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10 Ways to Kick-Start Labor Naturally

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There comes a time in every pregnancy when you want this baby out, NOW! If you've hit the 39-week mark, most practitioners will give you the go-ahead to try most of these natural, low-intervention, at-home labor-starters--from walking to drinking special tea. Check out these age-old, mom-held secrets - and good luck!

(And please know this is not medical advice - ask your health care provider before doing anything to encourage labor.)

1. Go for a Walk

Photo of a pregnant woman walking in nature on a beautiful spring day

The #1 recommendation for getting baby into position and ready to go is taking a long walk. Try not to walk so hard that you exhaust yourself—you still need your energy. Walking not only helps baby to move down, it also improves circulation and loosens your pelvis.

2. Balance on an Exercise Ball

Young Pregnant Woman Exercises At Home. Exercising with dumbbells on pilates ball in her living room

Some doctors and midwives will tell you to stop sitting on chairs in your last month of pregnancy. If you’re going to sit, sit on an exercise ball. Balancing on a ball helps to strengthen lower abdominal muscles, opens your pelvis, and takes pressure off of your sacrum—which all help baby to come on out.

3. Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

A beautiful African American woman in the 3rd trimester of her pregnancy rests in a recliner on her porch, enjoying a hot drink while anticipating her upcoming child birth. Horizontal image with copy space.

While it hasn’t been proven definitively that red raspberry leaf tea will induce labor, it is well known to help condition the uterus. Starting at 34 weeks, drink 3-4 cups of the tea daily. It might not make you go into labor immediately, but it may make your contractions stronger and your labor shorter.

4. Take Castor Oil

Close up background of a pile of oil capsules

This one is not for the faint of heart. Taking 2 tablespoons of castor oil mixed into juice or a smoothie will trigger diarrhea. It’s thought that the abdominal irritation from intestinal spasms will trigger uterine contractions. This trick has worked for many women, but due to the risk of dehydration, only try this with the approval of your OB or midwife.

5. Have Sex

Pregnant happy wife lying in bed with husband

You’ll probably need to get creative with positions, but this is definitely the most fun option. Orgasms cause uterine contractions—while they’re nothing like labor pains, it’s a good start to getting things going. As a bonus, your partner’s semen naturally has a compound in it that helps to soften the cervix. Get it on!

6. Try Nipple Stimulation

Happy pregnant woman with shopping bag in bright sunny day on the backyard, preparing to baby birth, enjoying last days of pregnancy

Stimulation of the nipples can cause your body to release some of the same hormones that flood your system during labor. While casual nipple stimulation (such as what you might expect if you’ve already tried having sex to start labor) may not kick-start things (though it's worth a try), using a breast pump for about an hour might help to get some contractions going.

7. Have Your Membranes Swept

Pregnant woman and her female doctor in a consultation. Woman holding ultrasound image and discussing with doctor.

This option definitely requires medical assistance.

If you have a pelvic exam at one of your last appointments, ask if you are dilated. If your cervix has begun to open, your midwife or OB will be able to sweep your membranes. The procedure is uncomfortable as it involves your caregiver running their finger along the inside of your cervix, pulling it away from the amniotic sac, and then stretching your cervix open. Bleeding is a normal side effect, but labor often starts within a few days of having your membranes swept.

8. Go for Acupuncture

Doctor that the acupuncture treatment to the patient's arm

There are trigger points on your ankles, back, and hands that are known to help with labor. If you’re wary of needles, acupressure—the stimulation of these points without getting poked—can be just as effective. A reputable acupuncturist will not trigger these points until 38 weeks.

9. Do Some Yoga

Ethnic pregnant mother doing yoga with her young toddler at home

There are many prenatal yoga programs available. If you can’t find a class in your area, check online or at your local library for recorded lessons. It’s an excellent idea to stick to a yoga program for the duration of your pregnancy, but any amount helps. In the final stretch of pregnancy, yoga can help align your body, and baby, into optimal position.

10. Eat Something

Pregnant young woman at refrigerator choosing healthy food

Well, not just anything, but one of the foods that are thought to jump start labor. Pineapple, eggplant parmigiana, and spicy foods all have a reputation for getting things going in the right direction. If it doesn’t work, at least you got to eat something delicious!

 
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