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Articles : Pregnancy and Childbirth
Overdue: Natural Approach to Inducing Labor: Back to Articles
by Lauren Feder,MD

(Excerpt from Natural Pregnancy)

Midwife Ina May Gaskin writes, “According to the midwifery model of care, women’s bodies can generally be trusted to go into spontaneous labor.” Although I am in favor of natural childbirth and letting Mother Nature take her course, I realize there are times when a woman may need assistance. Sometimes practitioners may suggest more natural ways to start labor. Be sure to discuss this with your practitioner before beginning. If your practitioner feels the need to induce, consider the following natural approaches ahead of time.

Conventional Treatment
The medical model of care relies on the use of medications and methods used to induce labor, including sweeping the membranes, prostaglandins, and Pitocin. When a woman learns that there are natural approaches to inducing labor, many prefer to begin with them when possible (see Chapter 3).

 Home Treatment
• Nipple stimulation in late pregnancy encourages the release of oxytocin, the same hormone that causes uterine contractions in labor. After baby is born, these contractions slow bleeding and help the uterus return to its normal pre-pregnancy size. Breast stimulation can be done manually or orally, through massaging both nipple and areola (in an effort to imitate a baby sucking). In the hospital setting, nipple stimulation is also done using an electric breastfeeding pump.
• Sexual intercourse is another way to induce labor, in that a man’s semen provides a concentrated source of prostaglandins. This is the active ingredient in the medications Cervidil and Cytotec, which are used to induce labor by ripening the cervix. Unlike the synthetic prostaglandins, semen has no side effects (see Chapter 3, “Inducing Labor”). The effects of lovemaking are enhanced when combined with nipple stimulation.
• Walking: keep moving, but avoid overexertion.
• Castor oil is derived from the castor bean seed and has been used historically since the ancient Egyptians for such treatments as on skin and hair, and as a laxative. Known for its effects as a strong stimulant laxative, it has been used for generation to induce labor. Although the induction mechanisms are not known, the oil causes diarrhea by contracting the smooth muscles of the intestines which triggers uterine contractions, with the goal of inducing labor.  The dosage used at The Farm Midwifery Center is 1 tablespoon of castor oil, which can be added to eggs or juice in the morning. If needed, repeat one hour later. It is important to stay hydrated, especially if there is diarrhea.
• Acupuncture and acupressure have been used for centuries. Many women have used the pressure points with great success to induce labor, much of which can be done at home. See a Chinese medicine practitioner. If this is not possible, there is also information online.
• Seek out chiropractic care, osteopathy, or cranial sacral therapy with a practitioner who is trained in pregnancy treatments.
• Evening primrose oil is used by some midwives to ripen the cervix.
• Eat pineapple, vinegar, and spicy foods. In Los Angeles, many women frequent a restaurant known for its special balsamic vinaigrette in their pregnancy salad to help jump-start labor contractions in overdue moms.
• Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea.

Homeopathic Medicines
Take each homeopathic medicine daily. Take 3 pellets under the tongue, separated by at least 30 minutes apart.
• Arnica 12C or 30C  
• Caulophyllum 12C or 30C
• Cimicifuga 12C or 30C
• Gelsemium 12C or 30C
• Pulsatilla 12C or 30C

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