You patiently await your due date, eyeing it on your calendar and instructing loved ones to prepare for it days in advance. But when the date comes and goes with nary a contraction, you might be tempted to take matters into your own hands.
“I see a lot of women who are tired of being pregnant, want it to be over and ask, ‘What else can I do?’ ” says Jonathan Schaffir, M.D., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus.
According to a study by Schaffir and his colleagues, more than half of pregnant women turn to nonpharmacological approaches to hasten labor as they approach or go past their due dates, but fewer than half tell their doctors or midwives what they’re up to. That’s troubling, doctors and midwives say, because although some folk methods may work, some come with unintended consequences.
Critical fetal development continues to take place even in the final weeks of gestation, Hill- Karbowski says. So despite the nagging backaches, sleepless nights and countless bathroom trips, moms-to-be are advised to wait until after 39 weeks pregnant before considering any induction methods (including pharmacological) unless an induction is medically indicated.
Even then, you should know the pros and cons of each method and discuss them with your health care provider. Here’s a look:
Prolonged breast stimulation prompts the pituitary gland to release contraction-inducing oxytocin, the same powerful hormone that initiates your milk let-down response and can lead to severe cramps when a newborn suckles. Its synthetic form, Pitocin, is the most common drug used to induce labor, and studies indicate that stimulating it naturally can be effective as well. A Cochrane Database review that included 719 women at 37 weeks pregnant or beyond found that nearly 40 percent of those who stimulated their nipples for one to three hours daily had their babies within three days, while only 6 percent of the control group gave birth.