Packing for Labour and Birth

How to avoid an induction of labour

Would you believe the most common reason for induction of labour (IOL) in South Africa is a first time Mom going ‘overdue’. Each hospital has a slightly different policy, however they all average at an IOL for post maturity falling between 40+10 to 40+14 days over-due. There’s nothing wrong with needing an induction as some babies need a little encouragement to move things along!

As this is such a common occurrence, we felt it might be a nice to share some little at-home hints and tips that our midwives have picked up over the years which may just help get things moving:


This one is hard to measure (pardon the pun), but what we do know is that usually, the first step in an IOL is the insertion of a synthetic prostaglandin pessary. The job of prostaglandin is to soften and ripen your cervix so that when contractions do start it will be ready to thin out and open and prostaglandin is in male semen, would you believe! You can thank mother nature for this, as it might encourage a little bit of late pregnancy ‘intimacy’!!

Raspberry Leaf Tea

We get plenty of queries about the effectiveness of this not so delicious tea. It’s a very popular method of inducing labour but it lacks any real evidence to back up its claims. However, it does have plenty of anecdotal evidence… lots of women in labour pass through our hospital doors swearing that this magic tea is to be thanked for the arrival of their long-awaited contractions. Be sure to buy a good quality Raspberry Leaf Tea from any health food shop, and you would be aiming to drink approx. 3-4 cups a day from week 37.

Medjool Dates

Bizarre as this might sound these sweet little fruits, can help encourage your cervix to ripen and soften. Research shows that women who eat 7 medjool dates a day, from 36 weeks are more likely to be in established labour when they reach the hospital, and those who do require an induction will usually have a shorter less complicated one as a result. Unfortunately, for those on a diabetic diet these sugary little fruits would be a ‘no go’!!


Evidence shows that acupuncture when used from 37 weeks can increase the likelihood of your cervix being soft and ripe when labour begins, which as you now know means that you’re starting out in a very good position… in a similar fashion to that of the medjool dates. This is a good option for everyone, as obviously trying everything simultaneously can be very effective. And for gestational diabetic women who cannot chow down of sugary dates from 37 weeks, this is a lovely alternative.


This acupressure website https://acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/acupressure/ is in my opinion a must read!! It will give you all the tools you need to teach yourself and your partner a few necessary acupressure points which can be used to help bring on labour (and help keep you comfortable during contractions once they start). With the use of YouTube videos and a downloadable booklet it will give you the confidence to perform this very useful skill. Disclaimer: these pressure points should not be used until at least 36 completed weeks.

A Sweep

And finally, a membrane sweep!! We often get asked what a ‘sweep’ is, a sweep is a procedure that your midwife or doctor might offer to perform once you are overdue. While internally examining you, he or she will ‘sweep’ a finger around the neck of your cervix, and this aims to separate the membranes or amniotic sac from your cervix hopefully releasing some prostaglandins which may… I’m sure you know it by now… soften and ripen the cervix and in some cases kick start labour.

We hope these little tips help keep you busy in the last few weeks of pregnancy.

We never know how our pregnancies, labours and births will unfold. However, a ripe and soft cervix is the ultimate goal when things are getting started and all the tips above can help with this!! It’s also worth remembering that an unexpected or indeed an expected induction might run smoother with a soft cervix to begin with…. So this advice is for everyone.

Online Antenatal Classes from The Baby Academy South Africa

We got this question recently during one of our Online Antenatal Classes. We will be answering more questions and if you have one you can join us for one of our free classes. Sign up today!