A shortening of uterine muscles occurring at intervals before and during childbirth
Ask anything about contractions
Can rubbing my nipples cause labor?
When a woman's nipples are stimulated, her body releases the hormone oxytocin -- the same one that kicks off labor by causing the uterus to start contracting. (Pitocin, the drug that doctors used to induce labor, is a synthetic version of oxytocin.) Rubbing nipples may start contractions, but is unlikely to trigger actual labor unless her body is otherwise ready (your cervix is thinning and dilating, too, for example). What's more, very long or strong contractions from nipple stimulation can even be dangerous for your baby's heart. As vaginal labor requires uterine contractions to move the baby down the birth canal, many women use nipple stimulation to try to encourage these contractions. Should I try nipple stimulation? Whether you’re still waiting to reach your baby’s due date, or the 40-week mark has already come and gone, you might be curious about natural ways to induce labor. With your doctor’s approval, there are some ways you can get things rolling at home. One of the most effective things you can do is actually nipple stimulation. Here’s what you need to know about this practice, how to do it, and what questions you’ll want to ask your doctor. Note: If you have a high-risk pregnancy, nipple stimulation might be dangerous. Always talk to your doctor before trying any induction techniques. Is it safe to induce at home? In a study published in the journal Birth, 201 women were asked if they tried to induce labor naturally at home. Of the group, about half said they tried at least one method, such as eating spicy food or having sex. You should always speak to your doctor before trying any induction techniques. That being said, the majority of home induction methods aren’t backed by scientific evidence, so their effectiveness is mostly measured by anecdotal accounts. The effectiveness of nipple stimulation does have some solid scientific evidence. But depending on your medical history, the method may or may not be safe for you to try. If you’re concerned with going far past your due date, here are some questions you might want to ask your doctor: What monitoring do you use after 40 weeks? What types of natural or at-home induction methods do you recommend, if any? What types of induction methods do you perform medically if labor doesn’t begin on its own? At what point would you consider medically inducing labor if it doesn’t begin on its own? At what point do you recommend I come to the hospital once contractions begin? What’s the deal with nipple stimulation? Rubbing or rolling your nipples helps the body release oxytocin. Oxytocin plays a role in arousal, initiating labor, and bonding between mother and child. This hormone also makes the uterus contract after labor, helping it return to its prepregnancy size. Stimulating the breasts may also help bring on full labor by making contractions stronger and longer. In fact, in traditional inductions, doctors often use the drug Pitocin, which is a synthetic form of oxytocin. In a study published in Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing, a group of 390 Turkish pregnant women were randomly assigned to one of three groups during their labors: nipple stimulation, uterine stimulation, and control. The results were compelling. The women in the nipple stimulation group had the shortest durations of each phase of labor and delivery. According to the study, the average duration was 3.8 hours for the first phase (dilation), 16 minutes for the second phase (pushing and delivery), and five minutes for the third phase (delivery of the placenta). Even more interesting, none of the women in the nipple stimulation or uterine stimulation groups needed to have a cesarean delivery. By comparison, many women in the control group needed other induction methods, like synthetic oxytocin, to get things going. Over 8 percent of women in the control group had a cesarean delivery. How do I perform nipple stimulation? Before you get started, note that this method of labor stimulation is only recommended for normal pregnancies. Its effects in late pregnancy can be powerful. On the other hand, light or occasional sucking or tugging on breasts during earlier pregnancy is not likely to bring on labor. Step 1: Choose your tool For the best results, you want to mimic a baby’s latch as closely as you can. You can use your fingers, a breast pump, or even your partner’s mouth to stimulate your nipples. If you have an older baby or toddler who is still nursing, that might also provide good stimulation. Shop for a breast pump. Step 2: Focus on the areola The areola is the dark circle that surrounds your actual nipple. When babies nurse, they massage the areola, not just the nipple itself. Use your fingers or palm to gently rub your areola through thin clothing or directly on the skin. Step 3: Use care It is possible to get too much of a good thing. Follow these guidelines to prevent overstimulation: Focus on one breast at a time. Limit stimulation to just five minutes, and wait another 15 before trying again. Take a break from nipple stimulation during contractions. Stop nipple stimulation when contractions are three minutes apart or less, and one minute in length or longer. Always speak with your doctor before using nipple stimulation to induce labor. What are some other safe labor inducing techniques? You can also use nipple stimulation in combination with other natural labor inducing techniques. Most methods you’ll read about don’t have scientific backing, so don’t be discouraged if they don’t send you into the hospital