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What is Natural Induction?

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  • Written By: Amanda Piontek
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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Natural induction is a way that a pregnant woman can encourage her body to begin the process of labor and childbirth without the use of drugs or medications. The end of a pregnancy can be weary, uncomfortable, and even painful, and a woman who has passed her due date could be facing a medical induction at the recommendation of her care provider. When a woman is late in pregnancy and her body is ripe and favorable for labor, a natural induction method could be all that is needed to begin the process. A few common methods of natural labor induction are sex, the ingestion of herbs or castor oil, nipple stimulation, and sweeping the membranes.

A procedure known as stretching, stripping, or sweeping the membranes is one way a pregnant woman can encourage labor to begin. A stretch and sweep is often performed by the woman's care provider late in the pregnancy. The provider inserts a gloved finger into the woman's cervix, and the amniotic sac is separated from the uterus. This action causes hormones to be released, and could result in the start of labor contractions.

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Sexual intercourse is another commonly suggested method of natural induction. Semen contains high amounts of prostaglandins--substances that soften the cervix and prepare it to open. A pregnant woman who is unable or unwilling to engage in intercourse can collect semen and apply it to her cervix as an alternative. In addition to the benefits of the protaglandins, sexual intercourse encourages labor through the uterine contractions that occur during an orgasm.

Another non-invasive method of labor induction is nipple stimulation. Nipple stimulation causes the body to release the oxytocin hormone, which can result in contractions. A woman using the nipple stimulation method can do it manually or with the assistance of a breast pump. Encouraging labor in this manner has the potential to result in strong contractions, and it is important to take breaks in between periods of stimulation.

Natural induction in the form of herbs and castor oil has been around for generations. Herbs can stimulate and strengthen labor contractions as well as tone the uterus. Castor oil, on the other hand, causes diarrhea and intestinal cramping in the mother. This can trigger the uterus to cramp and contract as well, and lead to the beginning of labor.

It is critical to exercise caution and consult a medical professional before attempting natural induction of labor. Even natural methods carry risks that must be fully understood by the patient before an informed decision can be made. Ingesting herbs or castor oil could have consequences for the baby that a woman should review beforehand with her care provider. Likewise, nipple stimulation can result in very long, hard contractions that impact the baby and exhaust the mother. It is important for the pregnant woman and her doctor to discuss the benefits and risks of natural induction, and how they relate to her own personal, unique situation.

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