Natural Induction


It all started when they suggested induction...

One of the common pressures that pregnant mothers face is a pressure to have a baby on demand.


Sarah Buckley has written a beautiful paper on Ecstatic Birth (which you can access for free by signing up to her newsletter) – and it includes information on The Impact of Drugs and Procedures.

She stated that in Australia in 2002:
‘Approximately 26 percent of women had an induction of labour, and
another 19 percent have an augmentation–stimulation or speeding up of labour -through either artificial rupture of membranes or with synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin, Syntocinon).

According to Buckley, ‘we do not know the psychological effects of interference with the natural oxytocin system (through use of synthetic oxytocin) that nature prescribes for all mammalian species’.

She mentions French Obstetrician Michel Odent who speaks passionately about our society’s deficits in our capacity to love self and others, and he traces these problems back to the time around birth, particularly with the oxytocin system.


There are four main clinical ways to induce labour artificially (some or all of which may or may not be suitable, or offered to you):

  • artificial prostaglandin (gel or pessary)
  • artificial rupture of membranes (getting your waters broken)
  • Syntocinon Drip, and
  • Foley’s Catheter.

The Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice sheet - Let Labour Begin On Its Own explains more about artificial induction, and also provides information on Avoiding Interventions That Are Not Medically Necessary.


Whatever the reason for induction, you have the right to refuse, or be given the opportunity to kickstart your labour yourself using natural methods. I always recommend that before proceeding to do anything, that you weigh up the pros and cons and investigate alternatives, before making a decision. You may also want to consider that if your baby is not ready to come out, no natural induction method can force labour to start. Also keep in mind, that where only limited research has done – the findings are certainly not conclusive and do not mean that the method does not work, or will not work for you.

Breast (Nipple) Stimulation

The woman or her partner lightly strokes one or both nipples or massage her breasts to increase oxytocin release, thus augmenting contractions. Other regimens include using a breast pump.

A Cochrane review (Kavanaugh, Kelly & Thomas, 2005) ‘comparing breast stimulation with no treatment for labor induction found that breast stimulation increased the chances that women would go into labor within 3 days if they had a favourable cervix when they initiated it. This has also been shown to reduce postpartum hemorrhage rates.’

Sexual Intercourse

According to a Cochrane Review (Kavanagh, Kelly & Thomas, 2008):
‘The role of sexual intercourse as a method for induction of labour is uncertain.

Human sperm contains a high amount of prostaglandin, a hormone-like substance which ripens the cervix and helps labour to start. Sometimes it is necessary to help start labour and it has been suggested that sexual intercourse may be an effective means.

However, there is not enough evidence to show whether sexual intercourse is effective or to show how it compares with other methods. More research is needed.’


A Cochrane review (Smith, CA, 2010) found that here is not enough evidence to show the effect of homoeopathy for inducing labour.

‘Homoeopathy involves the use of diluted substances which in their undiluted form, cause certain symptoms. The principle is that a homoeopathic substance will stimulate the body and healing functions so that a state of balance is gained and symptoms are relieved.

The review of two trials, involving 133 women, found there was not enough evidence to show the effect of a homoeopathy as a method of induction. More research is needed.’



A Cochrane review (Smith & Crowther, 2012) found that there is insufficient evidence describing the efficacy of acupuncture to induce labour.

‘Induction of labour (getting labour started artificially) is common when the pregnancy is posing a greater risk to the pregnant woman or her unborn child. Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into specific energy points of the body and has been used to help induce labour and reduce labour pains.

The review included three trials involving 212 women. The evidence regarding the clinical effectiveness of this technique is limited, although small studies suggest women receiving acupuncture compared to standard obstetric care received fewer methods of induction. More research is needed.’

Despite the findings of the researchers documented above – I have attended women who have attempted some or all of the methods above with varying success.

I suggest that in consultation with your caregiver, any of the natural methods that appeal to you are worth a try, before moving on to the artificial induction methods.

If you would like to discuss having a doula at your birth, please contact me.