What Are the Risks of Inducing Labor?
Generally, inducing labor is safe. The techniques used to induce labor shouldn't hurt, although they may cause your contractions to come on stronger and more often than they would naturally.
Inducing labor, especially with prostaglandins and Pitocin, may be more risky for women who have had a previous C-section or other surgery to the uterus. There is also a very small risk that the placenta will separate from the wall of the uterus (placental abruption) with these medications if the contractions become too intense. If the contractions are too strong, the doctor will reduce the dose of medication or stop it altogether.
Breaking the amniotic sac can lead to infection if you don't deliver within a day or two after your doctor tries to induce labor. In rare cases, the umbilical cord can slip out before the baby (prolapsed cord).
Can I Induce Labor Myself?
Tales abound of home remedies that supposedly bring on labor. Women past their due date have done everything from downing castor oil to rubbing their nipples to expedite the process. These methods can be uncomfortable, and there really isn't much scientific evidence to back them up.
Here is a rundown of a few popular home labor-induction methods:
Sexual intercourse. The idea is that sex can trigger contractions, both from the sperm (which contain prostaglandins) and from the woman's orgasm. However, research is lacking on the subject, and one study found that sex didn't have any effect on when a woman goes into labor.
Nipple stimulation. Stimulating the nipples releases the hormone oxytocin, which naturally triggers contractions, but the cervix must already be ripe for this to work. Too much nipple stimulation also can produce very strong contractions that can actually be dangerous to the baby.
Herbal remedies. A number of herbs, including blue cohosh and black cohosh, have been touted for triggering labor, but there isn't enough evidence to prove they work. What's more, herbs can be dangerous if not used properly, so don't take any herb for inducing labor without first talking to your doctor.
Castor oil. Research shows castor oil probably won't do anything to induce labor, but it probably will irritate your gastrointestinal tract enough to make you feel sick to your stomach.
Walking. It's always a good idea to stay active throughout your pregnancy, but studies haven't proved that walking can induce labor.
Unless your doctor feels that it's time to induce labor for medical reasons, it's always better to let nature take its course.