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Overdue? Ways to bring on labour naturally

People are full of suggestions when it comes to bringing on labour. Find out the theories behind them, and if they actually work.

Girl feeding heavily pregnant mother pineapple

When the end of your pregnancy is near, it can be tempting to think about ways to bring your labour on. At this stage, you’re probably desperate to meet your little one, and putting up with seemingly endless questions about whether the baby has arrived yet. This is also the point that people like to begin sharing their tips for inducing labour.

It seems that most people have an old wives’ tale or two tucked away for these occasions. And before you can ward them off, the advice begins. The ideas are varied, from castor oil and spicy curries, walking up and down stairs, to having sex in various positions.

As unusual as these ideas will sound, one or two have some basis in reality. It’s important to chat to your doctor or midwife and take their guidance on board before attempting any method. They will likely recommend a natural method. You may like to try one, or attempt a few in combination.

Read on to find out about some of the options, and whether there is any proof they actually work!

Membrane stripping

Your midwife or obstetrician might recommend membrane stripping to try and encourage labour. It’s sometimes called a ‘stretch and sweep’. During a vaginal examination, your practitioner will attempt to manually separate the amniotic sac from the area around your cervix. This procedure can feel uncomfortable, but can be an effective way to stimulate labour. It can be repeatedly daily if necessary.

What does the evidence say? Although it may not be recommended in ever case, studies show it is an effective and safe method to reduce the length of term in pregnancy.

More: What happens when your labour is medically induced? 

Nipple stimulation

There is some evidence to suggest nipple stimulation can help bring on labour. The theory is stimulating your nipples releases oxytocin, which is the hormone that kicks in to get labour going. Although, be prepared to stimulate your nipples for five minutes each hour, day and night for 72 hours for it to be effective!

Gentle exercise

Ever been told a good, long walk can bring on labour? While there isn’t much evidence either way, gentle exercise like walking, yoga or swimming can help reduce stress, maintain wellbeing and help keep those pregnancy hormones in check. So if your midwife or doctor gives you the all clear to hit the pool, pavement or yoga matt, why not?


What if the thing that got you pregnant could help to bring on the end of it?! Human sperm contains high levels of prostaglandin, a hormone-like substance that can help ripen the cervix and bring on labour. But does having sex actually work? A review of the evidence concludes that sex is associated with earlier onset of labour and reduced requirement for labour induction, although more evidence is needed. So, if your midwife or obstetrician says it’s safe, feel free to go for it!

Raspberry Leaf Tea

It’s said four cups a day of this herbal tea is a great way to help get your uterus ready for labour. While the evidence is still out, it shouldn’t do you any harm. You should be able to find it in the health food aisle of most supermarkets. Sweeten it with a little honey if you find it too bitter.

Fresh Pineapple

Don’t reach for a canned version! To get any benefit you’ll need to lay your hands on some fresh fruit. Pineapple has lots of bromelain, which is reputed to thin out or ripen your cervix. Again, the scientific jury is still out. But there is no harm in enjoying some tasty pineapple just in case!

Stress reduction

It’s thought that stress hormones can impede labour. Whether or not this is true, it’s good to be in a relaxed frame of mind during this time. Getting all of your preparation and important appointments sorted a few weeks before your due date will give you time to really focus on yourself. A healthy diet, meditation, time outside, warm baths, and doing things you enjoy can keep your mood elevated and even.

More: 5 tips for a less stressful labour

Natural therapies

Some women find that acupuncture and homeopathy can be of assistance. However, there still isn’t enough evidence to know if they are effective, or not.  It is especially important to seek medical advice before pursing any of these therapeutic avenues, and if you do go ahead, be sure to see a specialist in the field.

While you and your body prepare for labour it’s important to enjoy this time for yourself and take some time with your partner. Keep your medical professionals across any concerns you have, or anything that seems unusual to you, and make sure that you know how to separate the myths from the medicine!

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