Birthing Basics part 2: Encouraging Labor

So as I said in my last post, I recently attended a baby shower.  As usual, a large part of the conversation was all the ways to get labor going.  There were lots of stories about things that people have heard over the years and personal stories.  I love learning new things, so I do listen to see if there is any new bit of information I hadn’t heard before.  Of course, being the detail and fact oriented person that I am, I end up trying to clarify to the soon-to-be-momma all the reasons behind the different techniques.  I am sure that I make a nuisance of myself in the process.  

According to my aunties, there are two basic categories of suggestions and techniques. 


Category 1- Things to eat and drink

It is amazing the things that I hear momma’s advised to eat.  Most of the are designed to make a lady very uncomfortable.  Spicy food didn’t faze me in the least, I eat it all the time, even pregnant, but some pregnant women get terrible heartburn from it.  I have never heard a reason why it could possibly work.  Drinking orange juice and castor oil will, apparently, cause intestinal cramping and will clear out your colon.  Clearing one’s colon is usually a part of labor, but I don’t know that it could jump-start labor.  Drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea helps tone the uterus and can be, according to my sources, safely done throughout pregnancy.  I have heard that it is actually a good supplement for all women, not just pregnant ones.  Now it is important to note that this is the tea made from soaking leaves from a red raspberry plant in hot water, not the raspberry flavored stuff they serve at restaurants.  The most useful advice I have heard is simply to continue to eat healthy nutritious food and drink plenty of water.  Labor is hard work and there is no reason to start it hungry or dehydrated.


Category 2-  Things to do

When I was pregnant, my dad kept wanting to take me on a motorcycle ride down a bumpy gravel road.  Again, why torture the pregnant woman?  I would have been incredibly uncomfortable and I would not have felt safe.  Fear and adrenaline have been proven in scientific studies to inhibit blood flow to the uterus.  That is bad.   A muscle with limited blood flow cannot work efficiently.  A muscle with limited blood flow HURTS!!!  


I am skipping a few things in the to do category, because I want to say more about them in a few minutes.  The truth is, labor starts when the pregnant uterus develops the chemical receptors and the chemicals of labor.  There are of course cases where labor starts because the momma’s body is no longer capable of supporting a baby, such as dehydration or infection.  That is not healthy for momma or baby and I would suggest avoiding such extremes.  But normal healthy women will not begin labor until the chemical receptors have developed in her uterus.  This does not occur suddenly on her due date.  As she approaches full-term, a few develop one day, then a few more the next.  The number new receptors developing each day grows until she has a sufficient amount.  There is, to my knowledge, absolutely nothing a mother or doctor can do to increase the number of receptors.

Once there are receptors, there needs to be labor chemicals.  The main one that is talked about is oxytocin.  This is also known as “the love hormone” and “the trust hormone”.  It makes you feel all loving and affectionate.  It also is the main hormone responsible for uterine contractions.  The body creates this whenever the baby is ready to be born.  No one knows exactly how or why.  The body also creates this in response to long hugs, nipple stimulation and orgasms.  That is why many people suggest loving intimacy with the dad-to-be.  If a uterus has sufficient receptors, the boost of oxytocin from sex or foreplay can start or speed up labor.  This hormone has been copied, sort of, be the medical community in the chemical Pitocin.  Pitocin also causes uterine contractions, but without creating the feelings of love and trust.  Many sources also claim that the contractions caused by Pitocin are much stronger, more painful, and more frequent than those caused by oxytocin.  The warning label on Pitocin also contains some very troubling side effects.

That is all I know about starting labor, but there are a few more things that could be added to this part of the discussion.  For a baby to be born, the cervix needs to soften and stretch.  There are chemicals called prostaglandins that can help with that.  Synthetic ones are often used by hospitals when women go in to be induced.  There are natural ones found in sperm and in some oils.  Prostaglandins can be applied topically or swallowed.

The final suggestion given when a women is ready to have that baby, is to walk.  Walking does not cause labor.  Walking as well as plenty of other exercise-like activities, helps get that baby into the best possible birthing position.  That does not just mean head down!!!!!!!  There is way more to it than just head down.  The opening of the hip bones is basically oval.  The baby’s head is also oval, but if it is not lined up just right with the oval parts matching, then much of labor will be spent with the uterus trying to shift the baby to a better position.  The crown of the head is much smaller than the broad part of the face so that baby’s chin needs to be tucked down against its chest.  There are pictures and illustrations on  So walking is in fact, very important to help have a quicker and more effective labor.  Other helpful physical activities are things like mopping on your hands and knees, stair steps, sitting on an exercise ball or a short stool, anything that will help you widen your hips or that helps get that baby away from your backbone.

Well, I think that is just about everything I currently know about going into labor and the advice pregnant moms are given about what to do to speed things up.  I just want to finish by repeating the fact that anxiety and fear causes chemicals which slow down labor and make it more painful.  Love and trust cause chemicals which speed up labor and make it more effective.





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