about the various ways I might try to induce labor naturally.
I say try, because for the most part, I think most induction options are old wives’ tales. I mean, one bit of advice I received from my OB was to get down on my hands and knees and scrub the kitchen floors.
Not only would I be glad I had those clean floors when I came home from the hospital, but all of that movement was sure to trigger labor. Did I do it? Yes. Twice, actually. I even hand scrubbed the grout between the tiles. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Did it work? NO! Was I glad for my clean floors after coming home from the hospital? Well, sort of, but mostly because they weren’t cleaned again for another year (sorry, not sorry).
Another recommendation to induce labor? Sex, of course!
You know, that thing that got you into this mess to begin with? If ever there was a time to feel sexy, it’s now, right? Yep, because nothing says sexy like a giant (and often moving) pregnant belly–a belly that blocks even the view of your own feet. I suppose that’s for the best, though, you don’t really want to see those swollen things anyways. So, did it work? NO!
Nipple stimulation was another suggestion, and something I read just about everywhere.
I tried it, for eleven days. Did it work? Are you paying attention? If this is what triggered labor after eleven days, I think it’s safe to say it shouldn’t be high on your list of techniques to induce labor.
Spicy food is another popular suggestion.
I like spicy food, in a moderate sort of way. I consider spice to be a flavor enhancer, nothing more. After my due date though, I tried to think of every spicy food I could. Hot wings? I don’t even really like them, but yes, give me all the hot wings. Jalapenos? Don’t just garnish those nachos, spread those bad boys around and bring on the heat! Did it work? Not for this gal.
What else did I eat? Pineapple.
The theory is that the pineapple’s enzyme, bromelain, makes its way to your cervix, causing it to soften, which stimulates labor. There’s no evidence to support this theory, and after eating a LOT of pineapple, I can say this tropical treat did nothing to help my pregnancy along.
Another thing to consume are herbs.
You’ll find suggestions for blue or black cohosh, raspberry leaf tea, and evening primrose oil, as a way to, “ripen your cervix” and prepare for delivery. I tried evening primrose oil, but after doing more reading, discovered that not many tests have been run to determine the safety and efficacy of these herbs during pregnancy (cohosh has actually been associated with fetal heart failure and stroke, and maternal complications). So, it’s probably best to avoid these.
Don’t forget exercise…
Even with my large beach-ball belly, I kept moving. I paced the length of my house for hours (ask my mom, she has it on video). I took speed walks around my neighborhood each day. I climbed up and down my stairs, over and over. I did yoga stretches, and bounces, and hip rocking. Did it work? Well, I went into false labor. Does that count?
There are other ways to try and induce labor when you’ve reached your limit.
Castor oil is thought to cause uterus irritation or contractions. As a laxative, it’s not likely your uterus that it’s irritating, and GI upset or diarrhea are common after taking castor oil. I didn’t want to enter into labor that way, so I skipped this suggestion. Honestly, it sounds sort of dangerous to me.
Acupuncture is another suggestion that comes up. You won’t find proof that this works, but some people swear by it. This is one of the few induction methods I did not try, out of pure laziness.
When you’re past your due date, everyone will tell you that labor and birth are inevitable, it’s just a matter of time, and the baby will decide when it’s ready.
All of those things are true, but at 40+ weeks pregnant, you’re exhausted in every possible way and the waiting game can feel like torture. If you are pushed to try one of the various natural suggestions above for inducing labor, I wish you luck. Just make sure you do your research and understand the possible side effects of each option, so you know what you’re getting yourself into (or not). And you should definitely check in with your doctor before trying any of these old wives’ tales.