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Location: Allentown, PA

I'm a Christian wife and a mom to three daughters and two sons. I'm a member of the board of directors of EmPoWeReD Birth. In my "spare time" I'm a doula, and a certified childbirth instructor.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Natural Labor Induction--Dinner and a Date

So often when I talk to women in the last weeks of pregnancy, what I hear is a recollection of all the "natural" methods they have tried to induce labor. And frankly, I find this disturbing.

I have to admit, the most after my due date that I've gone with any of my 4 pregnancies was 2 days...and I was in denial that I was in labor when it started because "I'm not having this baby for another week--I have things to do!" And each pregnancy there after I birthed at 39 weeks on the dot, so with the exception of the 4th I was still repeating the same mantra as labor started "I'm not having this baby for another week--I have things to do!" By the 4th I had accepted my reality, and predicted the birth date 2-3 months in advance.

So anyway, bottom line...I've not been one to eagerly pursue induction (though I was induced with my second--water broke but no labor). But I've also not gone through the waiting many women experience when they go past their "best before date." Oh, wait, that's an "ESTIMATED due date!" I can't really say if I wouldn't be in the "what can I do to get this baby out?" camp if I did go much past my due date. But the thing I find most disturbing is the women who are starting the natural induction techniques as early as 37 weeks.

Just because it is "natural" does not mean that it is "risk free," which I think is a distinction that many people fail to make. Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac are all natural. So is a bite from a Viper. Blue and Black cohashes have been linked to heart problems in the infant. Castor oil can cause the baby to pass meconium in utero. (Note: It has been pointed out to me that many midwives dispute this notion linking castor oil to meconium. I don't know of any research one way or the other...so for now I'll drop that from my list of "known" side effects and just stick with the annoyance of running to the bathroom over and over and over...) Nipple stimulation and walking really don't seem to work to induce labor so moms may needlessly tire/discourage themselves trying these methods (but they can be very effective for augmenting labor). Most importantly, if the natural method does trigger labor a few days sooner than it would have started on its own, who is to say that the baby is quite ready yet? Or the mom's body? My own experience with having my membranes stripped in my first pregnancy (without my consent) was that I had a very long labor--I think in part because my body was not quite ready to labor yet. There were other factors too, but I think that one was high on the list.

So when moms ask my opinion on labor induction, my first advice is that they try to hang in there...the average nulipara (woman who hasn't given birth before) will be pregnant for 41 weeks 1 day, while the average multipara goes to 40 weeks 3 days. So for many women, they are stressing about being "late" when they haven't even reached the average gestation for their situation. Further, for there to be averages, some moms have to go even longer than that.

Beyond that, I encourage moms--really and truly--to QUIT trying to start labor. Try to take their minds off the question of "will I EVER have this baby???" I know..hard to do. With my 4th pregnancy I experienced for the first time being tired of being pregnant...and I was only 6 months along--LOL!

But seriously, adrenaline, created from stress, can inhibit labor. So I think that trying to relax and just giving the whole "I've got to get labor going!" thing a break may be very helpful.

I encourage moms to take a day weekend for some pampering. If she has older kids, she might want to get them involved in this, though she should use her own judgement on whether they would relax her, or keep her "on the ready." Anyway...I encourage mom to take a nice long soak in a tub complete with dim lighting, scented candles, and some soft music. When she gets out, perhaps the kids can have heated towels waiting, and maybe they could have been preparing the master bedroom to be a haven while mom was bathing--putting fresh sheets on the bed, setting up a light snack and some candles, music, and dim lighting. Mom should enjoy the snack. Let the kids (if they can do it well) give a foot massage. Let partner give a full body massage (kick the kiddos out of the room for this of course--LOL!). If the massage leads to something...hey, go for it. But if it doesn't--mom shouldn't stress herself and think "I need to have sex, it might kick start labor."

Mom should then take a nap. A nice, long, deliciously decadant one. One of those ones that mom wakes up feeling kind of like a cat who was basking in sunlight, and wonders with thankful amazement at how the kids didn't wake her up (because they were sent outside or to friends to play, or DH kept them busy reading books).

When she wakes up, her kind hubby will have dinner ready for her (yes, he will, mom should let him know that is his job. ;-), or will have made arrangements to take mom to a restaraunt that makes her feel relaxed & pampered. This is not the time for a buffet or fast food (unless you want to have DH bring Boston Market food home to eat by candle-light--that is yummy!). Mom should let someone else serve her.

Mom can tuck the kids into bed to get those nice maternal hormones going. ;-) Then more massaging if she is in the mood--at the very least, a nice cup of chamomile tea, and off to sleep early.

If calming down the adrenaline in her system allows labor to begin--GREAT! She is well rested for the task. And if it doesn't--GREAT! When is she going to get a chance to rest like that after the new baby comes? ;-) And taking the break will allow her to be more energized to pick back up on trying some way to give labor a kick start.

And that's it. It's worked for several of my clients. ;-)

Other posts on my blog about pregnancy:


Blogger lauren said...

i need to save this advice for my next pregnancy. we induced our daughter at 39 weeks to be sure that my husband could be there. i'm looking forward to letting things happen more naturally the next time around, at least not scheduling the birth.

1:07 PM, December 04, 2006  
Anonymous redzuan said...

massage is good for the body but it might get you addicted if done frequently. twice a year is a good number.

my aunt is a pregnancy masseur. i think it works cause she got a lot of client. even couple who hard to get child got pregnant after she massages for sometime.

Full Body Massage

3:55 PM, April 07, 2007  
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1:03 AM, February 03, 2009  
Blogger karen_m said...

I agree that it's easy for pregnant women to let the discomforts and impatience of late pregnancy encourage them to attempt induction-- natural or medical-- sooner than is wise. I would still be careful not to completely discount the benefits of natural induction methods for a women with a ripe cervix, impending due date (39 wks or past) and a legitimate reason to want to encourage labor.

Yes, any herb or other natural remedy comes with a risk/benefit ratio, just like medicine. But all things being equal, the risk/benefits of most of these herbs are more favorable to the mother and baby than induction drugs like Pitocin.

My first baby was a Pitocin induction because I was 41+ weeks and had a large baby (she ended up being 9 14). I was a labor newbie and didn't know I could refuse the induction or ask them to delay it.
Now that I have a record of having large babies, one of the midwives mentioned induction when I was only 37 weeks! Ridiculous! I am very willing to let this child have choose its own birthdate but at the same time I will begin natural induction methods after my due date, so I can do everything I can to prevent a pitocin induction.

My point of that rather long anecdote is that while some women would turn to natural induction for sheer convenience, there are legitimate situations in which it can be helpful...under the right criteria and applied in the right way.


5:28 AM, June 09, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your article, it is very helpful, especially because I feel I have been in a hurry to naturally induce this baby. I have bilateral carpal tunnel and a pinched sciatic nerve and have wanted baby to born for the last week. I think I have been putting stress on myself to have this baby! I have three day left until my due date, I will realize and stop "trying so hard". I really don't want to be medically induced is the other side of the story, I will just hope and pray that baby comes on her own, hopeful soon!! Thanks again!

5:15 AM, June 17, 2011  

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