We get this question a lot. Every birth worker has their favorite tricks and opinions. I’d like to take a step back and discuss my philosophy behind getting labor initiated- instead of starting with tricks.

As a birth worker involved in supporting over two hundred births, I’d first warn you about “stirring” things up. As far as science can tell us, babies initiate labor when their body is completely ready. A big part of the baby’s readiness is positioning (though there is much, much more to readiness than even we understand).

I can recall many births I’ve attended that were induced (naturally or with medication) where the baby was sunny side up (AKA OP, occiput posterior) or had its head wedged to the side a little. These positions often make labor harder and longer than it needs to be for mom, versus labor with an optimally positioned baby. What if we had avoided pushing the baby to the brink of labor and given it just a few more days to change position?

Mom may have had a much easier birth.

Another reason to not push the envelope is that we aren’t ever really sure about dates. While mom may be ready to evict junior on the first day of her 38th week, the baby could really be shy of 38 weeks and not quite ready for life on the outside. Usually, all the tricks in the world won’t work this early but if pushed hard enough, it is possible.

Another real-life factor is your birth team. In our world, it’s just us- a small team. While we attempt to keep our babies from colliding on their birthdays by not allowing a lot of clients to be due in any one month, we can’t really control it.

Once, we were running on fumes while cleaning up after the third birth in just two days when we received a text from a client around 38 weeks. She was begging for us to tell her how to have her baby now. We turned the tables and begged her to not try anything at all for a day or so and let us catch up on rest.

We understand you’re really, really done being pregnant but there’s only so much of us to go around. Waiting on your baby to initiate labor seems to be the best way to have babies line up and take turns.

I know it sounds cliche to say “let it happen as it’s supposed to happen”- but stay with me! When I was a doula in solo practice, the only time births collided were when one mom was induced. As a Christian, I believe that each day was ordained long ago but I also recognize our manipulation can cause problems. I am confident that when we interfere with birth without a true medical reason, we disrupt the natural order of how labor and delivery should have played out.

Finally, let’s look at due dates. They should be called guess dates. If we were to be more accurate with statistics, we’d say the baby should be due around 41 weeks and a day (or two). That’s when most babies come- when allowed to come on their own. While I’m always ready for a client to call me, I don’t really expect labor to start until after the due date. You can see why
trying to coax baby out before the due date is fairly futile.

If you made it to 41 weeks, hang in there! I know it feels like forever, but a few more days may be just what you and your baby need for the gentlest birth. So for your baby’s good, your good (remember the risk of a longer labor with a manipulated labor), the good of your team and your own sanity, (try to) ignore your due date. Don’t publicize it. Once you’re a few days past 41 weeks, let’s talk about the tricks. Until then, enjoy life without a newborn and know you’ll meet him/her very, very soon!