Can you induce labour naturally? What I tried...including eating A LOT of dates!
Does anything actually help to induce labour? Sharing my story and what I tried!
If you have ever been pregnant you know that towards the end you just want that baby out, things start to get uncomfortable, you feel (and usually are) huge, and sleeping has becoming increasingly difficult.
I did a lot of research on what could help induce labour naturally and pretty much tried everything and then some. I should note that I wasn’t trying to induce early labour but more so trying to prevent the need for medical induction. As the research stands it is safest for baby to me born full-term (after 37 weeks) or anytime between 38-42 weeks. Standard medical practice typically supports induction between 41-42 weeks. Most babies will come on their own time; it just might not be when you expected they’d come. My little guy came exactly one week late before a full on medical induction.
In today’s blog I will be sharing what I tried and also some of the evidence behind my madness.
If you are pregnant and feel like giving any of these a try, let me know how it works out for you!
The 5 things I tried:
1. Exercise (including super deep squat holds)
Exercise can be anything that will get the heart rate up and get you moving, it could be as simple as going for a walk. I personally did TONS of walking during pregnancy and made sure to include lots of uphill challenges towards the end. I also did a lot of deep squat holds and workouts similar to this one I created for my new Youtube channel. If you want to give this 10-minute labour prep workout a try, click here. I only recommend trying this video if you are 37+ week and if your healthcare provider has been okay with you exercising throughout your pregnancy.
There is some research to suggest that exercise will help induce labour, but to be honest I don’t think it helped me in that respect. However, I do think it made a huge difference in how I felt throughout pregnancy and the way my body coped during delivery and recovered afterwards.
Research has found that regular exercise during pregnancy helps maintain or improve your physical fitness, reduces the risk of excess weight gain, and can reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes. (ACOG, 2019).
In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week while pregnant. Moderate activity is one in which your heart rate is elevated, you might be sweaty, but you can still talk. Of course not every pregnant woman will be able to exercise and that is why it is so important to clear exercise with your healthcare provider.
Bottom line: exercise may or may not help induce labour, in my case it didn’t seem to but I swear it made a difference in my delivery and how I felt throughout. It helped keep me energized, reduced my anxiety about the unknown, and left me feeling overall pretty great.
2. Daily dates
Dates not with my hubby, but the dried fruit! I ate 4 large medjool dates each day, starting at 37 weeks (although the research suggests 36 weeks).
So this might sound a little gross (and I like dates but I was sick of them by 40+ weeks), however the research to support their daily intake when it comes to labour induction is quite interesting and compelling.
Randomized controlled trials have linked date consumption in late pregnancy to increased cervical ripening, reduced need for medical induction, and a small study found less significant postpartum blood loss.
How many dates do you need to eat? Most of the research has suggested women consume 60-80 grams of dates each day starting at 36 weeks. I decided to start at 37 weeks to be safe and consumed 3-4 medjool dates each day, which ranged from 60-90 grams.
My bottom line: I didn’t end up needing my water broken or pitocin to induce labour. My cervix wasn’t dilating much, even at 41 weeks but perhaps dates helped create some softening (I only ended up with a small tear).
I ate dates each date with peanut butter or added them to a smoothie. Click here to get a couple of my date recipes.
Want to read more on dates and induction? Click here to see all the research that exists to support this.
3. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
I will start by saying I did NOT do this properly. I was drinking one tea a day between weeks 38-40 and only started drinking 2-3 teas a day after 40 weeks. My doctor was okay with me trying all of this, but also mentioned that it likely wouldn’t work.
The research on raspberry leaf intake during pregnancy is limited, but from the limited research that exists there have been links in intake and improved birth outcomes, including reduced length of labour, reduced need for medical induction with oxytocin, reduced need to rupture membranes aka break your water, and reduced length of gestation. I should note none of the links were deemed significant. You can read more by clicking here.
My bottom line: I will not provide generalized suggestions or dosage for consuming this tea, so please connect with me directly or your healthcare provider. However, personally I had 1 cup (steeped for 15 minutes) each day from 38-40 weeks and increased my intake as I went past my due date. I had a planned medical induction, but ended up having my little guy earlier that morning. I did not need to be induced with IV drugs, I did not need my water broken, but did receive one dose of a prostaglandin gel, which kickstarted my labour. My labour was super quick (a total of 6 or so hours from start to finish). Was it the tea? The gel? The dates? Who knows, but something worked!
