Natural Labour Stimulation

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What are the different methods of natural (non-medicated) labour stimulation?

Many clients want to know what they can do to help labour start naturally. The majority of the following methods can be done in the comfort of your own home. It is important to remember, while these methods are fantastic options for encouraging labour to start, none of these methods are guaranteed to begin a client’s labour. Discuss with your midwife which options might be best for you.

Preparing yourself emotionally and physically: It is important to emotionally prepare for labour, birth and the transition to life with a newborn. Using visualization, meditation and mindfulness can be helpful in this preparation. Physically, using walking, squats and lunges can encourage the baby to move into an optimal labour position and sit deeper in the pelvis. 

Relaxation: Anxiety, fear and frustration can play a part in deterring labour from starting. These feelings produce the hormone cortisol, which effectively works against the hormones which are trying to activate labour. Discussing your concerns with your midwife and/or support person can help to alleviate some of these stressors. Relaxation can take many forms including, taking baths, going for walks, watching a movie, reading a book, going out for dinner, etc. The important thing is that you do what you find to be most relaxing. 

Aromatherapy: This is a fantastic method to aid with relaxation and can have positive effects on getting labour started. For best practices seek advice from an aromatherapist. 

Exercise: Staying active helps the baby to engage deep into the pelvis, where contact between the baby’s head and the cervix can help to stimulate contractions. Walking is also a great way to reduce stress levels and get gentle exercise. Bouncing and rocking while seated on an exercise ball is also a great way to encourage the descent of the baby’s head. 

Belly Massage: Belly massage can be done by yourself or it is a great way to involve others in your labour preparation. Using castor oil and a couple of drops of lavender or clary sage oil, massage the abdomen in a clockwise direction for 5-10 minutes a couple times a day. 

Intercourse/Sexual stimulation: Unprotected intercourse with a male partner can potentially stimulate labour because semen contains small amounts of prostaglandins (hormone-like substances that can soften and ripen the cervix). For all forms of couples, orgasm for the birthing person is a great way to stimulate contractions as it produces oxytocin (the hormone needed to start contractions). 

Breast/Nipple Stimulation: Breast and nipple stimulation are thought to mimic when a baby breastfeeds, releasing oxytocin into the mother’s bloodstream. Oxytocin is needed to start contractions. Breast/Nipple stimulation can be done manually with the hands or with a breast pump, for 15 minutes to 1 hour a day, focusing particularly on the nipple and areola during the massage. Some clients may even see colostrum leaking from their nipples during this stimulation, collect it! Any colostrum collected and stored properly in the refrigerator or freezer can be given to your baby after they are born. 

Acupuncture/Acupressure: These are excellent complementary therapies to aid in labour stimulation and can assist in pain management during labour. Please consult an acupuncture specialist familiar with treating pregnant clients. 

Evening primrose Oil: This oil contains essential fatty acids, which are the precursors to prostaglandins (help to soften and prepare the cervix for labour). Evening primrose oil can initially be taken starting at 37 weeks, take 500mg 2 times per day. 

Homeopathics: Caulophyllum 30C is a homoeopathic remedy that can be taken starting at 37 weeks to encourage labour. A common dose is 1 tablet 3 times a day for 4 days, take 3 days off, then repeat once (4 days on, 3 days off). It is important to avoid eating, drinking and strong smells for at least 15min before and after taking the remedy. 

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea: This tea is the most commonly used herbal tonic for strengthening the uterus. The tea should be taken daily after 37 weeks for the best effect. The tea does not make contractions stronger but enables the uterus to contract more effectively, thereby shortening the length of labour. 

Caster Oil: Caster oil is a potentially effective way to stimulate labour. Please speak to your midwife for specific instructions on how and when to commence a caster oil trial. Please do not take caster oil without speaking to your midwife first. 

Stretch and Sweep: A stretch and sweep is an internal exam, where the midwife uses two fingers to assess the cervix. Depending on the dilation (opening) of the cervix, the midwife may be able to widen the opening of the cervix (stretch) and pass their finger between the inside of your cervix and the bag of waters (sweep). This process can be uncomfortable, but lasts less than 2 minutes and may help to stimulate labour.