When the due date approaches, many expectant mothers are at the end of their tether. Woe betide when the contractions don’t want to start. "Home remedies" are supposed to shorten the wait.
- Jasmin Andresh
One of many methods to "help" the process of birth: Ultrasound from dolphins relaxes the child in the mother’s womb, they say in Peru. Really true – or just a placebo effect? (Image: MARTIN MEJIA)
When the due date approaches, many expectant mothers are at the end of their tether. Woe if then the contractions do not want to start. "Home remedies" are supposed to shorten the wait.
At the end of pregnancy, many women long for the birth to come. Much of what used to be effortless is now just a strain around the delivery date. Neither restful sleep is possible, nor can a woman bend over properly or move far away from a toilet. So how, many pregnant women ask themselves, can I help to finally induce labor??
Most tried running, sex, spicy foods or nipple massage, according to the survey.
Friends, acquaintances and doctors offer a variety of home remedies for those affected. According to a survey of 200 very pregnant women, about half of them actually resort to such home remedies in such situations – in the hope that things will finally start moving. Most tried running, sex, spicy food or nipple massage, according to the survey.
Some also said they exercise, take laxatives or use acupuncture. But with a woman around the fortieth week of pregnancy, it can naturally start at any moment.
Whether the contractions would have started anyway or were caused by something specific, you can’t really say afterwards. If one wanted to exclude the coincidence, one would have to proceed systematically, as usual in medicine: A large number of women try one and the same remedy. A similarly large group with comparable conditions does nothing about it. Then you can count at the end, in which group the children came earlier.
What to do if you miss a date?
We asked a medical doctor and a midwife about the desire of many women to influence the date of birth and the sense and nonsense of popular recommendations. Daniel Surbek from Basel, who is now a full professor and chief physician at the University Women’s Clinic at the Inselspital in Bern, distinguishes between the efforts of the pregnant woman to prepare the birth herself as well as possible and the induction of labor for medical reasons.
If there are reasons for an early birth, be it for the health of mother or child, one has to be absolutely sure and resort to medical measures. On the other hand, when it comes to labor support or a gentle induction of labor, there is nothing to say against trying one or the other. "Even if much of it is difficult for physicians to comprehend," says the gynecologist who collaborated on the new guideline on the "Procedure for missed appointments and transfer".
"Homo sapiens is not a precisely birthing being."
Renate Egelkraut, obstetrician
But is it at all sensible to trigger the start of childbirth from the outside without necessity? Renate Egelkraut, an obstetrician and state chairwoman of the North Rhine-Westphalia Midwives Association, points out that the duration of pregnancy has its purpose.
Expectant parents should also not fixate too much on the date once calculated. Because this is based on a statistical mean, which most children are not very impressed by. "Some animals have a gestation period predictable to the day. But Homo sapiens is not a precisely birthing being."The date is just a statistical time frame around which the baby is expected – plus, minus seven days, he said.
Whereas first-time mothers tend to have their babies later, and in some families children are often transferred, that is, only after 42. Being born in the first week of pregnancy. "Check with your mother and aunts," the longtime midwife advises pregnant women. This saves one from unnecessary anxiety when the baby is in the offing.
"Rather say at the end of October, or in autumn."
Egelkraut, the expert, would also keep the exact date vague in relation to the environment. "Rather say at the end of October, or in the fall."Because when the event is approaching, friends or relatives like to inquire daily whether there is anything new. And this unnecessarily increases the pressure.
On the other hand, some pregnant women themselves also want to be able to plan. The man should understandably be present at the birth. But the may only be available at a certain time, have to take leave or plan a business trip. From this perspective, it is quite understandable that women want to help out.
There are many methods to induce labor for home use, most of them have been handed down for a long time. But what is really useful and what can even be harmful??
From Daniel Surbek’s point of view, climbing stairs does little except cause effort and sweat. "While there have been studies that have measured labor after physical activity, none show that it works as a method of inducing labor."
It is true that very heavy physical load can cause labor at any stage of pregnancy. However, it is not advisable to provoke this, says the gynecologist.
It is said that a tampon soaked in clove oil, when placed in the right place, can also give the go-ahead. But according to the chief gynecologist in Bern, you can do without it, especially since it can irritate the vaginal mucosa or cause allergies.
- Homeopathy and acupuncture
These alternatives are also offered again and again for birth preparation. Despite isolated studies, it cannot be conclusively said whether this works or possibly does more harm. One must therefore ask whether the benefit of the application is really on the side of the recipient of the healing service, who has to reach into her own wallet for it.
Massage of the nipple
This massage targets oxytocin release, a hormone that is crucial to the birthing process. This has been proven to trigger uterine contractions. But whether rubbing the nipples can really start labor is not scientifically confirmed.
The "labor cocktail" that was highly touted, especially in the past, is a mixture of castor oil, fruit juice and alcohol. The intake leads to intestinal cramps and sometimes severe diarrhea. Unlike an enema, however, this does not stop after a few drains. The idea behind it: The strong movements of the intestinal muscles are supposed to activate the uterus. However, a review of all relevant studies by experts has recently revealed no evidence that castor oil induces birth faster than a placebo, i.e. an ineffective placebo.
It also remained unclear what an optimal dosage should look like. It was obvious, however, that most women felt nauseous after drinking. Considering that the woman needs all her strength for the birth, the method is not advisable.
Gynecologist Surbek advises against it for another reason: alcohol is harmful to the health of the unborn child and should generally be avoided during pregnancy. And this can lead to cramps in the intestines and uterus. Women report after such an experience that they had unbearable labor pains and fear of death. In addition, the baby can get too little oxygen, because the cramping uterus is no longer well supplied with blood. In addition, the gynecologist is convinced: "As a real induction of labor, this only works if the birth is imminent." So why not wait until nature takes its course?
Enema and food deprivation
Both are also aimed at stimulating intestinal activity, which is supposed to be transferred to the uterus, but are also unsecured. The attempt to lure the baby out of the womb through hunger – by the mother not eating enough – seems bizarre. In the clinic, an enema is usually given to induce labor; in this case, it is intended to remove blockages in order to give the baby full space in the pelvis at birth.
The hot bath is often tried, it is supposed to relax the muscles. It is also often part of the services offered in maternity clinics. "If it’s not too hot, it’s harmless and can have a relaxing, pain-relieving effect during labor," Surbek says. At home, however, someone should always be nearby, as pregnant women can quickly have blood rush to their extremities and cause fainting. Surbek encourages women who are only having painful contractions to go to a clinic. "It’s not a problem if you come once too often. Nobody resents that," he says.
Even before the birth it is clear who is in charge
In the end, the gynecologist and midwife agree on one thing: You can’t force the birth to begin in all cases. Therefore, all attempts only help if the body is already ready.
And also the conclusion of the scientists who interviewed the heavily pregnant women is: "Despite all the women’s attempts to initiate the birth themselves, it crystallized that this is something that mommy has no control over."According to researchers, the process begins when the fetus releases certain hormones. It is already clear at birth who will be in charge of the family in the future.