Ways to avoid Induction - 10 natural ways to help start labour

Following on from my blogpost on Induction of Labour I thought I would share with you some ideas for ways you can avoid induction if you decide to say no.

First just a very quick recap:

There are many reasons why you might be offered an induction of labour but it’s important to understand the reasons behind why your Midwife/Doctor is offering you this procedure. It’s ok to ask questions, good ones to ask are:

  • Why am I being offered induction?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What’s the risks (to me or my baby?)
  • What happens if I choose not to be induced?
  • When you feel that you have all the facts you can then come to a decision.

If you decide to say no to an induction but are interested in exploring non-medical ways to nudge your body in the right direction or maybe you are experiencing a long latent phase of labour and you’re looking for ways to help things progress you may the following list helpful. Some therapies have research behind them to back up their effectiveness whereas others just rely on anecdotal evidence.

However, babies do come out when they are well and truly ready, so these methods will only stand a chance of working if your body is ready. These methods are not recommended before your due date unless specified.

As you read this list it is important to remember these 3 points:

1) Check with your midwife/doctor – it is important they give the all clear, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions. You should not be considering anything on this list if you have a high-risk pregnancy.

2) Use a qualified therapist – it is important to ensure your therapist has additional training/qualification in treating pregnant women.

3) Be informed – make sure you are well informed in regard to the details of each method, as research is ever changing.

10 Natural ways to help start labour

1) Sex:

There are a couple of reasons why having sex with your partner can help things to progress. Firstly, semen contains prostaglandins which can help ripen the neck of the womb. Secondly when you orgasm your body produces oxytocin – this hormone is a key player in labour as it causes the uterine muscles to contract and increases production of prostaglandins, which increase the contractions further.
If you don’t fancy the idea of sex don’t worry oxytocin can still be produced by cuddling and kissing! As a bonus all this loving and cuddling will help you to relax – as part of our inbuilt hormonal balance your body won’t go into labour if you are tense or anxious.

2) Acupuncture:

This traditional Chinese medicine involves the insertion of very fine needles into certain areas of the body. Mostly only one treatment is needed and if it’s going to work it generally works within 6-48hrs of treatment. Research shows that Acupuncture can help to soften the neck of the womb and has no ill side effects – however more research is needed to give scientific proof that this therapy can start labour.

3) Homeopathies:

Homoeopathy involves the use, in dilution, of substances which cause symptoms in their undiluted form. There are some homeopathic remedies available to help encourage labour, however these should only be considered after a consultation with a qualified homeopath. More research is needed to give scientific proof that taking these remedies can encourage the body into labour.

4) Nipple Stimulation:

Nipple stimulation causes the release of the hormone oxytocin which can lead to the ripening of the cervix and contractions. Research shows it can be beneficial at inducing labour in women at term who already have a favourable (ripe) cervix. However there have been some cases where it has caused women to be hyper stimulated (have too many contractions close together or contractions that last too long) and when this happens babies can become distressed. Due to this it would be worth leaving this option until you are trying to encourage a latent phase of labour and you have a Midwife present who could monitor baby’s heart rate.

5) Membrane Sweep:

This is usually done by your midwife at term. It involves a vaginal examination where your Midwife inserts a finger through the cervix (neck of your womb) & then moves their finger around 360 degrees to separate the membranes from your cervix. The process is done to stimulate the hormones that are involved in the labour process. Research shows it can lower your chances of needing a formal induction as by having it done at 41 weeks decreases the chances of going to 42 weeks from 41% to 23%. However, it can’t be done if your cervix is closed, it can painful and can cause bleeding after the procedure. It also brings a 1 in 10 risks of rupturing the membranes (breaking the waters) that surround baby which can lead to a longer labour or the need for a formal induction 24 hours later if you didn’t go into labour on your own.

6) Red Raspberry Leaf:

This is so common amongst pregnant women but actually when you look at the evidence the researchers don’t know how it works or even if it works! It’s thought to act as a uterine tonic rather than inducing labour so in other words when your womb contracts in labour it will be more effective thereby shortening labour but there is no proof of this! There is however lots of personal accounts on the internet for you to mull over. It’s available as a tea or can be taken in capsule form.

7) Induction Massage:

Again, there is no clear scientific proof that this works, but what a lovely way to celebrate your due date rather than being on edge all day wondering if things are going to happen! Massage will certainly help to relax body and mind and from a “fight or flight response” point of view it’s quite difficult for your body to labour if you are stressed. Depending on the therapist they may combine it with some acupressure that again doesn’t work according to the small amount of research that has been done, however it didn’t show to do any harm either so it’s up to you!

8) Reflexology:

Reflexology is based on the principle that there are areas and points on the feet, hands and ears that map via the nervous system to corresponding parts of the body. Although some research showed it had no effect, this research confirmed it brought great benefit to women.

9) Eat date fruit:

Research shows eating 6 date fruits per day for 4 weeks prior to birth can be helpful for ripening the cervix and reduce the need for the hormone drip to induce labour. Try adding them to a smoothie if you can face them whole. However, avoid this if you have gestational diabetes.

10) Walking:

Walking briskly for short distances is thought to help start labour, it certainly helps once you are in labour. Being in an upright position with the sway of walking can certainly encourage baby down further into the pelvis and the pressure against the cervix can help it to ripen. Some women have found walking up and down stairs sideways particularly useful. Remember not to overdo it though – we’re not talking a 5-mile hike!

Do not try this! There are some ideas out there that you may be tempted to try but I would urge you not to. Here’s a few that keep coming up: Castor Oil – this gives you extreme diarrhoea which may well start contractions – but who wants to be dealing with labour and diarrhoea at the same time! Plus, there’s a danger you will become dehydrated. Spicy foods/curry – this is the same theory as above –when you have diarrhoea your bowel is contracting in spasms, this can have a knock-on effect to cause the womb to contract too. Pineapple – this idea is popping up everywhere –suggesting that the prostaglandins in pineapple can soften the cervix. There is absolutely no evidence in this – so don’t waste your time!!

Thanks for reading

Jane – The Midwife

For more blogs on pregnancy, birth and life as a new mum please visit www.naturalbirthingcompany.com/blogs/news

If you are unsure about anything or have any concerns whilst pregnant please speak to your Midwife.





  • Napenias

    Interesting. Tried nipple stimulation for a week, membrane sweep twice; a week apart and still no labour. Am now 41weeks. Totally not sure what to do next.

  • Faith Muchika

    Thanks a lot hope it will help me….am 41 weeks pregnant and there is no sign of labour

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