Your due date is here and you feel ready to pop…so why haven’t you gone into labor yet? Though it’s usually perfectly normal for pregnancy to continue an extra week or two past the 40-week “finish line,” it can be frustrating and a bit icky as your feet swell, your back hurts, you can’t sleep, and you feel hot and sweaty.

Past-due mamas: You’re not alone! About 35% of pregnancies extend past the due date. Since these mega-pregnancies are so common, women have long searched for ways to naturally induce labor. Here’s the lowdown.

Natural Ways to Induce Labor

Sexual Intercourse

Getting busy may not be at the top of your to-do list when you’re nine months pregnant, but there are reasons to believe that the activity that probably started your pregnancy could be the same one that helps finish it! For one thing, semen contains prostaglandins, which help ripen your cervix. For another, your orgasm creates rhythmic muscles spasms in your vagina, which could possibly help get your contractions going and act as a natural way to induce labor quickly.

Nipple Stimulation

Rubbing your nipples or stimulating them with a breast pump releases oxytocin, a hormone that helps your uterus contract. Though nipple stimulation is not a guaranteed fix, a 2005 study did determine that it’s beneficial to ripening the cervix, which is necessary for labor. So why hasn’t every about-to-pop pregnant person turned to this technique? Because for manual stimulation to naturally induce labor, you may need to do it for an hour a day…or longer! 

Walking to Help Induce Labor Naturally

Taking a walk is a popular way to get things moving—literally. Walking to bring on labor has never been studied, but some moms swear it is one of the best natural ways to induce labor. Whether walking really works or not, it’s healthy for your body and reduces stress, so go for it. 

Eating Dates

If you enjoy the sweet taste of date fruits, then you may want to snack on them in the weeks leading up to your due date. A study showed that women who ate six dates per day in the four weeks leading up to their due dates had higher rates of spontaneous labor and better cervical dilation than those who didn’t. But cross this one off your list if you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes—the extra sugar isn’t worth it. 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the oldest remedies for overdue pregnancies. It is said to help ripen the cervix, but medical studies have not yet proven that it actually works as a natural way to induce labor. If acupuncture is already part of your health regimen, it may certainly be worth a try!

Acupressure

If you’ve ever gotten a pedicure while pregnant, you may have noticed your aesthetician avoiding putting too much pressure on your inner ankle area. That’s because it’s thought to be an acupressure spot that can cause contractions in your uterus.  

Herbs and Supplements

There are many stories about using herbs and supplements to naturally induce labor, such as red raspberry leaf, evening primrose oil, castor oil, and black cohosh, but it is absolutely essential that you speak with your OB or midwife before taking any of these. Most practitioners do not recommend their use. These medicinal herbs have not been proven to work and some may have harmful side effects. For instance, castor oil can cause terrible diarrhea—definitely not what you want when you’re on the verge of giving birth!  

Spicy Foods

If you love hot peppers and tolerate them well, then there’s no harm in eating them while pregnant as a natural way to induce labor. But there’s not real science to back this old wives’ tale. Chowing down on really spicy foods could possibly get labor going by irritating your stomach enough to cause cramping…but who wants that? 

Prenatal Massage

The healing touch of massage can raise your body’s level of oxytocin, which is needed for labor to begin. If you enjoy getting a professional prenatal massage—typically laying on your side propped up on pillows—by all means, go for it. Relaxation is always a good idea! If not, cuddling with your partner may have the same beneficial effect.

Membrane Stripping

Also known as a cervical sweep, membrane stripping is a procedure in which your practitioner uses a gloved finger to separate the amniotic sac from the cervix. This process increases production of prostaglandins, which helps induce labor. Membrane stripping does not require medication, and it can help some women avoid a c-section or Pitocin. That said, it can be pretty uncomfortable. Discuss the pros and cons with your practitioner if you’re interested.

Final Thoughts on Natural Ways to Induce Labor

While an overdue pregnancy can be so frustrating, keep in mind that due dates are hardly an exact science. In general, it’s best to let babies tell us when they’re ready to greet the world. However, if you’re nearing 42 weeks, your doctor will discuss options with you for moving things along, perhaps with a labor induction. In the meantime, try to rest up in these final days…because soon you’ll have a new little one to care for!

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