- Exercise: Being active and getting the heart rate up is a great way to get your body ready for labor. Even something as simple as going on walks can help bring that baby into the pelvis and place some pressure on your cervix making it more favorable for the labor process. While there is no good evidence supporting this option, it may help you prepare for labor itself which is a physically intense ordeal.
- Intercourse: Sex can help through multiple different mechanisms. First, semen contains prostaglandins which can help dilate and thin out the cervix. Second, sex can help release a hormone called oxytocin which can cause contractions.
- Evening Primrose Oil: This oil comes from the evening primrose plant and contains linolenic acid which is thought to trigger a prostaglandin response in the body. This can be taken orally or placed vaginally. However, while it is easily accessible, there are very few studies to show any benefit on the cervical ripening process. One study even found that women who took the supplement were in labor for longer that those who had not taken it. While it likely has no effect on breastfeeding, it can act as a blood thinner (possibly predisposing to heavier bleeding with delivery) and can have side effects like headaches and GI distress. I would probably stay away from this one until more research is done.
- Red Raspberry Leaf Tea: The mechanism of action here is not clear. However, some feel this tea “helps tone up the muscles of the uterus thereby preparing it for labor”. However, there are no studies showing that red raspberry leaf tea can induce labor. Since there aren’t any significant side effects, I guess if nothing else it can help you relax.
- Castor Oil: Castor Oil is a laxative and stimulates your bowels by causing spasms. The idea is this intestinal irritation can cause uterine contractions. However, if you are not already in labor, this is likely only going to give you diarrhea and lots of GI distress. I would definitely skip this one unless you want to be sick to your stomach.
- Nipple Stimulation: Nipple stimulation causes the release of oxytocin which can cause contractions. This would be somewhat similar to being in the hospital and being given Pitocin. However, in the hospital your baby’s heart rate would be continuously monitored while on medication, ensuring that contractions were not causing any distress for your baby. Please do not do this if your baby is not being monitored because we would have no way to ensure that the baby is not being stressed by those contraction. Plus, it sounds pretty painful!!!
- Membrane Stripping: Membranes stripping is done while checking your cervix. Your provider will separate the amniotic sac from the cervix causing the release of prostaglandins. This really only helps induce labor if your cervix is already favorable. Stripping membranes on an unfavorable cervix is very difficult (and painful) to do and not likely going to cause any cervical change or thinning. Membrane stripping can cause some cramping and spotting and can also increase the chance of your water breaking. If your water breaks or if you are bleeding and not just spotting, you should go to labor and delivery and be evaluated immediately.
- Acupuncture, acupressure and massage: No proof that any of this helps induce labor. However, it may provide a little bit of relaxation. And your partner probably owes you some massage at this point ;)