As a Maternity Reflexologist I’m often asked what are the most effective ways to trigger labour and avoid going overdue. As the due date approaches many couples are eager for labour to begin so they can finally meet their little one.
Pregnancy is a very individual and personal journey, but most pregnant mums hope for a straight forward, short, natural delivery that happens close to their ‘due date’. In reality we have to accept the uncertainty around exactly when or how baby will arrive. It is always best to try and keep an open mind and ‘go with the flow’. But what can be done to maximise our chances of achieving the birth that we really want?
Spicy curries, cod liver oil, pineapple – there are many old wives tales about foods / supplements that may help trigger an overdue labour. Fresh pineapple, kiwi, mango and papaya all contain enzymes that may cause mild contractions – pineapple especially, as it’s rich in bromelain, which some studies suggest can help to soften the cervix. Problem is, you’d need to eat such a huge amount to have any chance of success.
In my opinion most of these, if enough is consumed, will likely cause a stomach upset which, if severe enough, just might trigger labour. However, think carefully about the pros and cons of starting labour with a major stomach upset which may also lead to dehydration!
Long walks / vigorous exercise – there’s no evidence to support the success of exercise in bringing on labour. Keeping active is great both physically and emotionally, but tiring yourself out with heavy exercise will deplete the energy that you’ll need during birthing. Much better to start your labour well rested and well hydrated.
Sex is another potential labour trigger. “OMG SEX!! Are you joking??” is a common response from heavily pregnant women and indeed their partners too. Whether to try this approach is clearly a very personal decision. Many will be pleased to hear that in fact there doesn’t appear to be any real evidence to support the success of sex as a labour trigger. However, there are good theoretical reasons as to why this might work. Sex releases prostaglandins which are hormone-like substances that are like the medications used to induce labor. It’s important for the man to ejaculate inside the vagina. This ejaculate contains prostaglandins which stimulate the cervix, possibly leading to contractions. You shouldn’t try this once your waters have broken as there’s an increased risk of infection.
Reflexology – Trials have found that those receiving regular Reflexology treatments during pregnancy tend to deliver closer to term, have shorter labours and are less likely to require medical intervention. Certainly my experience as a maternity reflexologist reflects this.
The results of a study at Walsall Manor Hospital Maternity Department show that, overall, the length of the first stage of labour was four hours shorter for the reflexology group, than of those in the control group of women who had not had reflexology. The second stage of labour, when the woman starts to push, was 21 minutes shorter. The study also discovered that more women who had received reflexology went into labour sooner and needed less pain relief than those without reflexology.
The best news of all? Reflexology feels great! It’s relaxing and has a soothing effect on both mind and body. Not only does it help prepare for a timely and straightforward birth, it is also a relaxing way to help manage both the physical and emotional pressures many experience during pregnancy.
Some specific benefits of pregnancy reflexology may include:
- Increasing energy levels
- Reducing fluid retention and swelling
- Aiding digestion and prevention of heartburn
- Improved sleep
- Relieving discomfort and back ache
- Reducing stress induced hypertension
- Relieving symptoms of symphysis pubis dysfunction
- Reducing the likelihood of medical induction at hospital
One of the reasons I love my job is the opportunity it provides me to help facilitate a really positive pregnancy and birth experience for so many wonderful women.
So, If you’re looking to induce labour naturally and fancy a night out on the tiles – clubbing, curry and sex, by all means feel free to give it a go. However, if you fancy a more relaxing, soothing approach with research to support its benefits, then why not book in for some Reflexology.