Those priceless words that mean that baby is, or should be, ready to be born. You’ve spent almost 10 months getting bigger and more uncomfortable and the chances are you now have an elbow in your bladder and a foot under your lungs making everything worse. Everyone you speak to will have their own advice to give about things that can induce labour, some more successful than others, so we thought we’d try to see if there is any truth behind any of the methods.
Raspberry Leaf Tea
The science bit: (from Wikipedia)
Traditional lore suggests that pregnant women use raspberry leaf tea, especially as an aid in delivery. However, scientific research has found no evidence to support this claim. While there is no evidence that raspberry leaf tea can help bring on labor, its nutrients have been found to strengthen the uterine muscles which could make contractions more efficient. Scientific facts indicate that raspberry leaf tea is indeed a healthy drink but none of these facts can substantiate claims of raspberry tea inducing labor.
Every Woman’s Herbal claims that raspberry leaf tea will enrich the mother’s milk, especially during periods when the baby is going through a growth spurt.
There is considerable discussion around the possible benefits of raspberry leaf tea taken late in pregnancy. The consensus seems to be that while taking raspberry leaf tea should not be expected to bring the onset of labour forward, it might shorten the second stage of labour. Most of the evidence available is anecdotal, and a recent scholarly review stressed concern at the lack of evidence for safety and efficacy and called recommendations of its use “questionable”.
The real-life experience:
Aly from Plus 2.4 says “I used Raspberry leaf with all my pregnancies from 34 weeks, drinking in copious amounts a few days before they were due, moving, and walking a mile home started my first. Sex for my second, both first two babies came on their due date.”
Conclusion? Well, it seems to be a help rather than a full on kick-start to labour. Drinking it can’t hurt, just don’t expect miracles!
The science bit: If we’re honest, we can’t find anything scientific to back this one up, the phrase ‘old wives tale’ is bandied about a lot when it comes to floor-scrubbing, but some people postulate it works because you put pressure on your pelvis because of being on all fours.
The real life experience:
Jenny from Cheetahs in my Shoes says “I couldn’t walk but was floor scrubbing as my DH was renovating his classic car and there was black gunk all over the place. It did me no good. I have cervix of steel too – induction took 6 days.”
Conclusion? Don’t get your scrubbing-brush out just yet…!
The science bit: Trusty ol’ Wikipedia again “The use of castor oil to induce labor is controversial. One study showed that women who receive castor oil have an increased likelihood of initiation of labor within 24 hours compared to women who receive no treatment( Following administration of castor oil, 30 of 52 women (57.7%) began active labor compared to 2 of 48 (4.2%) receiving no treatment). However, another study showed that castor oil had no effect on the time to birth in women whose pregnancy exceeds 40 weeks.
Castor oil, when ingested, triggers cramping in the bowel, making it an effective laxative. Thus, it is intended that such cramping extend to the uterus. In an overdue pregnancy in which the mother’s cervix is already effacing and partially dilated, this cramping can lead to labour contractions. The irregular, painful contractions of castor oil-induced labour can be stressful on the mother and foetus. It also leaves the labouring woman quite dehydrated as a result of the vomiting and diarrhoea which result when the recommended dose of castor oil for labour induction is taken—2 oz, or about 4 tbsp. This leaves her without access to the energy she could otherwise derive from food or drink throughout her labour process. Using castor oil for induction is not recommended without consulting a medical practitioner and is not recommended in a complex pregnancy.”
The real-life experience:
Mummy Barrow told me that a lady she knew “drank half a litre and when her son was born the next day he came out like a bar of soap, midwife nearly dropped him. But that could be a coincidence.”
Conclusion? Definitely seems to work but should be used with extreme care.
Now, the rumours here vary. Some say that straightforward sex is what you need to engage in, others say that it’s oral sex only you must imbibe the semen at the end for it to work. The latter sounds like a nasty rumour started by men, but who knows?!
The science bit: Two doctors have their say ”I tell my patients to do that all the time,” Harper says. Although there’s no proof sex can start labor, there is a good reason why it might. Harper says sex releases prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that are like the medications used to induce labor. And it won’t hurt to try!
“I think sex is a great idea,” Stein agrees. Make sure your water has not broken and your doctor or midwife has given you the green light. She adds that it’s important for the man to ejaculate inside the vagina. “This ejaculate contains prostaglandins which stimulate the cervix … possibly leading to contractions.”
In terms of fellatio: “As late as 1976, some doctors were advising women in the eighth and ninth months of pregnancy not to swallow semen lest it induce premature labour, even though it is now known to be safe.” however, it does appear to have a lot of other benefits: “
It has been suggested that fellatio may, through “immune modulation”, have a beneficial role in preventing dangerous complications during pregnancy, reducing specifically the risk ofmiscarriage and pre-eclampsia. Specifically, several research groups have reported that pre-eclampsia, a life threatening complication that sometimes arises in pregnancy, is much less frequent in couples who have practiced oral sex, and even more rare in couples where fellatio regularly ended with a woman’s swallowing of her partner’s semen.
The results were statistically significant and are consistent with the fact that semen contains several agents that have important roles in the prevention of pre-eclampsia, which may arise out of an immunological condition. According to that view, preeclampsia is caused by a failure of the mother to accept the fetus and placenta, which both contain “foreign” proteins from the father’s genes.
Regular exposure to the father’s semen helps cause immunological tolerance to their proteins. Other studies also found that, while any exposure to the partner’s sperm during sex appears to decrease the chances of various disorders, women in couples who have practiced “sex acts other than intercourse” are less than half as likely to suffer pre-eclampsia”
Kym from It’s All About Kym said “never worked for me. I was 6 days overdue and still went to 9 over and had to be induced but my cousins waters broke within a minute of having sex with her boyfriend! She was one day over her due date.
Mum in a Hurry said “ We tried it. Didn’t work though! I think I was at least due or maybe a week away. Both my kids were 10 days late.”
Finally, Jamillah from Bare Beginnings said “ashamed to say i pressured Rob into very nearly non-consensual sex when i was overdue with Seb, i cried and everything…” – well, deperate times call for desperate measures and all that!
Conclusion? Well, there’s science to back it up but the results are so varied, we couldn’t say a definite yes and it seems like a lot of bother when you’re that big and uncomfortable anyway!
The science bit: According to babycentre “Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain which is thought to help soften your cervix and bring on labour. Eating large amounts will probably stimulate your tummy, which could also stimulate your uterus.”
I once asked a doctor to explain the pineapple thing to me and he said that this, as well as the thinking behind curries and castor oil, is that it can basically cause diarrhoea, which causes your bowels and lower intestines to spasm, which can trick your uterus into also contracting.
Ruth from DorkyMum said “I ate an entire pineapple and all it gave me was a sore mouth :(“
Conclusion? Based on the lack of concrete science behind it and the subsequent lack of people flooding in and telling us how great pineapple worked for them, we’d give this a big fat thumbs down, especially if you’re suffering with gestational diabetes!
This post was inspired by the lovely Danielle at Blog by Baby who is desperate for her labour to get started so thank you to her and please, everyone send her lots of lovely cervix-softening, oxytocin laced thoughts!