Although you might have spent some of pregnancy anxious about the risk of going into labor early, research shows it’s actually much more common to go into labor after your due date! This “in-between” waiting period can be emotionally and physically challenging. We recommend that you lean into activities that help you reduce anxiety, increase physical comfort, and create space for the upcoming adventure of labor and birth. Although Oula encourages trusting your body to know when you are ready for labor, we also want to share some tried and true, evidence-based methods that can help your body to prepare.
Regardless of which methods you choose to explore, consistency is key. Pick a few of the suggestions below and try to do them every day for the rest of your pregnancy. If you are interested in learning more about the science and evidence behind these labor stimulation techniques, we recommend reading Aviva Romm’s article or listening to these podcasts from Evidence Based Birth.
Walking – brisk, long strides for at least 20 minutes. “Curb walking” is also a useful technique to bring the baby into the pelvis.
Birth Ball – hip circles with a wide stance for 20 minutes as opposed to bouncing on the ball.
Prenatal Yoga – whether this is a structured course at a studio, a YouTube video, or rounds of cat/cow that feel good on your back.
Spinning Babies daily circuit routine – highly recommended.
Bodywork – collaborating with a body worker is a great way to ensure pelvic alignment, intentional stretching of your round ligaments, as well as maximizing pressure points to stimulate labor.
The Miles Circuit – this is a more intensive circuit exercise. We recommend trying this when you are starting to feel early labor signs (cramping) and/or after 39 weeks of pregnancy.
Nipple stimulation: Nipple stimulation is recommended only if your provider has told you your cervix is already ripe, or if you are anticipating an imminent medical induction of labor. Use a breast pump, your hand, or have your partner assist. Check in with your Oula care team for support and advice before you begin nipple stimulation to confirm that this method is right for you.
Orgasms: while the common recommendation is penetrative sex due to prostaglandin presence in semen, orgasms through any route (oral sex, masturbation) and even cuddling or kissing can help stimulate oxytocin release, a key hormone for uterine contractions at full term and during labor.
Acupuncture, Acupressure and Shiatsu Massage: According to the medical literature review, acupressure & acupuncture, part of the ancient practice of Chinese medicine, may increase cervical ripening when utilized at 37+ weeks. Shiatsu, a Japanese technique that means “finger massage” may increase your chance of spontaneous labor. You can find this type of support from a licensed acupuncturist or Chinese medicine provider. If you are working with a doula, they may be trained in acupressure or Shiatsu and can provide this service or teach you to perform it on yourself at home. We recommend that you consider exploring acupressure or acupuncture at 37 weeks and Shiatsu massage at 39 weeks.
Perineal massage: While the evidence on efficacy is mixed, perineal massage may prevent or diminish the extent of vaginal tearing during birth. This is something you can do yourself, have a partner help with, or consult a pelvic floor therapist.
Things to Consume
Dates: Evidence supports eating 6 large dates a day beginning at 36+ weeks. Date ingestion has been shown to improve the Bishop Score, a tool used to assess your cervical readiness for labor. Be aware that dates can have very high sugar content — it’s best to consume them with protein and fat (like a nut butter!), and if you have Gestational Diabetes, please check in with your care provider first. If you’re getting tired of eating dates every day, you can try this fun recipe for a Snickers dupe or try making a date smoothie!
Evening Primrose Oil: 1000mg intravaginally at night time is recommended to support cervical readiness for labor. If you prefer, you can try 1000mg by mouth (500mg twice a day), however the evidence suggests that the most effective method is EPO placed into the vagina so that the cervix has direct exposure to this amino fatty acid. Research has shown that it may ripen your cervix, shorten labor, and reduce the need for a medical induction. We recommend that you initiate this intervention at 36+ weeks.
Castor oil – This laxative oil, made from beans of the Castor plant, can be very effective at inducing labor but often results in intense gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea and diarrhea, and does not always guarantee the onset of labor. Because it’s a much more direct and impactful method, we urge you to call the Oula provider on call before taking Castor Oil. We will coach you through important aspects such as when to take the dose (ie. first thing in the morning!) and confirm timing (which day to take it), as well as review hydration strategies.