Pregnancy App Article: "Getting labour started"

Getting labour started
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When your due date arrives... but your baby doesn't
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Babies have a habit of doing their own thing and more than one in five of them will hang on until 41 weeks or later before making an appearance. So what's the rush? Well, there's considerable evidence that from 42 weeks gestation, the risk of stillbirth, while still low, increases significantly, along with the chance of the baby becoming distressed during labour and requiring an emergency c-section. 

And apart from that, 40 weeks is plenty long enough to be carrying around a little person inside you. So you're probably willing to try just about anything to get things moving.

We can't promise any of these will work - but at least they'll help pass the time...

Walking (or rather, waddling) is claimed to help. The reasoning being that by staying vertical, you're encouraging your baby's head to bear down on your cervix, which can stimulate the release of oxytocin - that all-important hormone for kicking off proceedings. 

But don't overdo it - you're going to need your energy for the birth itself... oh, and the next 21 years. 

Similarly, if you're late and your baby's breech or back-to-back, it's thought that getting down on all fours can help shift him or her into a more labour-friendly position.

Nipple stimulation
Oxytocin, a hormone that causes contractions, is released in the body when the breasts are stimulated. But don't just have a quick tweak - the trick is to mimic the suckling of a baby and massage the areola (the dark circle around your nipple).

The prostaglandins in the gels used to induce labour are very similar to hormones found in semen, so popular belief has it that sex can sometimes help. A nice natural way to get labour started - if you can be bothered.

If you can't face getting fruity, try eating some instead. Fresh tropical fruits like pineapple, kiwi, mango and papaya all contain enzymes that may cause mild contractions - pineapple especially, as it's rich in bromelain, which some studies suggest can help to soften the cervix.

Some women swear by a hot curry to get labour started. It's meant to stimulate your bowel, which is served by the same nerve pathways as the uterus. The risk is you could just end up with chronic indigestion.

Castor oil
Years ago this used to be prescribed by midwives, and supposedly does the same job as a curry. But it tastes foul, and having the runs during labour is miserable - to state the glaringly obvious.

Complementary therapies
Despite the popular (mis)conception, there's no evidence raspberry leaf tea can help with getting labour started. However, it's rich in nutrients and contains fragine, an alkaloid thought to help strengthen the uterine muscles, so it may help make contractions more effective once they eventually get going. But check with your midwife before you start guzzling gallons as, in some circumstances, it should be avoided. 

There's only anecdotal evidence to suggest reflexology can be used to get labour started or even help give a slow labour a kick up the backside, but it can be wonderfully soothing (and few things are by the very end of pregnancy). 

Again, scientific research is thin on the ground, but anecdotal evidence suggests acupuncture can help start labour. Additionally, it's thought to be useful for helping realign babies into an optimum birthing position, which can in itself help bring on labour.
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Walking and sex worked for me with both babies... obviously not at the same time though.
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Try not to hurry things along too much - enjoy these last few days of peace and quiet. Stock up on sleep - you'll need it.
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My NCT class teacher advised getting on all fours, which was kind of ironic... that was how I'd got into this state in the first place.
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I did ALL of these things and it still took gel, my waters being broken and a drip to get my labour started at 42 weeks. By the time I did actually go into labour I was bloody exhausted, so I really wish I hadn't bothered with all the effort and just put my feet up with a box of chocolates instead.
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Be careful: All complementary therapies should be approached with caution during pregnancy. Even something as non-invasive as nipple stimulation can actually cause the uterus to become overstimulated, which can lead to your baby receiving less oxygen, causing their heart rate to slow.

Discuss any complementary therapies you're considering with your midwife and, in the case of actual treatments, don't self-treat. Instead, seek advice from fully qualified, registered practitioners who are trained in treating pregnant women.
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