Congratulations! You are nearing the end of your pregnancy and soon it will be time to meet your baby. You have spent many months preparing for their arrival and now we wanted to give you some tips to help you prepare for birth.
Preparing Your Body for Labor
Numerous studies support the use of dates to help make your cervix more favorable, helping it soften and open in preparation for labor. Other small studies show that dates can modestly reduce the duration of early stages of labor and decrease the need for medical augmentation of labor with Pitocin, without adverse outcomes to mom or baby. The recommendation is around 80 grams of dates daily which is roughly equal to 3-4 medjool dates or 5-6 red dates. You can start this at 36 weeks gestation but be sure to not eat dates if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Can’t stomach dates? Try throwing them in a smoothie to disguise the flavor or texture if this isn’t for you.
Natural Induction of Labor
As you near the end of your third trimester, you often are tired, achy, and frankly, just over it. It is important to remember, however, that though you are ready, it is important that your baby is ready as well. This is why you should wait until 39 weeks before attempting any of the induction techniques outlined below. Also make sure you check with one of your providers before starting any induction techniques.
Nipple stimulation tells your body to produce a chemical, oxytocin, otherwise known as the happy hormone or pleasure hormone. This hormone also serves as a signal to your uterus to contract and is the key player in labor. You may have heard of its synthetic version, Pitocin, which is used for induction and augmentation of labor. Nipple stimulation has been demonstrated to potentially induce labor as well as shorten all stages of labor when used during labor itself. In a Turkish study published in 2015, women who underwent nipple stimulation during labor also were less likely to need a cesarian section. Nipple stimulation for the purposes of attempting to induce labor should be performed twice a day either manually or with a breast pump on a low to medium setting, and for only 5-15 minutes at a time. Be sure to save any colostrum you express by freezing it so you can feed this to your baby later.
The evidence on intercourse for induction is somewhat mixed, with some moderate evidence that shows it has potential benefits, without any potential for harm in an uncomplicated pregnancy. Semen contains prostaglandins which can help ripen the cervix while the act of sex itself can produce oxytocin, thus helping induce and shorten the duration of labor. While the exact frequency is not clear, at least three times a week seems to be beneficial.
The research here is a bit scant, with more studies needing to be conducted. There is a small amount of evidence that acupuncture can help with cervical ripening and without any negative effects to mom or baby. Make sure you are receiving care from a licensed acupuncturist.
Raspberry Leaf Tea
If tea is your thing, go for it. There is unfortunately no evidence that this is helpful in labor induction, but there is also no evidence that it is harmful.
There is evidence that demonstrates that a membrane sweep or “strip” can increase your odds of delivering by 41 weeks. If you desire to have this done after 38 weeks, please ask your provider if this is appropriate for you.
What NOT to Do
This causes diarrhea and dehydration and can be dangerous for both you and your baby.
This has mild blood thinning effects and some studies show it increases adverse outcomes for both mom and baby.
Black or Blue Cohosh
This has been associated with fetal heart failure and stroke as well as maternal complications.
So we have told you that your baby is breech. What can you do about it? In addition to external cephalic version, which you should discuss with one of your providers, there are some things you can do at home to potentially help turn your baby. Some of these techniques are outlined below, but be sure to visit SpinningBabies.com, which has video tutorials for you to view as well. The majority of these maneuvers involve making space inside your pelvis and abdomen to allow your baby the space to turn head down or “vertex.” You should NOT manually turn your baby yourself.