As explained in Inducing Labor: Reasons & Risks, labor induction can sometimes be a necessity. There are different techniques to inducing labor, some of which are medical while others are natural. Read on to learn the different options available to you and discuss them with your doctor to determine which would be more suitable in your case.
Medical Ways to Induce Labor
The method of labor induction depends on the dilation, softness and effacement of the cervix, whereby all three aspects contribute to its “ripeness” or readiness for labor. Your doctor will resort to either hormones or mechanical methods to ripen your cervix before labor induction, and these methods include the following techniques:
• Prostaglandins: Medication containing prostaglandins is usually used to ripen the cervix if it isn’t dilated or thinned out enough. This is done by inserting the medication into the vagina, which helps stimulate contractions and induce labor.
• Foley Catheter: One method of dilating the cervix is inserting a catheter with a very small and uninflated balloon attached to it into the cervix, then slowly inflating it with water to put pressure on the cervix and stimulate the release of prostaglandins. This will cause the cervix to open and soften, and once the cervix starts to dilate the balloon will fall out and the catheter will be removed.
• Membrane Stripping: In cases where inducing labor is not urgent, your doctor will separate the amniotic sac from the lower part of the uterus using their finger, resulting in the release of prostaglandins which help ripen the cervix and stimulate contractions. Labor will usually begin within the next few days after this procedure is implemented.
• Membrane Rupturing: Membrane rupturing involves the insertion of a small plastic hook into the cervix and breaking the amniotic sac once the cervix is dilated a few centimeters. If the cervix is very ripe, there’s a chance that this procedure will trigger contractions, however if you do not go into labor within 12-24 hours after rupturing the membranes your doctor may take more drastic measures as the risk of infection increases for you and your baby the longer you wait.
• Pitocin: Pitocin is a synthetic hormone that can be applied through an IV pump to stimulate contractions after the cervix ripens. This method is more common and is relatively safe.
Natural Ways to Induce Labor
While there aren’t any foolproof that natural methods trigger labor when you’re overdue, a large percentage of women have found the following methods to help:
• Nipple Stimulation: Massaging the breasts releases oxytocin, a hormone which can trigger contractions. However, this is more likely to be effective if the cervix is already dilated and ready to open for labor. There are also concerns regarding this method, which is believed to sometimes lead to overstimulation of the uterus.
• Castor Oil: A well-known strong laxative, the bowel stimulation that castor oil causes can sometimes trigger contractions. There is no definitive proof that this helps induce labor, however, and it can feel uncomfortable.
• Physical Activity: Walking or climbing stairs is said to bring on labor because it helps get the baby in a better position for labor, and the baby’s head will exert pressure on the cervix.
• Complementary Therapies: This includes acupuncture, massage, teas, herbs and homeopathic remedies. Do not try anything before consulting with your doctor first.