There are many reasons why your provider may suggest an induction of labor. I will not go into these reasons here but– as with all medical decisions– be sure that you understand the risks and benefits and that you ultimately make an informed choice (definitely take the time to read the articles on evidencebasedbirth.com, talk to your doula, and ask your provider A LOT of questions).
If you have an induction scheduled and are hoping to go into labor on your own or at least prime your body for the induction, start by asking your provider for a few more days. Most providers will feel comfortable pushing an induction back by 24-hour increments, especially if you agree to additional tests (NST and ultrasound) to ensure the health and safety of yourself and baby.
Here are my go-to suggestions for my Joyful Birthing doula clients facing an induction or wishing to get labor started naturally (as with anything pregnancy-related, be sure to check with your provider before trying anything on the list):
HAVE SOME SEX: I know… you are huge, the last thing on your mind (and probably your partner’s, too) is sex, but there is definitely some truth to the adage, “what gets the baby in, gets the baby out.” There are two reasons for this. One, semen contains prostaglandins, which is a hormone that will help to soften and ripen the cervix (a cervix must be soft and thin in order to dilate). In fact, many providers will begin the induction process with a synthetic prostaglandin… so why not use a natural one? Two, making love and ideally achieving orgasm releases oxytocin, the hormone that is responsible for causing contractions (again, Pitocin—the most common drug used for induction– is the synthetic version of oxytocin). So, get busy!
BALANCE THE PELVIS: You want to work to achieve a balanced, supple pelvis, especially if you are overdue. If the muscles, ligaments, and fascia in and around your pelvis are tight, your baby is not going to have the space to descend and rotate into position and even the most aggressive induction will not make that happen (if baby does not descend, a vaginal delivery will not be possible). I advise all of my doula clients and HypnoBirthing students to begin a daily practice of helping to balance the pelvis through prenatal yoga, stretching, walking, time on the birthing ball, etc., to ensure optimal space for baby. Have a look at my recent blog post on this topic for more detailed tips and information (How to Position Yourself for Easier Birthing).
FIND AN ACUPUNCTURIST & CHIROPRACTOR: Be sure to find providers that have experience working with pregnant women—ideally, this is their area of expertise. Get in ASAP as their techniques can take up to 24-48 hours to take full effect. An acupuncturist will help to encourage your body to release the necessary labor hormones (prostaglandins and oxytocin) and a chiropractor will make any necessary adjustments to balance your pelvis (again, a pelvis out of alignment can impede labor).
EVENING PRIMROSE OIL: Many midwives will begin their patients on a regiment of evening primrose oil as soon as they reach 37 weeks, increasing the dosage with each passing week. Evening primrose oil contains prostaglandins (just like semen), which will help to soften the cervix and prepare your body for labor. Find a high-quality evening primrose oil (any natural foods’ store will carry it) and ask your provider about dosage and usage (many will suggest both an oral supplement and using it as a vaginal suppository). Personally, this really worked for me. On the morning of my due date with my first baby, I took one capsule and that evening went into labor. On the evening before my due date with my second baby, I took one capsule orally and inserted one vaginally and went into labor a few hours later… could have been a coincidence or could have been the evening primrose oil. Worth a try!
RELAX & TRUST: If you are in a state of stress about being induced, late, or whatever, your body will most likely not go into labor as the stress hormones will inhibit the production of labor hormones. So find ways to relax: have a warm bath, get a prenatal massage, take a prenatal yoga class, go for a long walk… whatever it is… try to enjoy your last few moments of being pregnant, trust your body and your baby, trust your provider, and visualize yourself going into labor. The mind body connection is very powerful, so utilize it to your advantage! For more on this, see the post: Better Birthing with HypnoBirthing.
If you must be induced, try to accept and welcome the induction rather than resist it (again, harness the mind body connection as the goal now is a vaginal delivery). Request that the induction be started gradually, ideally with a Foley catheter or, if not dilated enough, then a cervical softener (such as Cervidil, the synthetic prostaglandin) prior to starting Pitocin (these methods often take at least 12 hours to work effectively). If Pitocin is necessary, request that they start at the lowest dosage possible with a very gradual increase. Relax, trust the process, and get excited to meet your baby… after all, that is what this is all about!
Ellie Lindenmayer is the owner of Joyful Birthing and a birth doula offering support to the greater Boston area, North Shore, and seacoast New Hampshire.