Get This Baby Outta Me
It has been awhile since I checked in, but tis the life of a busy Birth Doula Mama. It feels really good to be diving back into the birth blogging world, and growing my brain in preparation for all of the winter and spring babies on their way in chilly Seattle….
I receive texts on the daily from parents-- I am officially done being pregnant, what are some things that we can do to get things moving?! Once you hit full-term, each day can become increasingly uncomfortable. Between backache, swollen fingers and feet, the waddling, and the outrageous effort it takes to simply change positions on the couch, late pregnancy can be tough. Along with the overwhelming desire to meet the next love of your life, this combination can make for one restless and frustrated parent.
I have been pregnant twice, and the final stages of pregnancy always feel like they drag on f o r e v e r. You're tired, you're sleepless, you're anxious, you're nervous. Friends, strangers, and the internet all provide suggestions to induce labor on your own: “Eat all of the spicy foods, pineapples, and lots and lots of sex, yada yah”. But do these work? Could they really work?
So I am going to share with you the things that actually worked for me, as well as what has helped the families that I support within my work as a Birth Doula. I am passionate about helping women have a healthy pregnancy, natural childbirth and happy postpartum. Therefore, I don’t recommend starting, or even encouraging labor before mom and baby are completely ready, even if all that is used are natural ways to induce labor. According to the March of Dimes, babies need to stay in until 39 weeks. At least.
Pineapple is one of the few labor inducing techniques with evidence behind it. Fresh pineapple contains bromelain, which acts as a prostaglandin, helping to soften the cervix. While it won’t put you into labor, if you’re on the edge of active labor, it could help give your body that final push. Pineapple is extremely high in vitamin c, which is great for the immune system. Nothing is worse than being in labor with a cold or flu. One of my parents attested to this, saying she ate two whole pineapples and woke in the night to her water breaking. The internet revealed many more stories. This left me feeling very optimistic. But you have to eat a whole lot of pineapple to get the results you want. The reason for this is likely because there's not enough of the bromelain enzyme in a typical serving of pineapple to be effective. In addition, the acid in our stomachs will breakdown most of this enzyme before it reaches the blood stream. At some point, however, certain things become less helpful when consumed in high quantities. There’s such a thing as too much pineapple! Too much pineapple can cause mouth sensitivity and constipation. If your body is telling you to stop eating pineapple, please stop eating pineapple. Listen to your body, it is wise.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Raspberry leaf tea is supposed to help with uterine contractions, though there’s some contradictory evidence as to whether or not it works. Like pineapple, raspberry leaf is thought to have properties that may help induce labor naturally. I drank some before I went into labor with my daughter, but it certainly didn’t seem to be correlated since strong contractions didn’t start until much later. However, at 39 weeks, I gave it another shot. Since my doctor gave me the green light, I drank six cups of raspberry tea in a single night (OK, she didn’t technically give me the go ahead to do that exactly, but she said the tea was fine). At this point I was getting pretty disheartened, and felt like I was never going to have my baby. I knew this wasn’t true, but it’s amazing how time seems to stand still when you haven’t seen your toes from the standing position in three months.
My favorite thing to tell parents during our prenatal visits is what gets the baby in, gets the baby out! My OB and plenty of others suggested sex to get things going. Sperm contains prostaglandins, which help soften the cervix and promote labor. It isn’t going to work for everyone, but if there’s not a medical reason you shouldn’t be having sex than it can be really helpful. I didn’t have a huge problem with that, except that sex while nine months pregnant is like a weird circus act that no one wants to see. The only reason it was hot and heavy was because of my increased basal body temperature and the extra 35 pounds around my belly. I’m not saying it was a bad idea (especially considering the long stretch of celibate postpartum time ahead), but don’t feel guilty if you have zero drive or motivation as it takes some serious effort to feel inspired or sexy during late pregnancy.
Castor oil is a laxative, meaning that it makes the body poop (a lot!) and clears out the bowels. Bowel stimulation also stimulates the uterus, leading to contractions, which can increase signs of early labor, start labor, or make labor stronger. According to research studies, 57% of women are more likely to go into labor within 24 hours of a dose of castor oil. When I took castor oil during my second pregnancy, I drank three ounces under the guidance of my OB- always, always check in with your care provider before ingesting any amount of castor oil.
Think baby suckling, foreplay, or even just cuddling with your partner gazing into each other’s eyes (sounds cheesy, I know!) BUT this particular technique stimulates oxytocin, the “love hormone”. The hormone that also helps move the uterus into action. Compared to parents who did absolutely nothing, those who practiced nipple stimulation have a greater likelihood of going into labor within 72 hours. Time to bust out the breast pump or get cozy with your main squeeze.
Ancient Egyptians drank castor oil, ancient Chinese employed tiny needles. Acupuncture is still practiced regularly today across Western culture.
Acupuncture to induce labor is a subtle yet effective treatment option to prepare baby and mom for a safe and smooth delivery. I actually like to call it “labor preparation” because it naturally preps mom and baby for the birthing process by relaxing the nervous system and reducing stress and anxiety, while stimulating hormone release and uterine contractions. Many of the acupuncture points you are unable to use during pregnancy due to their stimulating effects on the body are the exact ones Acupuncturists will use for natural labor induction. Some of these points are in areas that by this time in the pregnancy are already pretty sore, like the upper shoulders and lower back. Because it is not a strong medication or harsh manual process, the treatment feels good and is quite relaxing. I often hear from pregnant clients that during an acupuncture session is one of the few times in their day when her mind completely shuts down and they are able to really melt and relax. This rejuvenating rest is important for the energy needed for labor and delivery approaching soon.
Acupressure can help jump start labor, relieve pain, and strengthen contractions. I took a really yummy hands on training last year with my local agency Emerald City Doulas where I uncovered a few really inspiring techniques.
Sometimes due to baby’s position, or other less-than-ideal circumstances, there can be blockages in the natural flow of things. For those cases acupressure may be helpful in getting things moving again and helping the laboring parent progress smoothly through the stages of labor. Obviously, no one stays pregnant forever, so eventually things move forward no matter what. However, if you are overdue, considering an induction, or have a sense that something is blocking the natural progression of labor, you may want to give specific accupressure techniques a try- your Birth Doula can (hopefully) help you out with finding these points.
There are so many things you can try guys, so don’t feel at all discouraged if there is one particular technique that doesn’t work for you. Keep a positive mindset and breathe deep. Be patient. I know it is challenging, especially in the final weeks. But your baby will be in your arms before you know it, so savor this quiet time before shit gets real and you are no longer hands free. You got this.
Peace and Be Well,