It’s no picnic being full term, and going past your due date gives a whole new meaning to the word patience. The good news is that short of an induction, there are a few safe tricks you can try to get things moving. We can’t guarantee they’ll work, but most agree they’re worth a shot!
I clearly remember my babies’ due dates. The first one, especially, was circled on the calendar in red, like giant target: the day my whole life would change. As the third trimester trawled on, I panted and sweated and persevered, visualising that day like a finish line, when at last I’d find a certain measure of pain, but then relief, rest, and a bundle of new life in my arms. Needless to say, when that day, November 6th, came and went like any other (and the only bang that went off was the disappointing squeal and fizz of a few left over fireworks) I felt more than a little deflated – which is ironic really, considering I still looked like a dangerously over-inflated balloon. Due dates really can be a trap for young players. Please try and remember that body clocks have a rhythm of their own, that the equation is loosely 40 weeks, plus or minus a couple, and pretty soon nature will have it’s way.
So, what’s a girl to do in the meantime? Here at OHbaby! we acknowledge it’s a difficult time for you, perched precariously on the threshold of a whole new world, no longer able to fully participate in your old life, and but also unable to take your first steps into parenthood. Your bags are most likely packed, everyone has wished you well, and you’re reluctant to venture out in the world still in one piece. Our advice is firstly to have a good chat to your LMC so you fully understand what’s involved in an induction, should one be necessary, and read more about the induction process. Secondly, try and distract yourself – enjoy some quality time with your partner or loved ones, and rest as much as possible. But in the event that distraction is no longer possible, and for your own psychological well-being you feel like you need to be giving this baby a nudge, there are a few safe methods you can try.
Curry Butter chicken, rogan josh, tikka masala… you choose, but it’s generally understood that the hotter the better, as the whole idea is to get your bowel moving, to stimulate contractions in your uterus. Not a curry fan? Some overdue women eat licorice for the same reason.
Pineapple There’s not actually any scientific evidence behind this one, but some women believe the enzyme bromelain, which is found particularly in the core of fresh pineapples, can get labour started by softening the cervix. However you allegedly need to eat seven for this to work, which will mess with your digestive system, so it may actually be working on the same basis as the curry.
Sex triggers the release of oxytocin, (a hormone used along with syntocinon during the induction process) which causes contraction of the uterus. An orgasm could also help get labour going. Sex could also work because semen is similar to prostaglandin gel, which is used to soften the cervix during an induction. You may find sex awkward at this stage of the game, but it is safe and valid method to try.
Nipple stimulation This is a well-known method of encouraging or speeding up labour, but some sources say it only works if your cervix has already naturally softened. It works by triggering the release of oxytocin. The idea is to mimic the motion of a suckling newborn. Stimulate one nipple at a time for a minute, with a 2-4 minute break, and then repeat.
Walking Make it brisk. This works by helping baby to descend, putting pressure on the cervix. Another way to do this is a bumpy car ride.
Stretch and sweep, otherwise known as membrane stripping. Talk to your LMC about this option. It is a relatively simple medical procedure when a gloved finger is inserted into the opening of the cervix, and a circular motion used to try and separate the membrane of the amniotic sac from the cervix, releasing prostaglandin hormones.
Raspberry leaf tea has been used by some to try bring on labour, but the jury is out on how safe and effective it is during pregnancy. It’s more likely to tone the uterus than actually stimulating contraction.
Another old-fashioned method has been the consumption of castor oil, as it may stimulate prostaglandin production. But this is not something we recommend, as it is also a laxative, and an upset stomach is far from ideal at this point in time.
Researchers are still trying to put their finger on exactly what it is that triggers labour. Recent research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre suggests labour is initiated by the secretion of surfactant from the baby’s lungs (essential for breathing after birth) which causes an inflammatory response in the uterus.
A final word of wisdom from Margot Shutt, a mother of three with many years of experience as a midwife. “Make sure if you're going to go for a bumpy ride to the beach, then a long walk, coming home to have castor oil, curry and sex (and then staying up all night with diarrhoea!!) that all of these things may cause you to get very tired! Try not to go into labour exhausted if you can help it. You will need all the energy you can muster to deliver that baby. Just one or two of these things at a time is probably wisest.”