Congratulations! Pregnancy is nearly complete. It’s time to focus on the next important phase—labour. You have spent the better part of a year preparing for this moment, so you’re probably anxious to get on with it. Many expectant moms find the Braxton Hicks, pelvic pain, insomnia, and swollen feet just about unbearable toward the end of pregnancy, so the prospect of having your body back can very appealing. This is a great time to try and focus on what you can do to help reduce discomfort in your body and calm your mind. What about practicing mindfulness, getting a massage or going for a walk?
Will your baby arrive on time? Don’t bet on it! Only about five percent of babies actually arrive on their due date. Most healthcare professionals will tell you there isn’t much you can do to alter your baby’s schedule, and for good reason. There just hasn’t been enough research to conclusively prove the effectiveness of many natural labour inducers.
That being said, many people swear by a number of traditional methods to jump-start the process. Check with your doctor or midwife to make sure these are safe for you, then give them a try!
One sweet approach is pineapple, which has been shown to cause uterine contractions. Pineapple contains a proteolytic enzyme, bromelain, which is believed to soften the cervix and cause the uterus to contract. While there’s no scientific evidence that eating fresh pineapple or drinking pineapple juice will actually induce labour, it’s a pretty delicious way to pass the time.
If you don’t already have one, get yourself an exercise ball and start bouncing. Not only will it give your baby a gentle push, but doing small hip circles can help relax your pelvis and lower back. Squats can also help baby get deeper into position in your pelvis as well as help prepare your pelvis for delivery. Walking is also a great way to relieve stress and encourage baby to continue moving in the right direction.
You may be offered a membrane sweep (also known as a ‘stretch and sweep’) at your appointment this week with your healthcare provider. This procedure can lower your chance of going into post-term pregnancy (over 42 weeks) and decrease the length of pregnancy. It has been shown in research studies to also lower your chances of needing a formal or medicated induction. All music to a very pregnant woman’s ears, no doubt!
If you choose to do a sweep, as part of your internal pelvic exam, your doctor or midwife will insert a few lubricated fingers into your vagina. If your cervix is closed, they can massage or stretch around the neck of your cervix to stimulate the release of prostaglandins to encourage the cervix to open. If your cervix is open, your healthcare provider can sweep your membranes of the amniotic sac away from the cervix. This will also release prostaglandins. Many women do find this procedure uncomfortable, and it may cause some slight bleeding. Have your doctor or midwife discuss the pros and cons with you before you decide.
Don’t rely on the Hollywood clichés to recognize the signs of labour. Contractions will probably start before your water breaks, and you may not feel a dramatic gush, but rather a slow trickle. If your water breaks first, but you don’t feel any contractions, you may be advised to wait up to 24 hours to see if they start. However, if you’re GBS positive, your healthcare provider may deem it medically necessary to induce you.
Braxton Hicks contractions can also throw many first time mothers for a loop since they mimic actual contractions. The difference between Braxton Hicks and early contractions is that when you are in labour, your contractions will get more intense and closer together. There are lots of apps you can choose from if you want help timing your contractions on your smartphone. Make sure you know at what point you should be calling your doctor or midwife, and at what point you should be heading to the hospital. Generally, you’ll be asked to come in when your contractions come every five minutes, last about a minute, and are too strong to talk through.
Every pregnancy and baby is unique. Your baby’s measurements and milestones may vary from the information provided. Always refer to the advice of your healthcare professional.