It’s time for this baby to make an appearance. Only problem is it’s out of your control. Or is it? These are the common myths around bringing labour on and the science behind them.*
* There aren’t any medically proven ways to induce labour at home. Please always get advice from your midwife before trying anything.
Being upright helps your baby move down on to your cervix. Exercise will also get endorphins flowing, helping you relax and feel good about life. You can’t really go wrong with this one - just don’t tire yourself out. You need to conserve your energy for labour.
“I tried everything. The hottest curries, sex, driving down bumpy roads. Nothing worked! Once I started to feel things happening, walking definitely helped.” Gemma, mum of two
One small study showed that eating six dates a day in the final month of pregnancy may encourage your cervix to dilate, and therefore reduce the need for induction. You can take a look here. This research is from a small sample study though and would need to be carried out on a much larger scale to be conclusive!
“I started eating six dates a day four weeks before my due date. At 39 weeks, after a sweep, my contractions started in the afternoon and when I arrived at hospital the following morning, I was already 7cm dilated. Who knows whether the dates helped or not.” Karen, mum of two
Drinking raspberry leaf tea
This fruity tea won’t bring on labour but drinking it in your third trimester might help to tone the muscles of your womb, encouraging it to work more effectively. Don’t be tempted to glug gallons of the stuff in desperation if you go overdue - it may cause intense contractions and lead to your baby getting distressed. Women are advised to drink from 37 weeks only, and no more than three times daily.
Although all evidence is anecdotal (reported by mums instead of from research studies) and there’s no scientific proof to show therapies, such as acupuncture, reflexology and shiatsu, induce labour, they might help you relax, which could be just what your body needs. Some maternity units are starting to offer complementary therapies. Ask your midwife for more info.
“My hospital is experimenting with acupuncture, so I tried that. I also had a few curries, drank raspberry leaf tea and all the other obvious ones. I guess we’ll never know if anything particular worked or if our babies just wanted out!” Maria, mum of two
Eating spicy curries
The thinking behind this is that a hot curry might stimulate your bowel and in turn get your womb going. But in reality you might just end up with a nasty bout of indigestion and the runs - nice. On the other hand, perhaps any excuse for a tasty takeaway, or precious night out at your local curry house is a good one.
“Both mine were around a week early. With my son, we went out for a curry the night before my waters broke. It was probably a coincidence but who knows.” Aisha, mum of two
There's no denying it, the logistics of this can be tricky when you hit 40 weeks. There is some science behind this one though. Sex can encourage the release of the ‘love’ hormone oxytocin, needed to get labour kick-started. Semen also contains a hormone-like substance called prostaglandins, which may help to soften a ripen the cervix. Semen contains prostaglandins, which can help soften the cervix. But please avoid sex if your waters have broken because there’s a risk of infection.
“Admittedly my husband took some persuading but I was desperate to try anything. Sex didn’t bring on my labour, but it might have helped me get to sleep in those long, dark nights towards the end of pregnancy.” Sonja, mum of one
Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is thought to soften the cervix. You’d have to eat a whole lotta pineapple for it to have any effect, which probably wouldn’t be great for your poor tummy.
“I danced like a loon and ate loads of pineapple. I think you're supposed to eat about 12 whole pineapples to see any effect, which even for me would be a bit much.” Kate, mum of one
Stimulating your nipples
Mimicking a baby suckling by massaging the areola (dark part of your nipple) could help release oxytocin. However, you would need to commit to some serious nipple twiddling for long periods of time to have an impact. Not all that practical.
Blowing up balloons
Yep. No joke.The theory is the build up of abdominal pressure gets labour going. Again, there's no evidence that that this works.
“Someone suggested I try blowing up lots of balloons. I needed to pump up my gym ball so I did that by mouth. Four hours later my waters broke. It may just have been a complete coincidence.” Eva, mum of two
If none of it works...then what?
If your labour hasn't started naturally by 42 weeks you will be offered an induction. If you decide not to have it you should be offered increased monitoring as your baby has a higher risk of health problems, including stillbirth.
"I was terrified of induction, I went right to the limit of 42 weeks and then resigned myself to it. It was so fine, that in my next pregnancy, I was scared of going into labour naturally!" Emma, mum of two
Cutting the cord immediately after the birth has been routine practice for 50-60 years but more recently research is showing that it is not good for the baby.
Your waters can break before you go in to hospital but they are more likely to break during labour, or they can even be broken for you by your midwife to speed up your labour (a process known as artificial rupture of membranes).
Manage your anxieties about giving birth, with some helpful advice from mums who’ve been there.
The ideal position for your baby to be in for labour and birth is head down, their back towards the front of your stomach.
The membrane sweep is a drug-free way of helping to bring on labour when you are going past your due date.
The moment has arrived. Your contractions are regular and building up, and your baby is really on his or her way…
From contractions to your waters breaking, these are the typical signs that your body is getting ready for labour.
There are quite a few pain-relief options available and it’s good to know what they are before you go into labour.
ℹLast reviewed on April 1st, 2015. Next review date April 1st, 2018.