Last month, I stopped by our local Vitamin Shoppe and picked up a couple of items to help prepare my body for labor.
The first up is red raspberry leaf tea (RRLT). RRLT is proven to strengthen the uterine and pelvic muscles, and is said to “focus” and improve your contractions when labor starts and help shrink the uterus after giving birth. RRLT is rich in various vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, and vitamin C so many claim that taking it regularly can also help increase milk production, decrease nausea, and ease labor pains.
There is some debate as to when RRLT can be safely taken during pregnancy. Some say that it should not be taken during the first trimester while others argue that it’s perfectly safe. Since I didn’t know about it until well into my third trimester, and because I wanted to play it safe, I started drinking it starting my 34th week, at the recommended 2-3 cups per day.
I have read that some women find the tea too bitter and prefer to add honey to the drink, but I personally didn’t find it bitter at all and found it to taste a lot like plain black tea. (And just in care you are wondering, the brand that is linked to above and pictured on the left is the one I am taking.)
The second item on my list was evening primrose oil (EPO). EPO is an excellent source of prostaglandins, which helps to soften and “ripen” your cervix, thus readying it for labor.
As with most natural methods, the effectiveness of EPO cannot be seen overnight. The oil needs to be used for a few weeks to gradually ripen the cervix. At the same time, there are some concerns that using it prematurely can adversely affect pregnancy — mainly, that you might go into pre-term labor — so it is recommended that you should not take EPO before 34 weeks.
Although EPO can be taken orally, it is most effective if applied directly to the cervix or used in conjunction with perineal massages.
I started taking EPO along with RRLT at 34 weeks. After doing some research, decided that the following schedule would work best for me:
- 34-35 weeks: take one 500mg capsule orally in the morning, take another 500mg at night.
- 36-37 weeks: take one 500mg capsule orally in the morning, take another 500mg at night. Before going to bed, take a sterilized needle and pierce one 500mg capsule. Insert the capsule vaginally and leave it there overnight (pantyliners recommended).
- 38 weeks onward: take two 500mg capsules orally in the morning and another two at night. Before going to bed, break apart a capsule or two to use in perineal massages.
Luckily, J has no qualms about helping my body along so he has agreed to perform my perineal massages. He will also “help” in another way, as semen is said to be a natural (and easy) source of prostaglandins.
I want to make it a point to say that RRLT and EPO are not ways to induce labor. These methods will only help with labor when the time comes. Because as much as I want this baby out NOW, I want her to stay in there as long as possible until she is fully healthy and ready to survive in the outside world.
As for preparing myself mentally for labor? Bring it on! At 36.5 weeks, I am still not scared to go into labor…at all! If anything, I’m excited for it! I think my high tolerance for physical pain has a lot to do with the fact — I have never really been scared of pain my entire life. I figure that this is something that women have been doing since the existence of mankind and if they can do it, I can.
I also have an additional arsenal in my mental armor in that I have already gone through some excruciating pain from this pregnancy. Severe round ligament pain, as was the case with me, can be more painful than labor pains so I figure that I already know what to expect, or that the pain will actually be less. (It can’t be any worse, because if it is I would just pass out.)
I fully trust my OB, I love the hospital where I will be delivering, and I have faith in God that He will provide what is best for the baby and our expanding family.