The art of childbirth is unfortunately very unpredictable. That due date that you have been waiting for so patiently can often arrive but forget to bring the baby with it! Due dates are just estimates and are not set in stone, in fact only 5% of babies actually arrive on their due date. Your baby will decide when they are ready to check out of the five star accommodation they are claiming squatter’s rights to.

The good news is maternity units in Ireland will not let you go any more than 2 weeks overdue, at or before this point depending on the hospital they will induce your labour.

The good news is maternity units in Ireland will not let you go any more than 2 weeks overdue

At 40 weeks and sometimes before, the Obstetrician or Midwife will do a Membrane Sweep. It sounds more dramatic than it is, basically they will do a vaginal examination and if the neck of the womb has opened they sweep their finger between the cervix and the membranes (Waters). This can help stimulate your hormones and get labour started. It’s not 100% effective and may work for some but not for others.

Some other ways of inducing labour are listed below so read on to see what works and what definitely doesn’t: (Garry et al 2000) (Kelly et al 2001)

Sex

Sex has often been suggested as an effective way to get labour started. When you orgasm it may help to stimulate the muscles of the uterus into action.  Sex can also trigger the release of oxytocin, this hormone is needed for labour and contractions will not commence without it. Semen has also been shown to contain high concentrations of prostaglandins which may help to ripen, or soften, the neck of the womb.

Is it safe?

Sex is safe as long as your waters have not broken. Once this has happened, making love may increase the risk of infection. If you have a low lying placenta (placenta praevia) or have had any vaginal bleeding during your pregnancy it is best to avoid sex as a means to inducing labour.(von Sydow 1999; Aston 1997 cited by Jackson 2004: 106)

Does it work?

There is very little evidence to say it does or doesn’t work… at least it will take your mind off the fact you are over due.  (Tan et al 2006) (Kavanagh et al 2001; Tan et al 2007; Schaffir 2006)

Long brisk walks

Walking has been said to help increase the pressure that your baby’s head is putting on your cervix and help stimulate the release of oxytocin the hormone which brings on contractions.

Is it safe?

Yes, walking is safe and is most effective for your body if done regularly through pregnancy and not just left until you are overdue. When you are overdue is not the time to decide to take up power walking but a gentle stroll will not do any harm.

what to do when you are overdue

Does it work?

Walking may not help to induce labour but it will certainly help your body during labour. If your baby’s head is high in your pelvis walking may help to get your baby’s head into a better position.

Hot curry

No evidence to support this one unfortunately. The theory is that the increase in body temperature can trick the body into thinking it’s time to have your baby but our bodies are not that easily fooled! It is also thought that it may stimulate the gut and bowel and therefore somehow stimulate uterus into labour.

Is it safe?

Spicy foods may cause you heartburn (CKS 2008) and, if you are not used to eating hot and spicy food it may irritate your bowel.

Does it work?

There is absolutely no evidence to support it but a lot of mothers swear by it.

Red raspberry leaf

Raspberry leaf tea will not bring on labour, this is a myth.

Is it safe?

Raspberry tea should only be consumed from 36 weeks on as it can have a stimulating effect on the muscles in the uterus. Start with one cup a day and gradually build up to a maximum of four cups daily.

Does it work?

The tea may help to strengthen the muscles in the uterus and this may help when labour begins but there is no evidence to suggest it will induce labour for you.
(Simpson et al 2001)

Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points of the body. According to traditional Chinese philosophy, this stimulates the energy within the body to act on a specific organ function or system.

Is it safe?

Acupuncture is generally considered safe in pregnancy (Harper et al 2006; Smith and Crowther 2004).

Does it work?

There is no definite evidence that Acupuncture will induce labour. (Smith and Crowther 2004)

And finally:

To help you cope with the lack of patience:

  • Arrange an activity each day, lunch with friends, trip to the cinema etc
  • Get a box set of your favourite TV series
  • Read books you probably won’t get time to do this once baby has arrived
  • Pamper yourself! Massage, manicure, pedicure, whatever you fancy
  • Yoga or meditation.

Carry maternity pads and wear your best underwear at all times, labour may begin or your waters may break at the most inconvenient time.

If you would like to chat about this further, contact our Careline.