Healthy Birth Practice : Let Labor Begin On It’s Own

In this 6 part series we will explore healthy, evidence-based, birth practices that

every pregnant and birthing person should know.

Let Labor Begin On It’s Own

There’s a lot to know and understand about why women in our culture feel the pressure to be induced. Not to mention all of the personal stories from friends and family members, and oh yes, complete strangers, usually in the grocery store (everyone wants to tell you their worst stories when you are pregnant, why?)

In fact, according to the Listening to Mother’s Survey iii, a survey of 2400 mothers, found that nearly 53% of birthing mothers felt pressure to induce themselves with natural methods or to be induced with medical inductions by their providers.

That’s a huge number of babies and mommas being rushed into birth at the end of pregnancy.

Is that necessary? Let’s take a closer look…

“We asked mothers if they themselves had tried to cause their labor to begin, and 29% indicated that they had. More than four out of ten respondents (41%) indicated that their care provider tried to induce their labor. When asked if the induction caused labor to begin, three out of four women experiencing a medical induction (74%) indicated that it did, resulting in an overall rate of medically induced labor of 30%. Overall, half (53%) of mothers experienced medical and/or self-attempts to induce labor.” from Listening to Mother’s Survey iii

Yet, another siting “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports that 20 percent to 40 percent of labors are induced—a number that, along with C-section rates, has doubled in the last decade.” published in an article by

So what’s the rush?

Why are so many moms feeling this pressure to have their baby sooner than later?

Are you a mom who is feeling the pressure to induce? Where is this pressure coming from?

Openly discussing these fears and ideas with moms in your community, as well as comparing the information you are getting from your provider with the evidence based practices, can give you confidence to know that you have chosen the right set of circumstances for birth or that maybe you can make some shifts in care, by changing providers or by hiring a professional support person like a Doula to be with you and your partner in labor. Having conversations with your provider about your desires as well as what their induction rates are early on will give you enough time to know if they are really the right fit for what your desired outcomes are.

The list of reasons to induce are long and often complicated and it’s a lot of information for birthing parents to take in or have every thing figured out before the day baby arrives to know just what to do when you are faced with the decision to induce or to wait for baby. Let’s talk about what some of the normal biological responses are to the last weeks and days of pregnancy and why it’s so important to wait for baby.

What’s happening in those final weeks of pregnancy?

A lot is going on in those last, long, sleepy, big round weeks of pregnancy.

Let’s list some of the key processes that are happening in these last weeks. Remember, while we are vast in our knowledge of what our body’s processes are up to, we still don’t have a full understanding of the intricate communications that are happening between mom and baby.

  • Maternal antibodies are being passed from mom to baby, providing a last immune boost for the baby before being welcomed earth-side.
  • Baby is continuing to gain weight + strength and is storing up iron for the birth. Side Note: Babies don’t make their own iron stores until they are 6 months of age! These last weeks in utero are really important for them!
  • Baby is creating surfactant in their lungs to allow for all the amniotic fluid to be pushed out and for oxygen to flow in and expand their lungs with their first cries.
  • They are developing more coordinated suckling and swallowing reflexes; essential for getting breastfeeding going with a smoother start.
  • Baby is storing brown fat which helps a baby maintain their body weight and temperature following birth.

What triggers labor, anyway?

Well the truth is, we don’t fully understand the intricate details of what is happening but research suggests that when a baby’s lungs have reached full maturity and they have created enough surfactant to ensure good lung inflation at birth, they then release a burst of hormones to tell the placenta hey, I’m ready! That burst of of hormones to the placenta triggers it to set of it’s own burst of hormones (prostaglandins, mostly) to communicate with the uterus to soften and relax the muscles in the cervix (the bottom opening of the uterus) to prepare for softening and opening (effacement + dialation) of labor. Pretty freaking cool, huh?

This burst of hormones also gives mom a burst of energy (hello, nesting!) that helps mom make the final preparations for welcoming baby. This can also come with the downside of some, or a lot of, end of pregnancy insomnia. Nature’s reasoning is that this is preparing mom for easy waking and round the clock newborn feeding and care. Phewy, I say. We will talk about some ways to make your self a little more comfortable in bed in another article. 🙂

Playing the waiting game

Estimated due dates (EDD) are just that… estimated. We follow them like a stamp in time. So many new parents are not aware that there is a wide variability in the ranges of what’s considered a full term pregnancy. It’s considered full term from 37 weeks to 42+ weeks of pregnancy! That’s 5 weeks of normal! Even when you apply every tech device or measuring calculation there is, we still won’t know the exact day your baby will come.

What if we thought about and talked about due dates as more of a guess around that time of the month, rather than a definitive date. When you set that day in your mind, write it on the calendar, tell it to every cashier and sweet old lady you come across it becomes a firm date. Then you pass it, as most first time mother’s do, only 5 percent, according to some figures — deliver on their given due date. It sets us up for unnecessary restrictions and disappointment.

I even fell in this EDD trap myself when I was pregnant with my second baby, even after becoming a doula and birth educator, I knew about and told myself over and over that I wasn’t going to get sucked in to the due date set up, but I did. It’s just a day I said, baby will know when it’s time. That was really helpful to do, remind myself with art or affirmations through out the day that all of my hard work was going to be worth it to wait.  My due date came and went and I was so over it and I felt like I would be pregnant forever. I think I called my midwife every 12 hours at this point. Every little contraction I jumped up and walked around the block. I ate at all of the places in town with eggplant parmesan and rocked on my birth ball every chance I got. It was exhausting. By baby number 3, I wised up and finally practiced what I preached… Then surprise! She was early! se la vie.

It becomes one day and then two and then maybe a week or 10 days pass and you KNOW that you WILL be pregnant forever. There’s tears, begging, eating ice-cream, sex, pineapples, walking, pumping and then you are doing all the things to get this baby to come when really the best, most important and effective thing you can do is taking care of yourself!

  1. staying rested by taking naps or having quiet moments through out the day.
  2. staying hydrated, with water, coconut waters, pregnancy safe herbal teas or fresh vegetable juices.
  3. eat really amazing healthy food and a little treat to go with it to celebrate another day that you and baby have taken to do all the prep work that the end of pregnancy offers!
  4. JUST DO LIFE.  Do something for yourself everyday that sets the intention that you are ready for baby to come.
    The more time goes by the more hard core you take care of yourself momma! Now’s a good time to take a facebook break or order your groceries on line to avoid the questions and potential belly rubs in public and questions from strangers about how you look like you could give birth any minute. (But why?)
  5. Remember #treatyoself #dolife

My baby will arrive on their own time.

I hope you have found this article useful! We talked about why it’s important to wait and added some tips on how to get through “playing the waiting game”.

In our next article about Induction we will discuss options and choices when talking about induction.

All information and resources found on are based on the opinions/research of the author unless otherwise noted.

All information is intended to educate and motivate readers to make their own health and wellness decisions in consultation with their health-care provider. I am not a doctor, this is not medical advice.


Research for this article came primarily from:

Listening to Mothers III survey; conducted by Childbirth Connection in partnership with The Harris Group

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