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Can You Really Self-Induce Labor?

Forty weeks is a long time to wait for your baby to arrive.  If you’re at or past your due date, you may be wondering if there are things you can do to get your labor started.  The answer is yes – the following are some of the things that other women have had success with.

First, you need to wait until you’re due or overdue to try to induce labor.  Your baby needs the full term of pregnancy to be ready to be born, so you won't want to try to go into labor sooner than you should.  If you’re a first time mother, you should know that most first babies come at 41 weeks – not 40 – so prepare to wait just a little longer.

The second thing you should know is that your body generally will not go into labor without medication until it’s ready.  If your body is ready for labor, you can give it a “push” to get it started.  But if your body isn't ready, there’s little that will help, and even a labor induction in the hospital using medication may not be successful.  Failed medical inductions are a leading cause of Caesarean sections, so don’t push it unless you’re past your due date.

To induce labor at home, you can try several things.  First, try having sex with your partner, as the uterine contractions of orgasm can help start labor contractions.  In addition, semen contains natural prostaglandins which help soften and ripen the cervix and can help start labor.  As long as neither you nor your partner has any sexually transmitted diseases, sex without a condom near the end of pregnancy is safe and can help labor begin.  Of course, you shouldn’t try to have sexual intercourse if your water has broken.

Nipple stimulation can help start uterine contractions as well.  You or your partner can manually stimulate your nipples, or if a friend has a baby who is breastfeeding, you can put that baby to your breast and let it suckle.  Many women have success using a breast pump to stimulate uterine contractions.

Physical activity, like walking, also helps some women bring on labor.  Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and make sure you’re walking in a safe area, preferably with some company in case you do go into labor.  Don't stray far from home – you may need to make a quick dash to the car.

In addition, there are certain acupressure points that can stimulate labor. One of these points – called Spleen 6 – is located on the inside of the ankle. Using your finger, measure about four finger widths directly above your ankle. Use gentle pressure on this spot for about 1 minute. You'll know you have the correct point if it starts to feel tender at your touch.

Some women have also had success starting labor by taking castor oil. Castor oil is actually a laxative – it’s thought that the intestinal contractions caused by castor oil help start uterine contractions. However, many experts recommend against this practice, as taking a laxative immediately before labor isn’t recommended. Or, in the hands of a skilled herbalist, black and blue cohosh can help stimulate labor. Talk with someone knowledgeable regarding the use of herbs or homeopathy if you want to try one of these methods.

You may also want to talk with your obstetrician about stripping your membranes during an internal examination. This can cause discomfort and can occasionally lead to a premature rupture of the membranes. However, it has shown some success in starting labor without the risks associated with medical intervention.

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