40 Weeks +1 – Spice up your life
Heard that old wives’ tale that eating a hot curry can trigger labour? Stimulating the stomach and bowels may in turn stimulate the cervix, but don’t go crazy with the curry powder. If you upset your tummy too much you could end up with diarrhoea – a hassle you’d rather do without if you then go into labour!
“It appears that labour can sometimes be triggered by an irritated bowel so you can try eating a spicy curry,” says Practical Parenting’s midwife Anne Richley. “However, you might just end up with heartburn and the runs.”
Try cooking up a small, mildly spiced curry and enjoy a night in with your partner – if nothing else it’ll pass the time.
40 Weeks +2 – Back to the bedroom
Having sex is thought to trigger labour, so it’s time for some fun. “Prostaglandin, found in semen, is very effective in encouraging the uterus to contract and it also helps in softening the cervix ready for labour,” says Peter Bowen-Simpkins, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
If you have an orgasm, too, it’s a double whammy because it causes the release of oxytocin, a hormone that encourages the uterus to contract.
“Having sex when you’re overdue is perfectly safe, just as long as your waters haven’t broken, you don’t have a low-lying placenta, or have experienced bleeding,” Peter adds.
40 Weeks +3 – Squatter’s rights
Doing squats from a standing to sitting position may well help your stubborn little one to budge – it will encourage him to move down your pelvis and for his head to engage, if he hasn’t done this already.
“I started doing squatting exercises to gentle music, but after I saw my daughter having so much fun on the dance mat, I decided to join in too,” says Lisa Burrows, 30, from Kent, mum to Harriet, 9, and Josh, 1. “A few hours later, my contractions started.”
40 Weeks +4 – Get the message
To reduce the number of friendly callers, record a message on your answer machine saying that you’ll be in touch as soon as you’ve got some news. This won’t trigger labour, but it’s a sanity saver – and if your little one decides to put in an appearance just after you’ve done it, what an ironic twist!
Why not use this day to get on top of your ironing as well? It’s almost 100 per cent guaranteed that this will fall by the wayside once your baby has arrived.
40 Weeks +5 – Time for reflection
Reflexologists work on reflex points in your feet, and it’s claimed the therapy may help to bring on labour. “During treatment, I use a stimulating technique on pressure points that relate to the uterus and pituitary gland, encouraging the natural release of the labour hormone oxytocin,” explains pregnancy reflexologist Helen Fowler. “Reflexology sessions can also help reduce stress, letting the body more effectively prepare for labour.”
40 Weeks +6 – Splish, splash
You probably won’t feel like swimming lengths, but some gentle exercise may well encourage your little one to get moving himself.
“When I was three days overdue, I went for a swim and tried jumping up and down and in the pool and racing from side to side,” recalls Stephanie Howe, 25, from East Sussex, mum to Reuben, 13 months. “Although it didn’t work, it was still good to get out of the house.”
40 Weeks +7 – Visit your midwife
Around 41 weeks – or sometimes slightly earlier if it’s your first baby – you’ll see your midwife who’ll check your dates and will also assess your baby’s size and position. Your cervix will be checked to see if it’s soft, stretchy and beginning to open.
Your midwife may offer you a membrane sweep – making circling movements with her fingers in your cervix to separate the membranes surrounding the baby. If your first sweep doesn’t trigger labour you can ask for additional sweeps.
40 Weeks +8 – Simulate to stimulate
It’s thought that stimulating your nipples will encourage the release of oxytocin – the hormone associated with inducing labour – so try lathering them when you’re in the bath.
In doing this, you’re simulating the sucking of a baby on your breast, so you need to massage the whole of your areola, not just the nipple.
“When I was a few days overdue, I started massaging my nipples in the day,” says Jessica Connolly, 33, from Berkshire, mum to Duncan, 8 months. “I set an alarm to remind me to massage one breast for a couple of minutes, every hour. The next day I went into labour. I’m not sure if that’s what triggered it, but it didn’t do me any harm trying.”
40 Weeks +9 – Put the kettle on
Raspberry tea is another of those remedies on which the jury is still out. Many mums-to-be take it when they’re overdue, but the correct time to start drinking it is actually in the last six to eight weeks of pregnancy.
There are no guarantees as to its success in triggering labour, however. Practical Parenting’s resident GP Dr Lowri Kew explains, “A small study found that mums-to-be who drank raspberry tea before their due date had a slight reduction in the length of the second (pushing) stage of labour, but there isn’t any evidence to suggest that it helps trigger labour once you’ve gone overdue. There have also been reports that it could affect blood pressure.”
If you do decide to drink raspberry tea, have a chat with your GP first. Don’t forget, there’s always normal tea, too – and taking a break with your feet up and a soothing cuppa definitely isn’t to be sniffed at.
40 Weeks +10 – Take a step back
You’re now a week-and-a-half overdue and probably feeling fed up, so take a step back from it all and chill. Why not organise a girly meet up like a DVD night – for a funny and uplifting movie watch Forgetting Sarah Marshall – or indulge in some online retail therapy?
40 Weeks +11 – Having a ball
When watching TV, try sitting on a birthing ball and gently rolling your hips around. Like squatting, bouncing around may encourage your baby to move down your pelvis and engage.
“Everyone told me that a birthing ball would be handy for comfortable labour positions, but I didn’t realise it could be so useful before the birth,” says Karen Davis, 35, from West Sussex, mum to Olivier, 9 months. “I was nine days overdue and was watching TV while bouncing on my ball. An hour later my waters broke.”
40 Weeks +12 – Pick up a pineapple
You may want to tuck into some delicious, fresh pineapple as it contains the enzyme bromelain, thought to help soften the cervix.
However, as each individual pineapple contains only a little of this enzyme, you would need to eat a huge number to experience any significant effect. And the problem is, if you do this you may trigger a spell of the runs.
Lesley Page, Professor of Midwifery at King’s College says, “I’m not aware of any evidence that pineapple can encourage labour to start, but it’s generally a healthy fruit for pregnant women and it won’t do any harm.”
40 Weeks +13 – Walk the walk
By now, if labour still hasn’t started, you ought to try going for a short walk. Just being upright means that gravity is working with you, encouraging your baby to move down into your cervix. Walking will also act as a useful distraction from the inevitability of your baby being induced if you don’t go into labour today.
“I went for lots of long walks when I went overdue,” says Emma Cunningham, 29, from Peterborough, mum to Kai, 4, Keira, 3, and Corey, 18 months, “but nothing happened. Then, 10 days after my due date, I came across a swing during my walk and after a few goes back and forth my contractions started. Corey was in my arms just two hours later.”
40 Weeks +14 – Induction time!
Most mums will be induced if their baby hasn’t arrived two weeks after their due date, but this can vary, depending on you and your baby’s individual circumstances.
Induction involves being given a gel, tablet or pessary, which contains prostaglandin, to kick start labour. If you’ve been given a tablet or gel, you’ll be re-examined after six hours – or 24 hours if you’ve had a pessary.
If your cervix opens enough, your midwife might try breaking your waters gently with a small hook. If none of this works you’ll be offered another dose of prostaglandin, the hormone oxytocin through a drip, or finally a caesarean.