- When would you ideally go into labor?
- When do you need to speed up labor?
- Can you speed up labor without medical assistance?
- Natural ways to speed up labor
- Exercises to speed up labor
- Medical ways to speed up labor
Majority of the women go through labor on their own when they reach close to their due date of delivery. However, at times when the mother develops certain conditions like pregnancy induced hypertension, obstetric cholestasis (stagnation of bile is termed as cholestasis), skin rashes peculiar to pregnancy (PUPP or pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy) or the mother goes beyond her due date of delivery and still does not start labor pains, then in such cases labor needs to be induced.
When Would You Ideally Go Into Labor?
You are likely to get labor pains sometimes after 37 weeks as the fetus attains maturity after 37 weeks. Though, pregnant mothers do feel tightening of the tummy somewhere after the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, they are not intense and painful and do not come at regular intervals.
After around 37 weeks or more commonly at 38 or 39 weeks, the pains start coming at every 20 minutes, which is when you should go to the hospital. It is normal even if labor pains start a few days beyond the estimated date of delivery. One can wait even until 42 weeks but waiting beyond the delivery date would mandate close fetal monitoring with tests called nonstress test (NST) and sonography for the amniotic fluid index.
When Do You Need to Initiate or Accelerate Labor?
Labor is induced when the mother has not developed labor pains yet or is in the very early stages of labor and the cervix has not opened or minimally opened. Labor needs to be induced if the mother develops certain conditions as mentioned earlier in the post.
Labor is accelerating when the mother is already in active labor (which means the cervix is already opened). Acceleration of labor is done when the uterine contractions are poor and the cervical dilatation or opening of the cervix is not happening at the expected rate. The expected rate of dilation is around 1.2cm to 1.5cm per hour till it reaches full dilatation, which is 10cm. But if that does not happen and the cervix is dilating slowly, it is considered as slow labor and needs to be accelerated or hastened.
Can You Initiate or Accelerate Labor Without Medical Assistance?
Yes, it is possible and there are several ways to achieve this. However, it can also be done with medications.
[ Read: Ways To Induce Labor Naturally ]
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 (5).
- 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 (6).
- 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.
- 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 (5). 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) (8).
- Large intestine-4, located between the thumb and index finger on the backside of the hand (9).
- Gallbladder-21, located slightly lateral to the spine and lies in the middle of the spinal process (10).
Applying pressure on these points will also help subside the pain.
[ Read: How To Induce Labor With Acupressure ]
- Have sexual intercourse: If you’re past the due date but labor pains have not yet started, having sexual intercourse can induce labor. Though there is no scientific evidence to support this it releases substances called prostaglandins and the prostaglandin release initiates labor. In fact, the labor-inducing medicines contain prostaglandins. Also, orgasms release oxytocin, which stimulates contractions.
- Consume castor oil: Traditionally castor oil was given to kick start the labor. 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 (12).
- 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 (13).
- 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 (14).
- 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 (15).
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
If walking or other mild movements are not enough for stimulating contractions, you should try a few specific exercises such as:
They open up the pelvis, allowing the baby to put pressure on the cervix and promoting dilation. To squat, stand in an upright position, with the back straight and gradually lower yourself. Move down until you feel a burning sensation in the tummy. Now, get back to the standing position by pushing up the upper body. Keep your feet in a parallel position and have sufficient support when doing this (16).
[ Read: Does Eating Pineapple Help Induce Labor? ]
2. Birth ball exercises:
Spending time on an exercise ball will help induce labor. Sitting on the ball or rolling it to and fro while sitting on it, helps relax the hip and lower back muscles. Merely bouncing up and down makes the baby descend towards the pelvic region. These ball movements will make delivery effortless and quick. But make sure there is somebody to hold you while you are exercising.
3. Toilet sitting:
This will work wonders. Whether you are actually using the commode (to empty the bladder for making room for the baby to descend) or just sitting over it, this position helps in speeding up the labor (17).
4. Labor lunges:
Labor lunges are different from regular lunges. In this, you will open one leg and place it sideways. You can set your foot on a low chair or stool. Lunge (bend the knees) for some time and repeat with the other side. It helps the baby descend into the pelvic region (16).
Remember to check with your doctor before doing any of these exercises. Also, always have someone to help you with these exercises.
Medical Ways To Speed Up Labor
In most cases, medical intervention is ideal. The doctor uses any of the options mentioned below to promote contractions and thus speed up the labor.
- Stripping or sweeping of the membranes: If the amniotic sac is intact, and the waters have not broken, this technique will help. Your doctor or midwife will insert fingers into the cervix and peel off the membranes from the inner surface of the cervix. It triggers the uterus to release prostaglandins that dilate the cervix and stimulate contractions (18). This procedure causes a bit of discomfort but is tolerable.
- Medications: Your doctor or midwife will apply medicine to your cervix, or insert a suppository into the vagina for cervical dilation and stimulation of contractions.
- Misoprostol and dinoprostone are the commonly used prostaglandins. Enzyme hyaluronidase is also used in some cases (19).
- Synthetic oxytocin called Pitocin is another drug that is administered through IV to contractions and speed up labor (18).
Though you may be eager to have your baby, sometimes it just takes time to make a grand entry. So, if the doctor thinks you should wait, try to remain patient. It is better not to intervene if you and your baby are doing fine, and the labor is taking more time than expected. But, if there is a medical reason for the delay, talk to the doctor and pick the most suitable option to speed up labor.
[ Read: Foods To Induce Labor Naturally ]
Have you tried any of these ways, or know any other tricks of speeding up labor? Share your experiences in the below comments section.
2. What to Know During Your Pregnancy: Weeks 34-42; University of New Mexico
3. The Stages of Labor and Birth, What To Expect (Page 51-54); UW Medicine
4. Labour Delivery and Care Module: 1. Recognition of Normal Labour
5. What Factors Influence the Progression of Childbirth?; University of Minnesota
6. Labor; The University of Chicago Medicine
7. G. Demirel, H. Guler; The Effect of Uterine and Nipple Stimulation on Induction With Oxytocin and the Labor Process; Sigma Global Nursing Excellence (2015)
8. Acupressure Point SP6: Spleen 6 or San Yin Jiao; UCLA Health
9. Eight Essential Acupressure Points ; UCLA Health
10. Acupressure Point GB21: Gallbladder 21 or Jian Jing; UCLA Health
11. Kavanagh J, Kelly AJ, Thomas J.; Sexual intercourse for cervical ripening and induction of labour; NCBI(2001)
12. The Birth Partner: Everything You Need to Know to Help a Woman Through Childbirth(Page 152)
13. Handbook of Fertility: Nutrition, Diet, Lifestyle and Reproductive Health (Page 258)
14. Induce Labour
15. Supporting a Physiologic Approach to Pregnancy and Birth: A Practical Guide (Chapter 10)
16. The Complete Illustrated Birthing Companion (Chapter 10)
17. Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide (Page 289)
18. Induction of Labor; NC Women’s Hospital (2004)
19. H. Hadi, C. Hodson; Cervical Ripening and Labor Induction: A Current Review
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