With about 4 million births per year in the United States, at any given moment there are thousands of pregnant women who have just gone past their estimated due date. As a professional labor coach (doula) and the mother of a nine-month-old, I interact with these women regularly. I like to think of them as belonging to a certain sisterhood, in limbo together between 40 and 41 weeks pregnant.
The experience can be lonely though, in spite of, or perhaps because of the bevy of family and friends calling to ask “have you had your baby yet?” as well as the seeming casualness with which many obstetricians propose setting a date to start labor with drugs – in the past two decades, the rate of medical inductions increased by 140 percent.
According to a study published this month in the medical journal Birth, fifty percent of mothers surveyed tried to start their own labors when they believed pregnancy was taking too long.
I did. And this was after saying for years that self-inducing was something I saw no need to do.
For the 201 women in the Birth study, the most popular attempted methods were walking, sexual intercourse, eating spicy food, and nipple stimulation.
Some of these techniques have scientific evidence to support them. For example, an earlier study found that “only 6.9% of sexually active study women remained undelivered at 41 weeks of gestation, compared with 29.8% of abstinent women.” Since the hormones of birth and arousal are the same, a range of sexual activities could hasten labor when pregnancy is full-term. Continue reading