For a pregnant woman, watching your due date come and go is very frustrating. It’s only natural to start to wonder about at-home labor induction methods. But take warning: some methods are not safe and could lead to a birth injury. Women should be mindful of post-term risk factors for birth injuries.
Any mother who has experienced an uneventful due date has probably spent some time researching ways to kick-off labor at home. Many women are so uncomfortable at the end of pregnancy that they are willing to do just about anything to have the baby simply to be done with being pregnant.
Be Mindful of DIY Methods That Risk Causing a Birth Injury
There are a lot of options for inducing labor, either with the intervention of a medical professional or at home. Medical induction generally takes place in a hospital and uses prescription medication and devices to bring on labor. It’s important to remember that none of these suggestions is a surefire way to start active labor. Even medical inductions don’t always work.
The goal to keep in mind is that a healthy pregnancy should lead to a healthy baby. Do not allow your impatience with the end of pregnancy to entice you to make unwise decisions that could cause a birth injury and have lifelong consequences for your baby.
Options for Inducing Labor
Have a Glass of Wine
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), there is no amount of alcohol that is considered safe to consume during pregnancy. It’s a little surprising that this method has endured in anecdotal labor induction legends because a century ago, alcohol was used by midwives and doctors to stop labor.
In short, it probably will not help to get you on the road to a baby, but it may have negative consequences for the unborn child. It is best to avoid alcohol altogether during pregnancy.
There are a few popularly recommended herbal labor induction methods, none of which is advisable. Castor oil is probably the most popular herbal suggestion. The method involves drinking about two ounces of castor oil, which is a laxative. Taking a laxative at that stage of pregnancy may perhaps kick-off active labor, but it will absolutely dehydrate you due to the inevitable diarrhea.
The other popular herbal recommendation is actually quite startling. Some people suggest that pregnant women try black cohosh to stimulate labor. This is not a good idea. Black cohosh at any time during pregnancy can cause devastating effects to the fetus. Earlier in pregnancy, it may cause miscarriage or stillbirth. At full term, black cohosh can be responsible for brain defects or a birth injury.
Another herb often recommended for labor induction that is not advisable is evening primrose oil. Some recommend taking it orally, and sometimes it is recommended to be applied vaginally, but it is not a wise choice either way. The oil probably will not do anything to bring on labor, and it may harm the baby.
It is important for pregnant women to keep in mind that herbal supplements and herbal treatments are not regulated in the same way that pharmaceutical or over-the-counter drugs are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Always talk to your doctor or midwife before taking herbs during pregnancy.
As strange as it may sound, nipple stimulation is the top DIY suggestion to induce labor. The reasoning behind it makes sense: nipple stimulation can release oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that your brain uses to communicate to the womb to begin contractions. However, too much or too vigorous nipple stimulation prior to the start of active labor can hyperstimulate the uterus and can cause longer and more painful contractions. As a result, your baby could experience an umbilical cord injury or fetal distress.
Nipple stimulation is best saved for a controlled clinical environment, or better yet during active labor to move things along if contractions begin to slow down. It is a risky at home method for starting labor from the beginning.
Taking a Stroll
Taking a walk is a popular and sometimes effective way to induce labor, but be careful. At the end of pregnancy, it is crucially important to conserve energy because a mother’s body works harder than it ever has before during labor. Not to mention the upcoming sleepless days with a newborn.
Sometimes, labor comes on precipitously. If you are on a long walk and unable to get medical attention, both you and the baby could suffer from labor complications, and the child could potentially suffer a birth injury. It’s best to know your limits and be well rested for the work of labor.
Induction Methods that are Less Risky
No, really! There is an acupressure point on the inside of the ankle that may instigate labor if appropriately triggered during a massage. More than an excuse to squeeze in some self-care at the end of pregnancy, this one is a low-risk method that sometimes works.
Indulging in Intercourse
Assuming you are cleared by your doctor for sexual activity, this DIY method is time-honored suggestion that also carries little to no risk of birth injury. The prostaglandins in semen may soften the cervix and be the boost your body needs to start labor.
Eating six dates per day in the month prior to your due date can make it less likely you’ll need an induction. This is true even if it won’t kick off labor if you are overdue.
Stripping the Membranes
Not a DIY suggestion, but this is an induction method that is particularly effective. And, it can be done in your midwife or doctor’s office. This is a procedure intended to help a woman’s body to go into labor on its own without medications. The doctor or midwife uses his or her fingers to sweep between the membranes connecting the bag of fluid to the womb.
This sweeping effectively strips the membranes and causes your body to release prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are chemicals that soften the cervix and can encourage contractions. One word of warning – though it can be very effective, many women report that stripping the membranes is excruciatingly painful. You may not consider it to be worth the discomfort.
Does Prolonged Labor Risk a Birth Injury?
Long, slow labors are one of the leading risk factors for a birth injury. The longer a mother is in labor, the higher the chance that something could go wrong. When a baby is in the birth canal too long, he or she can suffer brain damage due to compression on the head. Too much time in the birth canal can also cause oxygen deprivation at birth.
Birth injuries related to delayed or prolonged birth lead to a variety of conditions including autism spectrum disorders (ASD), hematoma, spina bifida, and umbilical cord prolapse.
Have Questions about a Birth Injury?
If your child has experienced a birth injury caused by prolonged labor or delayed birth, contact Birth Injury Guide. With a free consultation, you can find out about your legal rights. You will also begin the journey of discovering if your child’s birth injury was preventable.