After 9 months of restless nights, maternity jeans, and swollen … everything, it’s no wonder you’re ready to get on with it. And as a mom-to-be, you’ve undoubtedly discovered there’s no lack of opinions—from well-meaning friends and family to folklore—about how to get childbirth going.
What exactly kicks off natural labor may not be clear to you. A biochemical signal from your baby’s brain to your brain puts things in motion and tells your body to begin producing oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions. But what exactly triggers that initial signal is still not understood.
You and your baby are already communicating.
Just know that your due date isn’t so much a day as it is a “due month,” meaning your baby’s precise birthdate could happen anytime in a 5-week period around the 37- to 42-week mark, which is considered full-term. The cool thing is that you and your baby are already communicating and your baby will typically tell you when it’s “go time.”
Of course, if you’re in your 9th month, you’re forgiven if you’re furiously Googling self-inducing natural labor remedies. Here are some of the most widespread natural induction methods — and myths:
Ingesting Spicy Foods
Unless you just really love the hot stuff, there’s not much reason to try this fabled baby labor-starter. The thought is spicy foods stimulate the bowel, which is adjacent to the uterus. This, in turn, stimulates the uterus and kick-starts contractions. Just be forewarned you may experience heartburn and indigestion.
There may be some truth to this notion: semen contains the hormone prostaglandin, which does occur naturally in labor to begin opening the cervix. And having an orgasm does release oxytocin, another labor-inducing hormone.
Ingesting Castor Oil
Some moms swear by this one. Castor oil is a laxative and, so the thinking goes, by irritating the GI tract, you’ll stimulate contractions. Again, there’s no guarantee it’ll induce labor but it’s almost certainly guaranteed to induce diarrhea—and babies don’t come out that way. More likely, women who have taken castor oil and then gone into labor were already experiencing cervical ripening.
Going for a Walk
In the 9th month, when just breathing makes you uncomfortable, it might seem like crazy-talk to suggest going for a walk. But being too sedentary at this time has its pitfalls, such as putting your baby in an awkward position. It’s thought that walking around lets gravity help nudge your baby into the right position. Unless you’ve been advised otherwise by your doctor, short walks probably don’t hurt.
Stimulating the Nipples
Sure, this may sound titillating. And there is some evidence to support it. Stimulating the nipples similarly to how a baby nurses does trigger the release of oxytocin, the hormone that gets labor going. But we’re talking about prolonged nipple tweaking for an hour or so, several times a day. And this technique may work too well, causing too many strong contractions too soon and possibly affecting your baby’s heart rate.
Of course, you know your body and your baby better than anyone. So the best advice may be to balance opinion with information, and fiction with fact. And discuss any questions with your trusted medical professional.