By Jessica Hudson
Labor Inducing Eggplant Parmesan
One of the methods of self-inducing labor that's been sweeping the internet in recent years is the myth that eggplant will start labor. This maternity myth started when a news story began circulating about a restaurant in Georgia named Scalini's. Apparently the mothers of over 300 babies have gone into labor in the past 23 years, within 48 hours of eating the eggplant parmegiana.
The funny part is, it may just be that the dish causes the women to go into labor, but it's not the eggplant. The herbs Oregano and Basil have properties that may cause contractions, though it is not yet known how or in what quantities. This is why, in aromatherapy circles, these herbs and essential oils are to be avoided whenever possible during pregnancy.
Sex to Induce Labor
Semen contains prostaglandins. Prostaglandins cause the cervix to "ripen", or soften and prepare to open. While it is debatable whether there are enough prostaglandins in semen to have any real effect, it is not a terrible way to keep hope alive and while away the last weeks of your pregnancy. Another great side effect is the fact that orgasms produce oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions. So, between the two, there is a pretty good case for the cure for pregnancy.
Evening Primrose Oil and Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Neither will actually induce labor. While some lay midwives will argue that statement about the Evening Primrose, which is the reason it is not recommended until 36 weeks or "full term", almost all sources with experience agree that it does nothing that the body was not ready to do on its own. I will repeat this at the end of this section, to make sure you understand this, as there is a lot of confusion and misconception surrounding these two substances.
Evening primrose oil is an excellent source of prostaglandins, which we already determined readies your cervix for labor. It can be taken orally as soon as 34 weeks, and can be applied directly to the cervix at full term (36 weeks). The general recommendation is two 500mg capsules per day until week 38, at which time you increase to 3-4 per day. The entire capsule can be inserted vaginally (inserted just before bed, it will dissolve before the first time you wake to use the bathroom), or you can use the oil on your fingers for your perineal massage, then also rub on your cervix (assuming you can reach it). Applying directly to the cervix is optimal, but the beneficial ingredients are absorbed through the external skin or the stomach also.
Red raspberry leaf tea is a uterine tonic used by Native Americans for thousands of years. It tones your uterus by helping to "focus" your Braxton Hicks contractions. Think of its job as helping your uterus do more effective exercising while you are pregnant. It does not "cause" contractions and can be safely used throughout pregnancy. It is contraindicated for those having complications "just in case", however, by most doctors who do not understand its use. Many women safely use it from the moment they learn they are pregnant at six weeks until months after delivery. (It helps to tone the uterus after delivery as well, shrinking it back to size more quickly and reducing bleeding.)
Again, neither of these actually causes labor to start!
Castor Oil to Bring on Labor
First let me just say that I do not recommend this method. That is because I used it with my second child and it was just about the most horrible mistake I could have made (other than maybe getting another epidural, anyway).
The theory behind this induction method is that the castor oil causes diarrhea and the diarrheal cramps cause sympathetic cramping in your uterus, another smooth muscle. This is another of the methods that "won't work if you're not already ready anyway", as the sympathetic cramping will be ineffectual if all conditions are not already optimal for labor. In my case, my contractions began 10 minutes after my first dose of oil, hours before the diarrhea began. Therefore, it could not have been the castor oil that brought on labor in my case, and I caused myself all that trouble for nothing.
There has been much debate over whether taking castor oil to induce labor will cause the baby to have its first bowel movement in the womb before birth. This pre-birth bowel movement, called meconium, can be dangerous, because if baby inhales some of it it can cause pneumonia in the lungs. Meconium is also a widely-held signal that the baby is in some sort of distress. Most professionals with any experience with castor oil inductions agree that this is untrue. They have found that there is no increased occurrence of meconium in castor oil induced labors over spontaneous labors.
The real danger lies in the mother when using castor oil for labor induction. With the severity of the diarrhea, a laboring woman can quickly become dehydrated. Especially in a typically highly managed hospital birth where a woman is allowed few fluids. Dehydration makes one tired and less able to endure through physical activity. Plus, not only does this endanger breastfeeding (proper hydration is necessary to make adequate milk), but a dehydrated uterus is an aggravated uterus, and an aggravated uterus causes more pain for the mother. More pain makes a woman less able to handle natural child birth and puts her and the baby at increased risk for a snowball of interventions.
Nipple Stimulation to Self-induce
This is a practice often recommended by midwives when a woman is long past due or when labor is stalled. Nipple stimulation causes the release of oxytocin, the same hormone that causes uterine contractions. Many women report, however, that the contractions produced from this method are much stronger and more painful than natural labor, but are not any more effective. Please note: In order to use this method for induction, you must stimulate the nipples for long periods of time. The usual recommendation is 15 minutes of continual stimulation on each nipple each hour for several hours. So, the amount of stimulation you may experience during intimacy, while nursing an older child, or while pumping your breasts while pregnant will not cause you to go into labor. The general recommendation on these activities is to abstain from them when your condition warrants doctor recommended pelvic rest. Otherwise, they are perfectly safe.
Acupressure/Acupuncture for Inducing or Augmenting Labor
There are two points on your body that will cause uterine contractions. They are always warned against during pregnancy, though they are widely believed to be another labor inducing method that will not work if you are not already ready to deliver. These points are about four finger-widths above the inner ankle on your calf, and in the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. You will know when you've found the spot because it will be very sore. You rub your calf, or pinch the webbing on your hand, in a circular motion for 30-60 second at a time, taking 1-2 minute breaks in between.
There is a procedure your doctor or midwife can perform called "stripping" or "sweeping" your membranes. The healthcare professional will insert their finger(s) into your cervix and sweep from side to side, pulling the membranes (bag of water) away from the mouth of the cervix and the lower uterus, and in the process stretching and irritating your cervix. Sometimes this will generate local production of prostaglandins and enough of the necessary hormones to start labor. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 attempts to begin labor. Many women find this to be a very uncomfortable, if not painful, procedure. This is a medical intervention and should be taken as seriously as any medical induction method.
Herbs and Homeopathic Remedies
All substances that would fall in this category, such as Blue and Black Cohosh are general considered to be as unsafe as medical interventions, and if they are to be used must be used only under the recommendation and supervision of your doctor or midwife.
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