Top 10 Ways To Prepare For Labor
Eat spicy food. Or dates. Drink tea. Go on a walk. Have sex. Wait for it to storm, maybe your water will break!
Maybe your mom told you these things.
Maybe you googled to find ‘natural ways to stimulate labor.’ At this point you might be willing to try just about anything to get labor going because, “OH MY GOD, get this baby out of me. “
You may not love what I’m about to tell you, especially if you’re 41+ weeks pregnant, but:
Labor will begin on its own-- most likely when both you and baby are ready.
There’s no tried and true way to induce labor naturally. We don’t even really know what starts labor, if we did we would be able to stop it when it begins prematurely.
The good news is…
There are evidence-based ways to help PREPARE your body for labor so when it does happen you’re physically and mentally ready.
*As for storms causing your water to break there may be a connection! One study found a causal relationship between your water breaking, delivering and low barometric pressure.
10 ways to prep for labor
Exercise throughout the whole pregnancy (at least 3 times a week), but especially near the end. I know it’s hard to do ANYTHING at this point, but if you can just walk. It can be uncomfortable and you might have to pee every 5 minutes, but exercising uses gravity to help baby engage in the pelvis and puts pressure on the cervix to soften it. A recent randomized control study found that if you exercised in pregnancy it reduced the total duration of time in labor and were less likely to use an epidural.
Semen contains prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are a hormone-like substance known to soften the cervix and prepare it for labor.
3. Birth ball +Squats.
Bouncing or dancing on the ball puts gentle pressure on your cervix causing it to soften. It’s a great way to get your baby’s head to engage in the pelvis AND helps your baby face the right direction. Birth balls have been known to help turn a forward facing baby (sunny side up or posterior baby) into a downward facing (anterior) baby. It’s also a super comfy way to sit in late pregnancy because it strengthens and supports your lower back making your pelvis more symmetrical. Sitting on a birth ball is similar to squatting, but without the effort. Although, I’d recommend doing both! Squatting helps open the pelvis, align your baby’s head in the pelvis, and strengthens your legs for labor.
A chiropractor explained it to me like this- if you’re playing basketball and trying to make a shot, the ball will go in easier if the rim is straight. If the rim is crooked it makes it much more difficult for the ball to make it through the hoop. The same is true for our pelvis. During pregnancy the hormones that relax our ligaments, the weight of a baby and our shifting center of gravity can make our pelvis misaligned. Getting chiropractic adjustments in pregnancy can keep your pelvis centered, making it easier for baby to make its way through!
5. Spinning babies.
Spinning Babies is a website dedicated to helping moms and providers with fetal positioning. Birth is so much easier when baby is in the optimal position- chin tucked, face down, hands by baby’s side. You can check them out if you’re looking for some exercises and stretches that help get your kiddo in line. (https://spinningbabies.com)
6. Membrane sweeping.
This is something your provider can do once you’re 40 weeks pregnant. It does require a digital exam and can be uncomfortable. Your provider will introduce a finger into the cervical opening and sweep the membranes, detaching it from the lower uterine segment. Theoretically this will increase prostaglandins and soften the cervix or start labor. A randomized control trial found that membrane sweeping at the beginning of labor increased spontaneous vaginal delivery rate, reduced use of medications to augment labor, and shortened time to delivery. All that to say, membrane sweeping might not put you into labor, but once you’re in labor can help things move along a bit faster.
7. Meditation and yoga.
Meditation and yoga are noninvasive ways to prepare the mind and body for labor. It’s been found to alleviate labor pain and improve birth outcomes. Meditation has also been found to reduce postpartum depression in mothers.
-Red raspberry leaf tea is rich in iron and has been known to tone the uterus, increase milk production and ease labor pains.
-Evening primrose oil has been found to soften the cervix and reduce length of time in labor.
-Dates have been found to reduce the need for induction and augmentation of labour.
Doulas have been found to shorten the length of time in labor, decrease risk of c-section, improve maternal experience of birth. You can hire a professional doula, but if that’s not an option for you, any type of support during labor has been found to improve birth experience and shorten labor.
10. Breast stimulation.
One prospective study found a reduction in postdate pregnancies when women used breast stimulation at 39 weeks. Talk to your provider about this one before you initiate it as there are strict guidelines for how to do it- you don’t want too many contractions too close together! You can also use nipple stimulation when you are in labor to encourage more frequent contractions. This has been found to reduce length of time in labor.
Akutagawa, O., Nishi, H., Isaka, K. (2006). Spontaneous delivery is related to barometric pressure. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology25(4), 294-54.
Barakat, R. ,Franco, E., Perales, M., Lopez, C., Mottola, MF. (2018). Exercise during pregnancy is associated with a shorter duration of labor. A randomized clinical trial. European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reporductive Biology 224, 33-40.
Bonura, K., (2018). Just Breathe: Minduflness as pain management in pregnancy. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 33(1), 6-9.
Chethana, B., Raghunadan, C., Saili, A., Mondal, S., Saxena, P. (2018). Prenatal Yoga: Effects on Alleviation of Labor Pain and Birth Outcomes. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 24.
Demirel, G., and H. Guler (2015). The Effect of Uterine and Nipple Stimulation on Induction With Oxytocin and the Labor Process. Worldviews Evid Based Nurs 12(5): 273-280.
Tan, P.C., Jacob, R., Omar, S.Z. (2006). Membrane sweeping at initiation of formal labor induction. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 107, 569-577.