By its very nature, labor is an unpredictable and uncontrollable event. Babies typically arrive anywhere between 38 and 42 weeks and women are not considered \"overdue\" until after they reach the 42 week mark. Many health care providers start discussing induction from 39 weeks onwards despite the fact that very few women give birth on their due date. The majority of births takes place after the estimated due date.
Studies have shown that induction with Pitocin (the most commonly used drug to bring on labor in hospitals) is linked to a longer labor. Risks increase when the woman\'s cervix has not effaced and dilated yet. Women whose labor was induced are much more likely to end up with a c-section. Inductions pose risks to both mother and baby especially if carried out before \"term\". It is not uncommon for due dates to be miscalculated, and in those cases a premature birth can result in a baby with unripe lungs, who then needs a stay in the NICU.
Natural methods of inducing labor exist and may be more gentle than Pitocin in many cases. Just like Pitocin, many natural induction methods are not effective when the body is not ready. Natural inductions work best when a woman is ready to go into labor and a just needed final \"push\" in the right direction. Even natural induction methods pose risks and these should always be taken into consideration. Induction methods should always be used under the care of a midwife or Obstetrician.
The more popular natural induction methods include:
1) Castor oil. This is a substance that stimulates the prostaglandin, thereby encouraging contractions.
2) Acupressure or acupuncture are both potentially effective methods but they should be applied with great caution and strictly by professionals only.
3) Nipple stimulation or the use of a breast pump, which draws on oxytocin already present in the body to start contractions.
4) Vigorous physical activity or walks.
5) Black or blue cohosh. These are effective herbal tinctures that should only be provided by a midwife or herbalist.
6) Spicy foods. Eating spicy foods to induce labor is an unproven method, but it is said to work in much the same way as castor oil by increasing prostaglandin levels and starting contractions.
7) Sex and/or orgasm. Prostaglandin and oxytocin are powerful hormones that both stimulate contractions. Both of these are released during intercourse and female orgasm, which is why sex is said to have the potential to induce labor. This is not a method that should be used after the rupture of the amniotic sack, as it poses risk of infection.