In this guide to the natural induction of labour, I will go through methods that are often recommended from innocuous suggestion of eat certain foods to more extreme methods in the form of castor oil.

The first thing which can help you determine if any kind of induction will be successful is to know your Bishop Score. You would need a doctor or midwife to assess what your score is, but you should have a score of above 8 for an induction to have a good chance of success.

Pineapple

Pineapple which contains an enzyme called Bromelain which has been scientifically shown to have various medicinal properties, but the induction of labour is not one of them. This is simply because there aren’t a huge number of studies on the use of eating pineapple as a way of inducing labour, but many women have given anecdotal evidence of it’s efficacy. Bromelain is thought to act very much like prostaglandin in preparing the cervix for labour.

How to take it:

Only fresh Pineapple contains Bromelain, and it is found most concentrated in the stem (that hard crunchy bit in the middle). It is best to buy a whole pineapple and to cut it open and eat immediately to get the most Bromelain, as the enzymes are reduced once the fruit is cut. Canned, pre-cut or cooked pineapple will not contain the enzymes needed for induction to be successful.

One of the other downsides is that in order to get enough Bromelain for this method to work, it is estimated that one would need to eat approximately 7 pineapples.

Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)

Evening Primrose Oil is high in the omega 6 fatty acid gammalinolenic acid (GLA), which is readily converted in the body to prostaglandin E1. This is what the cervix needs in order to ripen and for labour to begin.

How to take it

EPO can be taken from 37 weeks gestation, either orally or vaginally. It is best to do so under the supervision of a homeopathic doctor, so as to ensure that you are a good candidate as they are not without risk.

Contraindications 

  • If you are on medication for schizophrenia 
  • Should be avoided by epileptics as it mayexacerbate a certain type of temporal lobe epilepsy. 
  • Should be avoided if you have a bleeding disorder   

Safety

·      Some studies have shown that women taking oral EPO have a higher risk of complications during labour and the need for intervention

Oral evening primrose oil: its effect on length of pregnancy and selected intrapartum outcomes in low-risk nulliparous women. - Study

Sexual Intimacy

Not only is this a great way to keep a couple bonded during the pregnancy, it’s a great stress reliever and certain things can actually promote labour. Orgasms in the mother help simulate the uterus to start contracting, prostaglandins are found in semen which help the cervix ripen, and nipple stimulation can also help the uterus to begin contracting.

Walking

Walking is a great way to start labour as it allows the baby’s head to stimulate the cervix in order to trigger contractions. Some people advise walking on uneven group and perhaps including going up a flight of stairs in order to help with the cervical stimulation.

Spicy Foods

Spicy food such as a hot curry is thought to help bring on contractions. Essentially how this works is that the hot curry can cause mild diarrhea that in turn can him stimulate the uterus to contract. The bowel and uterus are closely connected and the hormones that cause the bowel to move can have the same effect on the uterus.

Acupuncture / Acupressure

In order to have your labour induced by this method, it is best to see a trained professional for the best results. This is one of the only natural methods where there have also been clinical trails that have shown that acupuncture may stimulate the start of labour.

How it works

Acupuncture is an area of Traditional Chinese Medicine that focuses on the energy meridians of the body. By stimulation certain points in a meridian it can cause change in the flow of chi and help the body to work more effectively.

The Acupuncturist will place very thin needles into various points of the body and then stimulate them by moving the needles. The patient will then lie for some time with the needles in place. It is not usually a painful procedure but you may be aware of a “zing” sensation when the needles are inserted or moved.

Cape Town

I recommend Arnold Erasmus for acupuncture treatments and he has successfully helped many clients – from turning breeches to induction of labour.

Contact him via his website – Lao Kung

Castor Oil

Some controversy surrounds the use of Castor Oil as a method of inducing labour, with critics claiming that it is likely to cause distress in the baby (passing merconium), however there are no studies available to support this claim. It is a method that has been widely used within midwifery over many years with lots of anecdotal evidence of its safety as a labour inducer.

How it works

In 2012 it was discovered that the reason castor oil works to cause contractions was because of ricinoleic acid activating prostaglandin EP3 receptors in the uterus.

Castor Oil was primarily used as a laxative and it was thought that the upset stomach was what triggered contractions. We now know that Castor Oil itself has a direct effect on the uterus. (Castor oil induces laxation and uterus contraction via ricinoleic acid activating prostaglandin EP3 receptors – study)

How to take it

You need to take approximately one tablespoonful of Castor Oil. It has a rather vile taste so it is best to mix it with something that you drink down quickly. The most popular ways to take it are mixed with orange juice or as part of a smoothie.

This video is an example of someone doing a successful castor oil induction


 

The following are “semi-natural” methods of labour induction in that they don’t involve medication/chemicals in order to get labour started. They are, however, medical intervention that needs to be done by a qualified medical professional.

Stretch and Sweep

Also known as “Sweeping the Membranes” is when a midwife or doctor performs a cervical check, but during this he or she will attempt to separate the membrane of the amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus. During this process the cervix is also stretched out slightly. It can be rather uncomfortable procedure but has a good chance of success and is definitely a good first option if you are faced with needing a chemical induction as a next step.

Foley Catheter

This involved placing a deflated foley catheter through the cervix into the uterus. A foley catheter has a double lumen which allows a bubble at the tip to be inflated with air or water. This kind of catheter is normally used for the bladder when the catheter needs to stay in place. In this case it is being placed in the uterus and then inflated with water so that it pushes against the cervix in order to encourage the cervix to soften. It may also be gently pulled on in order to provide enough pressure against the cervix. Often if this method does not start labour, the cervix can be a lot more favorable if a chemical induction is needed.