Why does it seem like the last month of pregnancy lasts longer than the previous nine? My fellow moms – I absolutely get why you want to end it as soon as possible. The final weeks are uncomfortable and anxiety ridden. Waiting for the baby to arrive and FINALLY starting your maternity leave, plus meeting your baby is the most exciting day! It’s no wonder we want to rush to the end by inducing labor instead of allowing labor to begin naturally. Inducing labor is defined as: you or a care provider uses a drug or an action to cause labor to start before it starts on its own. Doctors and researchers don’t really understand how or why labor begins when it does, so the drugs and interventions don’t always result in labor actually beginning and progressing to delivery. One quarter of moms that are induced end up with a cesarean birth when labor stalls or goes on too long.
Researchers now believe the fetus actually signals the beginning of the labor process, possibly when the lungs have matured enough to take the first breath of air. The fetus likely signals a hormone release that relaxes the cervix and starts uterine contractions. Because of the complexity of the labor process, it is best to allow it to begin naturally even if your due date has come and past.
A due date can be misleading, the exact date of fertilization can be nearly impossible to know for sure. Also, just like babies reach milestones at different times, it’s normal to have a range of normal gestation. Anytime between 39 and 42 weeks is considered a safe time to deliver, and waiting for labor to start naturally is another reassuring signal your baby is ready to be born.
Doctors used to deliver babies earlier in pregnancy for their convenience and at mom’s request (if she was uncomfortable – what part of pregnancy IS comfortable??) Doctors noticed the number of babies that required special care for breathing problems, breastfeeding problems and inability to regulate their body temperature increased as babies were delivered earlier. The American Academy Of Pediatrics recommends waiting until 39 weeks to consider an induction. Read the AAP position statement here The Timing of Planned Delivery:Strengthening the Case for 39 Weeks
If you are thinking about trying to induce your labor at home, there are several things women have been told to try to get labor going. Unfortunately, none of the home remedies have been shown to be effective when reviewed by researchers.
- Hypnosis: not effective, compared with doing nothing
- Homeopathy: not effective, compared with doing nothing
- Sexual intercourse: not effective, compared with doing nothing
- Sweeping/stripping membranes (office procedure done with a vaginal exam): not effective, compared with doing nothing
- Acupuncture: not effective, compared with doing nothing
- Breast stimulation: increases the likelihood of starting labor, but more research is needed to understand safety (there are concerns that strong contractions could reduce oxygen flow to the fetus, although the study that raised this concern was done in women with high-risk pregnancies)
- Castor oil: effective at starting labor, but does not decrease the chance of having a C-section. Castor oil causes nausea and diarrhea in most women. More research is needed to understand safety.
If you feel the need to induce your labor or have any health concerns, talk with your doctor before trying any of these techniques. There are times when induction is the right choice for you and your baby.