About 60 out of 100 women give birth on or before their estimated due date. So the rest of the women are likely to experience a delay, for various reasons.
The reasons could be many such as an infection in the uterus, lack of growth of the baby at a steady pace, insufficient amniotic fluid, waters not breaking or medical factors such as hypertension and diabetes.
MomJunction shares different ways, from home remedies to medical assistance, to kick-start labor.
When Would You Ideally Go Into Labor?
Labor starts sometime between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy when the uterus painfully contracts and the cervix dilates. If it happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is referred to as preterm or premature birth.
Just before you enter labor, you might experience painful muscle tightening. However, the start of labor, the signs of labor and the length of labor differ from woman to woman and how the pregnancy is progressing.
When Do You Need To Speed Up Labor?
Your doctor will estimate the length of labor based on cervical dilation. The dilation is wide enough for the baby to descend when the cervix stretches up to 10cm. The active phase of labor begins when the cervix dilates to around 4cm
At this stage, contractions are more frequent and the rate of dilation increases by 1.2cm to 1.5cm per hour. But if that does not happen and the cervix is dilating slowly, at a rate of 0.5cm over a four-hour period, it is considered as slow labor and needs to be hastened.
Can You Speed Up Labor Without Medical Assistance?
Yes. If the baby is fine, the cervix is gradually opening up, and your doctor or midwife allows you to, then you can let the labor progress without any interventions. Stay in tune with your body and the baby, and you will be able to take it forward gently.
But if you are exhausted trying, then you should go for any alternative options suggested by the doctor.
Natural Ways To Speed Up Labor
At-home methods work most of the times, but not always. You can try and see if they will work for you. Some natural ways to speed up labor include:
- Change positions: Staying in a single place without much mobility might go against you. You need to change positions or postures for the baby to move into an optimal position for delivery. Moving around or getting into specific postures or positions can help the baby descend into the pelvis and apply pressure on the cervix. As you move, the baby adjusts to the best position to progress the labor.
- Take a walk: When you near your due date, walk frequently and allow gravity to do the work for you. It will also help the baby enter into the correct position for birth as it descends into the pelvic region. Movements such as rocking, swaying, and dancing will help decrease the pain too.
- Stimulate your breast: This releases oxytocin in the bloodstream which triggers contractions and speeds up labor. You can either massage your nipples using your fingers or use a breast pump. A warm shower with water falling and moving down the nipples will also stimulate the breasts. A breast pump will take around three hours to cause contractions.
- Relax in a warm shower: Sit or stand in a warm shower for relaxation. It will ease tension during the cervical dilation and contractions. Also, lying down in a warm bathtub helps, but you should have someone to help you with it. Listening to calming music during a spa, or visualizing tranquil places during deep breathing exercises can also be relaxing.
- Acupressure: Applying pressure on specific pressure points will stimulate contractions, and thus speed up the labor. Have someone help you with this technique, or you can get it done by an acupressure specialist. The three primary pressure points to focus on include:
- Spleen-6, located approximately four-finger width above the inner ankle bone (inside of your ankles).
Large intestine-4, located between the thumb and index finger on the backside of the hand .
Gallbladder-21 located slightly lateral to the spine and lies in the middle of the spinal process.
- Applying pressure on these points will also help subside the pain.
- Have sex: If you’re past the due date but the waters have not broken, having sexual intercourse can induce labor. Though there is no scientific evidence to support this, some recommend this as the seminal fluid contains the relaxin hormone which softens the cervix and stretches the pelvic floor to start the labor. Also, orgasms release oxytocin which stimulates contractions.
- Consume castor oil: Mix two ounces of castor oil with equal amounts of orange juice and one teaspoon of baking soda (since plain castor oil is not palatable). Drink it every half an hour, while reducing the quantity to one ounce. This promotes cervical dilation and thus stimulates contractions. It works in conjunction with other things, such as nipple stimulation, to speed up labor.
- Raspberry leaf tea: Fresh raspberry leaf tea is a traditional method to stimulate contractions and induce labor. Studies also found that it helps shorten the second stage of labor. If you cannot get fresh leaves, try using raspberry leaf capsules.
- Basil or oregano tea: These teas are emmenagogues (improve blood flow to the uterine region) and work for those who past their due date. They are excellent in speeding up or stimulating contractions. To make the tea, add either of the herb leaves to hot water and allow it to steep. You can also make a tea with both basil and oregano, with a piece of ginger.
- Aromatherapy: Essential oils such as lavender, frankincense, Roman chamomile, and mandarin will help you stay calm and relaxed. They may be used in the shower, massaged into the skin or inhaled through steam infusions. They reduce the pain, anxiety, and nausea, and also strengthen contractions.
- Check with your doctor or midwife before trying any of the above natural ways to speed up labor. You can also try some exercises to speed up labor and make the process less painful.
Exercises To Speed Up Labor