Time is very nearly up for Flangelina to make an appearance of their own accord. Honestly, I’d rather he or she really did get to choose when to arrive and that there wasn’t an induction deadline. But since there is – albeit not yet fixed in stone or finalised in any way – the next best thing would be for us to be able to encourage him or her out before they get the big guns out at the hospital. With that in mind, I’ll hold my hands up and say we’ve been trying out some of the suggested methods to get things going.
Almost universally, there is no evidence that any of these methods achieve anything at all. But there also seem to be very few risks. The only cited risk to most is, in fact, the potential to initiate contractions. That would be a risk if we weren’t at full term and trying to do exactly that! It’s been interesting, though, to read a bit more about why it’s suggested that these things might work.
[A note before we start: I’m not a medical professional. I researched these methods mostly online and looked for any associated risks, but please don’t assume they are safe for you. Trying to induce labout yourself is not recommneded by health professionals, please speak to yours before copying me.]
Let’s not beat around the bush and get the TMI out of the way up front. It’s the one that most people suggest with a coy smirk when you say you’re ready for the baby to arrive: Sex.
Yes, we’re trying it. No, it’s not easy or even particularly enjoyable. There is pretty much only one possible position and there is absolutely nothing romantic about it as we attempt to get it over with before my knees give out or I’m overcome by heartburn. Interestingly the reason that sex is suggested is because semen contains natural prostaglandins that can work to soften (or ‘ripen’ in gyno speak) the cervix in preparation for dilation. In fact prostaglandin pesssaries and gels are the first stage of a medical induction if you are insufficiently dilated to allow the waters to be broken. The deposition of semen close to the cervix, along with the mechanical action (ooo…err!) is postulated to be enough to kick start things.
Yes, we’re still waiting. But we’ve only managed it twice so far, and I think a more dedicated and sustained approach may be required.
I’ve also discovered that other agents have this potential to soften the cervix. The main one is Evening Primrose Oil. What is not totally clear from all the references that I found is whether this works when taken orally or applied directly as there seem to be multiple conflicting reports. Not wanting to get it wrong, I decided to try both. Taking it orally is self explanatory. I’ve started popping a couple of capsules each day. The “direct application” is much more tricky. Essentially I’m talking about inserting a couple of capsules and leaving them to dissolve. When I first tried this last night, I discovered that no way, no how can I even remotely reach my cervix any more. Whether this is because it has adopted a higher position in pregnancy, or is simply because the bump and my new inherent lack of flexibility combine to prevent me getting right up there… well, you’d have to ask a qualified midwife. So I did what any helpless pregnant woman would do; Fluttered my eyelashes and asked my husband to help me! Nothing more to report on this one at the moment either, other than to say it’s extremely messy in the morning.
Enough TMI for one day? Sorry, I’m not quite done yet. The other thing that good old Google turned up frequently during a search for natural induction methods was nipple stimulation. I was already aware of the supposed link between nipple stimulation and contractions from my discussions about antenatal expression of colostrum. As I said then, I think it’s one of those things that is only likely to work if you’re close to going in to labour anyway. Apparently nipple stimulation causes an increase in secretion of the hormone oxytocin, which is necessary to help labour progress. I’ve read a lot of conflicting information on this one, but it appears that to have any chance of being successful, you need to twiddle your nipples for upwards of TWO HOURS a day. I’m notachieving anything like that, but I will admit to tucking my hands inside my bra whilst I’m sitting catching up with a bit of TV…..
There are a number of theories about various foodstuffs that if ingested in sufficient quantities can help to start labour. The classic example is a hot curry, which I’ve definitely tried. The idea here is that there is a close relationship between the innervation to the lower intestinal tract and the uterus. Anything which irritates the lower intestines sufficiently, may therefore have a referred effect on the uterus and help to bring on contractions. The same principle lies behind one method that I definitely will not be trying – castor oil. As far as I can see, all this does is cause severe abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. Imagine if it did also bring on labour…. I could do without dealing with diarrhoea at the same time, thank you very much! The curries haven’t really done much other than causing an increase in heartburn, but maybe I need a few more, and maybe I need to go hotter!
Other things we’ve yet to try are principally mechanical. There are people who swear by going on a bumpy drive, walking up and down stairs or even walking along the road with one foot on the curb and the other on the road. Aside from the shock of narrowly avoiding a road accident putting you in to labour, I’m not really sure how these are supposed to work. I’m guessing that it increases the pressure exerted by the baby’s head on the cervix. So again, only likely to really work if labour is pretty imminent anyway. By the end of the week, you’ll probably find me jogging up and down the stairs in between my sessions bouncing on my birthing ball, but we’ll have to see if I’m really up for it!
I’ve also not tried using acupuncture of TENS. There seems to be a school of thought that stimulation of specific points (that relate to the uterus according to traditional thinking) may precipitate labour. I do have a TENS machine. I also have acupuncture needles as I use them professionally (for reduction of the gag reflex). I’ve even checked out a couple of YouTube videos showing which points to stimulate. However, there doesn’t seem to be much conclusive evidence about these mechanisms. I’ve found links to a few studies which demonstrated the presence of contractions following acupuncture or stimulation with a TENS machine, but nothing to say that these contractions led to progressive labour. And if I’m honest, despite the fact that I use and have seen the benefits of acupuncture for specific applications myself, I’m sceptical about the ability of these methods to work.
Mind you, I sank to a new low this afternoon. I drank a cup of cumin tea. With a cube of potato in the bottom. I think the potato is supposed to absorb some of the bitterness of the cumin, rather than help stimulate labour. But I’ve no idea how the cumin is supposed to work. I just felt a bit desperate this afternoon, and figured a bit of stewed cumin couldn’t do much harm to anything other than my taste buds. Evidently it isn’t working.
Yet. Check in again later, and we’ll see!