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  • Writer's pictureSmartBirth

An Illusion of Control

One of the most common questions I see in online pregnancy groups is, “My doctor scheduled an induction at 40 weeks, but I’m perfectly healthy and don’t want to be induced! How can I make myself go into labor before then?!” There will then be dozens of comments from moms that tried this thing or that thing. Inevitably, someone will recommend castor oil, and inevitably, someone will tell them they should never do castor oil because it’s so “risky”.

Some of the things these moms suggest are actually backed by science. Some of them are just old wives’ tales that persist thanks to outcome bias. Outcome bias is when you make a decision and then judge the quality of that decision based on the outcome. So, if you get the outcome you want (going into labor), then you will assume these “natural” self-induction methods were effective, even though it may be purely coincidence.

Despite the scientific backing, or lack thereof, that supports these “natural” self-induction methods, do you know the only fool-proof way to avoid a scheduled induction or cesarean? “I do not consent.” That’s it. Not only does it work with a higher percentage of success than every other method, but it can lower stress, thereby actually making it more likely you will go into labor.

I do have to give you a disclaimer that this may not work 100% of the time. Read about pushback in our free Decision Making Guide. Not only could you experience pushback from your provider, but the pressure from your partner, family, in-laws, or friends can be just as distressing. Some providers may even try to use the legal system to force you to do what they want. It is unethical, unfair, and against official medical guidelines, but it does happen. If you find yourself in this situation, I suggest you reach out to the Birth Rights Bar Association or Birth Monopoly.

Maybe you have a medical reason for needing to have your baby by a certain time, so it’s good to know which “natural” self-induction methods are backed by science and the risks and benefits of each option. However, for most birthing people that post this question, their provider won’t “let” them go past a certain time (read about the risks of going past your due date in our Relative Risk article). For those people, “I do not consent” may be their best option. Check out the links below to explore which of these “natural” self-induction methods have some scientific backing.

Don’t forget, you are in charge of what happens to your body. If you enjoy some of these activities, like sex or a massage, then go for it! But some of these are not pleasant, like castor oil and membrane sweeps. Don’t torture yourself eating dates that you hate or stress yourself out trying “all the things” when “I do not consent” will buy you the time that you need.

Strong Evidence:

Moderate Evidence:

Weak Evidence:

Disclaimer: This information is not medical advice. Please read our full disclaimer here.

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