From relaxing yoga poses to tweaking your nipples, we've got lots of suggestions to hopefully get your contractions started naturally.
Wondering how to bring on labour naturally is perhaps the most persistent worry for pregnant women as they reach 40 weeks. Well-meaning friends and relatives will be pestering you for updates on the birth, and you may feel under pressure as you go past your due date. But the best thing you can do is relax, look after yourself, and maybe try a few of these natural ways to induce labour.
These natural ways to induce labour aren’t scientifically proven, but they have helped mums-to-be in the past. Doctors advise against trying to induce labour until you’ve gone full term, as the last few weeks of pregnancy are essential for your baby’s development. A complex set of hormonal changes and physical developments trigger birth naturally, and your baby will certainly let you know when they’re ready.
Don’t get too attached to your due date, if that’s what’s making you want to start eating curry and pineapples. It’s reassuring to remember that less than 5% of babies are born on their due date, according to a 2013 study of about 18,700 women in Australia, so the whole idea of babies being ‘late’ or ‘early’ is a bit misleading. The majority of first-time babies are often ‘late’: The Evidence Based Birth website investigated accuracy of due dates, and a study showed that 75% of first-time mothers gave birth 9 days after their ‘due date’. So you’re in good company.
Here are 11 ways which might help bring labour on in the meantime:
- Have sex
- Nipple stimulation
- Eat a curry
- The Miles Circuit
- Eating pineapple
- Bouncing around
- Drink raspberry leaf tea
- Inhaling clary sage
1. How to bring on labour: Relax
Relaxation is one of the most powerful ways to bring on labour. Exercising and eating pineapples might feel like a welcome distraction in those final few days, but your body knows when it’s ready to give birth. If you’ve had a healthy pregnancy so far, spend any extra time resting and treating yourself to nourishing food and lots of sleep instead. Once the baby arrives you’ll need all the energy you’ve got. If you find it hard to relax, try hypnobirthing techniques before you go to sleep or whilst you’ve got your feet up.
2. How to bring on labour: Swimming
Gentle exercise and moving through warm water is thought to be good for starting labour. In fact, it’s what the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, did in the lead up to the birth of her second child, Charlotte. Of course, she does have the luxury of nipping to Buckingham Palace to use their pool rather than wading through armbands and verruca socks at the local swimming pool.
3. How to bring on labour: Have sex
Semen contains prostaglandin, which softens the cervix and helps open it for the birthing process. Female orgasms also release oxytocin, which is essential for labour and birth, stimulates uterus contractions, and gets you ready for labour. At 40 weeks pregnant, sex might not be top of your agenda, but taking time to be intimate and close with your partner can help initiate labour. Even cuddling and taking time together in bed will release the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, so don’t feel obliged to get jiggy if you don’t feel like it.
Note: Don’t have sex after your waters have broken because it can increase risk of infection.
Try our easy sex positions, for fun, bedroom ideas.
4. How to bring on labour: Nipple stimulation
Gentle, attentive nipple stimulation releases the hormone oxytocin which is essential in early stages of labour. Tweaking nipples might not sound sexy, but in her book, A Guide to Childbirth, midwife Ina May recommends loving nipple stimulation and kissing before and during birth to help shorten the active labour stages, contract the uterus, and help the cervix dilate.
5. How to bring on labour: Yoga
Gentle pregnancy yoga can help bring on labour by opening up the hips and helping you relax and connect with your body. Don’t start doing headstands or complicated lotus positions; you just want to rest in wide legged poses and gently release any tension in your lower back.
Try these easy yoga poses to help bring on labour:
6. How to bring on labour: Eat curry
The theory is that spicy foods stimulate the gut and bowel, which gets the uterus moving as a result. But there is no medical evidence to support this. Whilst you don’t want to be hungry going into labour, it might not be the best idea to have a stomach full of your favourite korma. Try some of our homemade curry recipes – they’re healthier too.
7. How to bring on labour: Walking
Going for a gentle walk produces labour-inducing chemicals, which can speed the process up. Walking also increases the pressure the baby’s head puts on the cervix and helps move it into the right position for labour. This is one of the safest methods to try – there’s no harm in a gentle stroll, but take your phone or have someone with you in case it works.
8. How to bring on labour: Try the Miles Circuit
The Miles Circuit was designed by an American midwife to help progress labour and get the baby lined up in the left occiput anterior (LOA) position both before and during labour. It involves a series of exercises which takes about 90 minutes to complete, including lying on your front with your bottom in the air, on your side cushioned by pillows, and walking up the stairs sideways.
9. How to bring on labour: Eat pineapple
Fresh pineapple contains the chemical bromelain which is thought to soften the cervix and potentially speed up early labour. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to back this up and you might have to eat seven fresh pineapples to feel the effects.
Try our easy pineapple recipes anyway. They’re delicious.
10. How to bring on labour: Bouncing around
Gentle bouncing helps bring the baby down and increases pressure on the cervix to kick start labour. Taking a bumpy car ride has been known to start contractions and Corrie’s Tina O’Brien even reported that bouncing on a trampoline helped bring on labour for her. If this sounds a little too gymnastic, a safer option is gently bouncing on a birth ball or try one of these birth ball exercises to help bring on labour:
11. How to bring on labour: Drink raspberry leaf tea
Raspberry leaf tea doesn’t actually induce labour, but it does help prepare the muscles of your womb for labour. Raspberry leaf tea is made from the leaves of the red raspberry plant, and is not to be confused with raspberry flavoured black tea. One study found that women who drank raspberry leaf tea in the last few weeks of their pregnancy had a faster second stage of labour than those who didn’t. It tastes like hot ribena, but if that’s not your thing, raspberry leaf can also be bought in capsule form.
11. Inhaling clary sage
Clary sage, or Salvia sclarea, is a powerful essential oil that’s thought to induce labour by increasing oxytocin. There is little controlled scientific evidence to support this, but many women and midwives swear by inhaling the oil on a handkerchief or in an aromatherapy burner before and during birth. Many birthing women find deep inhalations, candles, and gorgeous scents relaxing during the birthing process, so this may also contribute to the effect. Do not use clary sage before your due date.
Doula Bridget Teyler shares her tips for aromatherapy with clary sage, and a recipe for her secret Midwives Brew tea to help bring on labour:
Things to remember
- If you’ve had a healthy pregnancy, try to be patient. It’s easier said than done, but letting your body and the baby decide when he or she is ready to come out is more positive for everyone.
- Talk to your doctor or midwife before trying to induce labour with any of these methods, particularly if you’ve had complications during your pregnancy.