Both of my pregnancies went two weeks overdue, giving me plenty of time to explore the various methods that are supposed to get things started. One technique that definitely did have an effect with my son was acupuncture - I went for one session and could feel labour starting immediately afterwards. But who's to say that he wasn't on his way anyway?
Author Hollie Smith has been researching natural methods for starting labour for her new book, Pregnancy for Modern Girls.
"Rumour has it you might be able to put a rocket under your baby's arrival with one of the following methods. The only evidence that any of them work is anecdotal, rather than scientific. Still, you've nothing to lose (and in some cases, a fair bit of fun to be had) in trying. Steer clear of these altogether, though, if you've had any complications."
A hot curry
If eating spicy food does work as a way to bring on labour, it's probably something to do with a laxative effect that stimulates the uterus as well as the bowel. There's no real evidence that it works, but still, as you might not get to go for a curry for a while once your baby's born you may as well get one in while you can. Don't attempt to have a really hot one if you're not used to it – this isn't the time for a stomach upset.
The theory that some passionate lovemaking might bring on labour is based in scientific evidence. Sperm contains prostaglandin, which softens the cervix, while the hormone oxytocin – which stimulates contractions – is released when a woman comes. You shouldn't have sex once your waters have broken, though, because of the risk of infection.
Stimulation of the breasts aids the relase of oxytocin, the same stuff that flies around when you orgasm. The idea is to use your palm and rub both nipples and areola (the dark skin surrounding the nipple) in a circular motion. You also need to be pretty committed, since it's reckoned that you need this for an hour three times a day if it's actually going to work. That's a lot of tweaking.
This tropical fruit contains the enzyme bromelain which is said to boost production of prostaglandins. You'd have to eat it in large quantities to get enough of the stuff to be effective, and by then you're probably looking at the same sort of effect as a hot curry.
Rasberry leaf tea
Although this might be helpful in preparing the uterus for birth if taken in the last month or two (but no earlier) of pregnancy, it's a myth that a single dose or cup will trigger labour.
An old wives' favourite, and another method based on bowel stimulation, but not really to be recommended as castor oil tastes foul and could leave you nauseous, dehydrated and suffering from diarrhoea and painful cramps.
Reflexology, aromatherapy, homeopathy and acupuncture
Practitioners of all these alternative therapies claim they may provide a natural kickstart to labour. There's no scientific evidence to back these claims, but if you've got an open mind and want to give it a try, contact a qualified practitioner – and be prepared to pay.
Moving around and keeping upright could help for the simple reason that gravity might jiggle your baby further down towards your cervix. Take a stroll if you're up to it, but don't try anything too strenuous at this point – you need to save your energy!
Pregnancy for Modern Girls: The Naked Truth About Being Pregnant by Hollie Smith is available here from Amazon
Have you tried any of these? Did they work?
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