I also started acupuncture later than I should have. I went for my first (of three) sessions two days before I was due, after going to my OB getting a stretch and sweep and feeling nothing. I asked if he thought it was okay to try, got the okay and decided to give it a try. I will say that I felt the most change in my body after doing acupuncture. I would get some mild cramping and after each time I thought okay maybe it’s happening soon. The acupuncturist and naturopath who treated me was lovely and extremely knowledgeable. She told me to give it three attempts and if I don’t go into labour, acupuncture likely won’t induce it. My last session was on a Monday morning and I had my baby early Tuesday morning.
When we look at the research, there have been two systematic literature reviews from 2015 that review acupuncture during pregnancy. They find very little adverse effects of acupuncture, all of which are not related to pregnancy but instead normal side effects of acupuncture like discomfort or a drop in blood pressure.
We need more research in this area to be able to conclude anything, but some studies showed associations between acupuncture treatment and cervix ripening in healthy low risk pregnant women.
My bottom line: I thought it was worth a try, I enjoyed the treatments and experienced some movement/changes in my body afterwards. I definitely noticed a drop in my baby bump. However, did it induce my labour? I don’t think so!
Research has shown that sex can induce labour in two ways. 1) orgasm can release oxytocin, which helps to initiate contractions and 2) semen can help ripen and soften your cervix, allowing for dilation to occur naturally. In fact, semen contains a high number of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that support the relaxation of your bodily tissues.
My bottom line: I didn't find it worked and let's be honest having sex when 9 months pregnant really isn’t fun anymore.
Bonus: I danced around my house a lot to some of my favourite songs…I would always get some period like cramping after dancing for a few minutes and think yay it’s starting…but then it would go away. I literally tried everything, I think the bottom line is your baby will come when they are ready…or they will be forced out!
My birth story (a condensed version):
Throughout pregnancy I was told that I had a big baby. Once I hit 40 weeks and was only 1cm dilated, we scheduled a medical induction for 41 weeks. I was okay with this because my baby was presenting large and I was worried if he/she got any bigger I would have difficulty delivering vaginally. The plan was to administer a small dose of a prostaglandin gel in hospital the evening before, this was to help with dilation for the next morning. The next morning, approximately 12 hours later, they would break my water (if the gel did its job) and see how things progressed. To be honest, I was hoping this wouldn't happen but Monday evening rolled around and I went to the hospital for my gel administration. Around 9pm they checked my cervix and I was still only 1cm dilated, the OB administered the gel and I had to be monitored for about an hour. I started to get extreme cramping, they sent me home. I returned with contractions lasting 1 minute, 2 minutes apart only 1 hour later. I got rechecked and boom I was already 6cm, they were very shocked (apparently this doesn't usually happen but baby boy was ready). The gel was administered at 9-9:30pm Monday evening and I had my baby boy at 3:49am Tuesday morning. It was QUICK and INTENSE! The intensity made me want an epidural (even though I planned not to have one). By the time it got set up there wasn't enough time for it to work, so I ended it up with a partially frozen (but barely) left leg and felt EVERYTHING else.
For most people the gel does not cause this reaction (hence why they sent me home, even thought I was experiencing terrible cramping). However, I think my body was just ready at that point. I also believe that everything I did leading up to if had some type of influence on my body but I can’t say that any one thing create this quick body response and birthing experience.
Moral of the story: try whatever you are comfortable with! If I get the opportunity to be pregnant again, I would certainly continue with exercise (if my body is able to) and try some of the things I mentioned above. The experimentation was fun, I’m not sure what worked or didn’t, but I did have a short and relatively smooth labour and I am so grateful for that.
And as hard as it is, try to enjoy your down time before your little bean arrives. I did a lot of recipe testing, got my nails done, and did lots of nature walks. Take time to unwind and enjoy the moment (but trust me I know it’s easier said than done….I was trying it all)!
If you have any questions about anything I tried, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Also, I’d love to hear your birth story. Did you try any of these? Did anything work for you?
To learn more about my postpartum recovery program, click here.
Until next time,
Eat Right Feel Right – Angela XO