in full labor soon after trying them. If you’re full-term and have your doctor’s permission, try the following: exercise sex spicy foods bumpy car ride evening primrose oil red raspberry leaf tea When should you head to the hospital? When the day comes, you’ll likely know you’re going into labor. You’ll feel your baby drop lower into your pelvis, lose your mucus plug, and you’ll probably start to get regular contractions. In the early stages of labor, these contractions may feel like dull pressure or mild discomfort. Start timing the contractions as soon as you notice them. In the early stages, contractions may be 5 to 20 minutes apart and last around 30 to 60 seconds. As you approach active labor, they’ll likely get stronger and more uncomfortable. The time between contractions will shorten to 2 to 4 minutes, and they’ll last between 60 and 90 seconds. If your water breaks before contractions begin, call your doctor to find out the next steps. Also let your doctor know if you experience any bleeding. Otherwise, you might consider heading to the hospital when your contractions have been just five minutes apart for over an hour. Your individual timeline will depend on a number of factors, so it’s best to always keep an open line of communication with your doctor. What’s the takeaway? The end of pregnancy can be a trying time. You may be uncomfortable, exhausted, and anxious to meet your baby. The good news is, no matter how you might feel, you won’t be pregnant forever. Speak with your doctor about what actions might be safe for you to try. Otherwise, try to have some patience, take care of yourself, and rest as much as you can before the marathon of labor begins. The bottom line Nipple stimulation is an effective way to induce labor, backed by scientific research. Massaging the nipples releases the hormone oxytocin in the body. This helps initiate labor and makes contractions longer and stronger. Speak with your doctor about whether nipple stimulation is safe for you to try. Feature Image Source
When does your labour really start? 6 early signs & symptoms
There are a number of different signs that may indicate that labour is not too far away. These can occur as much as a week or more before labour begins. You may also feel contractions that make you think you’re experiencing the real thing, but turn out to be practice contractions. Wondering whether you’ll know when you are in early labour? You can find a list of the most common signs of labour given below: Common Labour Signs Although every labour is different and there is no definite set of events, some common early signs of labour include: Lightening Your baby drops lower into your pelvis in the weeks or hours before labour. This is called lightening because you may find breathing a little easier as your baby will no longer be pressing against your diaphragm. On the other hand, you may feel like you need to urinate more often. A Change in Energy Levels You may be feeling extra tired or experiencing a sudden surge of energy in the days or weeks before labour. You might also have the urge to nest and get prepared for the baby. Bloody Show You might notice a thick, pinkish or blood-streaked discharge called a bloody show. This is the mucus plug that sealed your cervix during pregnancy. It usually appears within the two weeks before labour, although it’s not always noticeable. Water Breaking Water breaking is one of the most common labour signs, usually taking place up to a day before delivery (but sometimes only during active labour), when the amniotic sac ruptures and releases the fluid inside. You could experience a gush of water or just a trickle. If your water breaks, notify your doctor or midwife. Early Contractions These feel like menstrual cramps every 20 to 30 minutes, gradually becoming stronger and more frequent. When the contractions occur every three to five minutes, you’re in active labour. Time your contractions, or have someone time them for you. Diarrhoea Loose bowels could be an extra indicator that you’re going into labour. Definitely call your doctor or midwife if you notice bright red bleeding (not pale pink or dark brown), if your water breaks (especially if the fluid is green or brown or has a foul odour), if your baby is less active, or if you have a headache, vision problems, or sudden swelling, particularly in your face and hands. Also call your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms before 37 weeks when they could signal preterm labour. What to Do When in Early Labour Don’t panic if you only experience a few signs of labour approaching, because many women don’t notice all of them. If you think you are in labour, call your doctor or midwife, whether it’s day or night. Tell them your symptoms of labour, and keep in mind you may not need to go to the hospital immediately. Your doctor or midwife will give you guidance based on your labour signs and your individual situation. Realising you're in labour can bring feelings ranging from excitement to disbelief or apprehension. Try to stay calm and focused. Arrange to have your partner or a family member with you to help record labour symptoms, keep you company, and get you to the hospital when the time comes. How to Tell Real and False Labour Signs Apart In your third trimester you may get ‘false’ or ‘practice’ contractions known as Braxton Hicks. These contractions may feel like the real thing, but if they don’t get stronger and closer together or come with other signs of labour, there is no need to call your doctor. These practice contractions are just one of the ways your body prepares for labour and nothing to worry about. Keep an eye out for specific symptoms