Introduction: To begin this post, let me start by saying that for most healthy moms and babies, there is NO need to interfere and induce (“bring about or succeed in persuading something to happen”) labor. If you have done your homework, you know that induction can bring about a cascade of interventions that can ultimately result in a different outcome than you may be hoping for. I also want to make sure that you realize the importance of discussing even the possibility of “natural induction” with your care provider, as this person will have valuable information to consider in your particular situation.
With those disclaimers, I want to also mention that there are situations that arise where it is in the best interest of mom and/or baby to get labor started sooner rather than later. These factors can include increasing blood pressure, presence of concerning signs of liver stress, prodromal labor (mom getting exhausted from nights of contractions), nearing 42 weeks of pregnancy, PROM without labor, and more. There are also moms who, due to being high risk or under an OBGYN who has strict protocols, want a more “natural” alternative to encouraging baby’s eviction over the traditional route of Pitocin or other medical induction methods, and the higher risk of interventions that accompanies these inductions. For moms who fall under these categories, I want to share with you a protocol that I have been following that has had great success with those needing an option of induction at home or without medication.
One of the biggest keys to making a “natural induction” successful is preparation. You can’t decide today that you need to have a baby and have it work nearly as well as preparing ahead of time as signs arise. For more information on general preparation (which can help make a needed induction that much more successful), check out my post HERE. For this post, I’m going to detail specific suggestions for induction. Each of the things I’ll mention below can help your body prepare for labor, and may even encourage things to happen without needing to get more aggressive. I use these methods in this way: if there are reasons to encourage labor (such as knowing you have a hospital induction date scheduled, or are post-dates and need to deliver by a certain date), we start this protocol about 4-5 days before we absolutely need to get baby out. Also keep in mind that the more ready your body is, the more likely natural resources will work. To me, that is a reassuring aspect of using natural methods to encourage labor, as if your body is not ready, it will NOT work. And if it doesn’t work, you’ll need to be patient for awhile longer, which is so very different that using Pitocin, for instance, where it is turned up in increasing increments forcing the body into labor, and creating contractions that are much stronger than what the body can naturally produce on it’s own. Experiencing contractions here and there and having a higher Bishop’s score definitely increase your chances of these suggestions working.
Now on to the method (and remember throughout these days that frequent sex and vaginal insertion of evening primrose oil gel caps at night can also help!):
The “Midwives Brew” is a vast improvement over the old method I used in my early days as a midwife. Up until recently, when faced with the need to induce, we used the castor oil recipe that was basically 2 oz. of castor oil mixed with EmergenC (or some drink/shake) which was repeated 2-3 times with a dose every 1-1 ½ hours, for a total of 6oz of castor oil consumption. Do you know how nasty that is?!? And it causes massive diarrhea, which is a miserable way to start labor! But the midwives brew doesn’t work the same way. You can research it further online, but it includes just enough castor oil to cause contractions, but the theory is that the oil binds with the almost butter to keep it from making you miserable. I also feel like the minimal amount of castor oil in this recipe also makes it safer from any concerns of causing the baby to pass meconium in utero, which is another positive aspect. The crazy thing is that this recipe really does work if your body is ready for labor, and it actually has an 85% success rate (see the link above for more info).
- Day 1: MasterGland by Nature’s Sunshine taken in the following dosage: 2 capsules every half hour for 3 hours followed by 2 capsules every hour for 3-4 hours. Discontinue if you get a headache. This is an induction preparation method mentioned in Shonda Parker’s book “Naturally Healthy Pregnancy” with a quote from the book here.
- Day 2: Labor-Prep Capsules (such as these by Traditional Midwife @ Sunstone Formulas, though there are other similar brands available online) taken 2-4 capsules every hour for 6 hours.
- Day 3: Sip on Mama Natural’s Labor Day Tea throughout the day, and consider having a membrane sweep (sometimes referred to as stripping membranes) from your care provider.
- Day 4: Either repeat the previous cycle beginning with Day 1, or proceed with the Midwife’s Brew (recipe and information below).
- 10 oz Apricot juice (Goya brand Apricot Nectar found in the Mexican section of the grocery store works well)
- 8 oz. Lemon Verbena Tea (hard to find, but you can use 4 bags of Bigelow “I Love Lemon” tea steeped in 8 oz of hot water for 10-15 min. Alternatively, some midwives use 3-4 drops of Lemon Verbena essential oil such as this one.)
- 2 Tbl. Almond butter
- 2-3 Tbl. Castor oil
Blend ingredients together in blender until well combined. Some prefer this over ice, but I’ll be honest that when I tried it, it was easier for me to get it down at room temperature.
My suggestion is that you try to get some rest, eat a good breakfast, and then drink this mix around lunch time when your stomach is somewhat empty. A completely empty stomach can make it hard to handle, but if you’re too full you won’t be able to get it down either. It honestly isn’t as bad as it sounds, though it is a strange combination of flavors! After you’ve drank it, then eat whatever sounds good, and consider taking a good walk (avoid laying down for a bit until it’s settled).
Once you’ve taken this concoction, though, please be prepared! When this stuff works, it works much more gently than Pitocin, but it can cause efficient contractions…when I took it, my midwife missed my birth, and I almost didn’t make it home (a story for another day!). So learn from my experience, and don’t wait too long to get to the hospital or get your midwife on the way once contractions are consistent. Many of the moms I’ve seen take it end up with about 3-5 hour labors, though I’m not making any promises. Just wanting to not have anyone caught off guard!
So there you go! If you’ve used this method and it worked for you, I’d love to hear about it! Be sure to share this post with someone who might want to know that there are other (and much safer!) options out there than a medical induction, as this may help prevent them from heading down the cascade of interventions with their delivery!