I don’t want to go overdue. What can I do to help labour start?
Your baby should ideally deliver between 37 and 41 weeks pregnant. However not everyone does go into labour on their own, sometimes labour does not start. Your midwife or doctor may recommend inducing you. Research suggests that the afterbirth (placenta) may gradually reduce efficiency after 41 weeks of pregnancy. This is why many hospitals offer to induce (start labour) for women when they are between 41 and 42 weeks pregnant.
A membrane sweep is an internal vaginal examination performed by a midwife or doctor. It involves placing a finger inside your cervix, which is the neck of the womb, and then in a circular motion trying to lift the membranes away from the cervix. It can be a little uncomfortable and cause a period pain sensation. The internal examination by your midwife usually would work within 48 hours. This can be repeated again after a couple of days and is thought to make the induction process easier even if it never got you into labour.
NICE-National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidelines on induction of labour in 2001 (www.nice.org.uk). If there are no medical or social concerns, women should not be induced before 40 weeks and 12 days 1. NICE suggests alternative practices such as a vaginal sweep before a medical induction.
Other methods that woman have tried, although these have not been proven to work for everyone include homeopathy (Caulophyllum remedy), acupuncture, breast stimulation, sexual intercourse, raspberry leaf tea, spicy food, castor oil and long walks. You should discuss all your options with your midwife before deciding on how to progress.
Once you have had your stretch and sweep your midwife will be able to let you know what would be the expected way of inducing you depending upon her findings. Try to be aware of your baby’s movement pattern, as it is a good indicator of your baby’s health. As a general guide never accept less than 10 movements a day as normal - ring Labour Ward immediately for advice and review.
1 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Induction of Labour. June 2001. Evidence-based Clinical Guideline Number 9