that point towards real labour, such as the bloody show or any of the symptoms above. But to help you tell the difference between true and false labour contractions at a glance, see our table below. True Labour False Labour Contractions are regular and follow a predictable pattern (such as every eight minutes). Contractions are irregular and unpredictable, occurring, for example, in intervals of ten minutes, then six minutes, two minutes, eight minutes, etc. You experience three types of progression: contractions become closer in time, longer, and stronger. No progression is seen over time in the closeness of the contraction intervals, length, or strength of the contractions. Each contraction is felt starting at the lower back, radiating around to the front, low in the groin. Contractions are felt as a generalised abdominal tightening. A change in activity or position will not slow or stop contractions. A change in activity or position may cause contractions to slow or stop. False labour pain can be triggered by a variety of causes, such as dehydration or a full bladder, or even when the mother and baby are active. But if you feel any of the symptoms of labour or notice that your contractions are getting closer together and more intense, then consult your healthcare provider. As you reach the end of your third trimester, the big day is coming up. To help you feel prepared, see our labour tips to help reduce any anxiety you may feel when you notice those early labour signs. You’re about to bring your baby into the world. You can do this! Content source Featured image source
7 Signs of labor: Know what to expect
Pre-labour, or, the early signs of labour include… Mood swings In the day or two before you go into labour, you may notice heightened anxiety, mood swings, weepiness, or a general sense of impatience. (This may be hard to distinguish from the usual 9-months-pregnant impatience, we know.) It can also manifest in extreme nesting. These may all be early signs of labour; your whole body is getting ready for the main event. Cramps One of the first signs of labour is actually a familiar feeling: the pain that comes with menstrual cramps. If you’re starting to feel those diffuse discomfort and pain in the abdomen, it may be a sign that active labour is just a few hours away. Intense lower back pain Along with those seemingly familiar cramps is intense lower back pain. Sure, the final weeks of carrying around a giant human (and its liquid sustenance sac) make your back permanently sore, but this is different level of pain. And for people who experience it, it usually starts at the same time as the cramps. Spotting Another sign that your baby might be ready to start the process of shimmying down the birth canal is light spotting or slightly brown or pink discharge. This happens because the cervix is shortening and the tissue is thinning to prepare for your baby’s exit from the womb. (You may have heard the term “bloody show”? This is it.) You may even be so lucky as to pass a “mucus plug,” which is just what it sounds like, and which was blocking the opening of the cervix to protect against infection. Once that plug comes off, it’s a clear sign that the baby is ready to come out. (Don’t confuse light spotting or brown discharge with actual bleeding — if you see a flow if blood, that’s something you need to call your doctor about.) Upset stomach A few hours before labour begins, you may also feel some digestive discomfort, and even have diarrhea. This upset stomach is your body’s (clever) way of preparing you for delivery (by evacuating anything that might get in the way). Water breaking Contrary to what movies tell us, this rarely occurs to women as a sudden deluge while they’re standing in the supermarket; the vast majority of women experience labour without their water ever breaking at home or in a public place. (It usually happens when you’re already at the hospital.) But, for the women who do experience some version of the rupturing of the membranes before they get to the hospital, this can be a trickle of clear liquid. (Some women wake up thinking they’ve wet the bed!) If you experience any form of water breaking, call your doctor. Because this is a sign that the amniotic sac has ruptured, you may be more susceptible to infection after it happens; depending on your medical history and pregnancy, your doctor may want to see you, or ask you to come to the hospital, after this happens. Regular contractions Finally, probably the clearest sign that you’re in labour is regular contractions. You’ll know you’re experiencing contractions because they escalate. Over time, these signs of labour will get stronger (read: more painful), and they will become more frequent. If you notice there’s a pattern, you’re definitely in labour. Advice varies on what stage of process requires you to be at the hospital (or seen by a midwife or other birthing support professional), so seek advice from your doctor or midwife about how close your contractions should be when you make that call (and get moving). You’ve probably heard about the fakeout called Braxton Hicks contractions. These are not signs of labour — they are thought to be part of the way the body is preparing for labour. The main difference between Braxton Hicks and “real” labour contractions is that Braxton Hicks are not as painful; they are not steady, consistent, and escalating; and finally, they occur mainly around your belly (it looks/feels almost like the area around your belly tightens) rather than an overall sensation around your abdomen. But most important to remember: Braxton Hicks contractions go away eventually, they don’t get worse. Feature Image Source