Pumping to induce labor may sound familiar if you are pregnant or nearing towards the end of your pregnancy journey. Pumping the breast to cause stimulation is one of the home remedies that can help induce labor for women who are on their full term or have passed their due date. Inducing labor is very important as delay can be dangerous to you and your baby.
The theory is that stimulating the nipples through the breast pump will increase the level of a hormone known as oxytocin. This will relax the body and help uterine contractions to start. Note that this method is only recommend for women with low risk and safe pregnancy, also your doctor must have approved of it. It is not safe for those with complications in their pregnancy. This article will explain the theory behind this method, its pros and cons, effectiveness or success and steps to use this method.
DOES BREAST PUMPING WORK TO INDUCE LABOR?
When used to induce labor, breast pumping works by stimulating the nipples, this stimulation releases a hormone known as oxytocin. A synthetic version of this hormone (Pitocin) is used by doctors to induce labor as well, you can say breast pumping is the natural method.
When oxytocin is released, it sends signals to the brain to start uterine contractions. There are many studies, trials and researches that have shown that nipple stimulation either with a breast pump or manually can induce labor. These studies were carried out on women who had healthy and low risk pregnancy.
A study published by the National Library of Medicine in 1999 compared the effectiveness of nipple stimulation using a breast pump and using synthetic oxytocin to induce labor. The study involved 79 pregnant women; out of this number, 49 were in the breast pump stimulation group, while the rest (30) were administered oxytocin.
Those in the oxytocin group had faster labor but the researchers discovered that first-time moms in the breast stimulation group had more natural deliveries more than the other group. Also, those in the oxytocin group were likely to need vacuums and forceps during delivery.
Another study published by the National Institute of Health in 2018 involved 16 low risk pregnant women. The study found out that stimulating the nipples can be effective in increasing the level of oxytocin in the body naturally. However, this study used manila method of stimulating the nipples and not breast pump. The women used for this study were all 38 to 40 weeks long in their pregnancies, they were also monitored for three days in a hospital maternity ward.
They stimulated their nipples for 15 minutes at a time for a total of one hour. On the third day, the researchers found that they has the highest level of oxytocin. This means that it may take some days for the stimulation to be effective.
PROS AND CONS OF PUMPING TO INDUCE LABOR
Some of the pros of pumping breast to induce labor are:
- The woman have more control over the induction process as compared to other induction methods.
- It is effective in inducing labor when the woman has passed her due date
- Pumping does not only help with induction of labor but also provoke the glands in the breasts to release colostrum.
- There is way contraction of the uterine due to the release of oxytocin. There is also reduced labor pain.
The cons of pumping to induce labor are:
- The oxytocin produced as a result of pumping may not be enough to induce labor.
- The oxytocin may be too much and this poses risks to the baby like the heart rate and even fetal death in some cases. There is no way to control the amount of oxytocin released.
- It can be stressful and time consuming to achieve the applicable result.
- The pumping can cause pain in the nipples.
PUMPING TO INDUCE LABOR SUCCESS
The theory behind pumping breast to induce labor is founded and constructed on the hormone known as oxytocin and how it is released when you breastfeed, pimp or manually stimulate the breasts. Oxytocin is responsible for releasing milk during breastfeeding, it is also in control of the warm feeling that women feel when they nurse. Oxytocin can also the uterine to contract, this is why pumping the breast is considered a way of inducing labor (World Health Organization, 2009).
There are multiple studies and researches that found out pumping the breast and stimulating the nipples can be an effective way of speeding up labor induction. A study published in the Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing in 2015 showed that stimulating the nipples can make the phases of labor shorter and reduce the chances of having other labor interventions.
Another study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada in 2020 discovered that pumping the breast is very successful in inducing labor and also reduce the need to use synthetic oxytocin to induce labor. From these two studied and others, pumping the breast has proven to be successful in inducing labor.
PUMPING TO INDUCE LABOR: IS IT SAFE?
Pumping to stimulate the nipples and induce labor is very safe if you have a healthy and low risk pregnancy. However, it is recommended that you try home methods of inducing labor if you are at or past your due date. Pumping the breast or other methods of inducing labor at an early stage of pregnancy can lead to the baby being born prematurely.
Preterm babies who are born between the 34 to 37 weeks are healthy most times but they may have to deal with temporary problems like:
- Difficulty in feeding
- Breathing troubles
- Problems with their vision
- Low birth weight
- Organs may be underdeveloped
- Jaundice (yellowing of the baby’s eye and skin)
- Difficulty in maintaining the temperature of the baby’s body.
There is high chance of preterm babies experiencing developmental or learning problems later in life. It is very important that you discuss with your doctor if it is safe for you to induce labor at home by pimping the breasts or other method. There may be another recommendation that is safer for you and your baby.
WHEN TO INDUCE LABOR
There are risks associated with inducing labor, your doctor or midwife should be able to assess the situation and know the best decision for you and your baby. If there is any risk or concern for you and your baby, your doctor or midwife will suggest a method to induce labor. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or if there is low amniotic fluid surrounding the baby, your doctor will recommend any induction method.
Also, if you have passed your due date by two weeks, your labor can be induced. When your pregnancy stage has passed 42 weeks, the amniotic fluid will decrease and there is a risk your baby will become larger than average. After your due date, you should check with your doctor or health team so that they can monitor your progress.
PUMPING TO INDUCE LABOR: HOW LONG?
The recommended and best time to pump is when you have passed your due date, are experiencing stall or early signs of labor and having mild contractions. If you are pumping breast to induce labor, the best time or guideline is at least 15 minutes on each breast, then rest for 15 minutes and repeat. Manual stimulation may not give you a faster result, so you may have to spend more minutes than using a pump.
DOES PUMPING TO INDUCE LABOR WASTE COLOSTRUM?
The answer is no, the body does not go through hormonql changes needed for milk production until you have given birth. Even at that, it may take about 2 to 10 days for your milk to come out. In most cases, you do not have a reason to supplement while waiting for your colostrum to change to transitional milk.
During the early days after delivery, babies have tiny stomach as small as the size of a cherry or even a marble, so the rich and healthy colostrum is very sufficient to satisfy than and give all the requirements till your milk comes out. Supplementing can also reduce how milk is produced.
HOW TO USE A BREAST PUMP TO INDUCE LABOR
If your due date has passed and yet no contractions, you can talk to your doctor about induction of labor. If it is approved, you can try with a breast pump.
- Follow the steps below:
- Sterilize the breast pump before use
- Place warm clothes on your breast
- Make sure you are comfortable, remove the cloth and attach the breast pump. Work on one breast before moving to another.
- You can start up the breast pump if it is electric but if manual, you can pump with your hand.
- Pump the breast for 15 minutes before you move to the other breast. Remember to place warm cloth on the breast you have pumped.
- Repeat the pumping on the other breast you have not pumped.
- Pump both breast one after the other for maximum of 15 minutes till you have strong, regular contractions. If there is no contraction, you should stop and try the next day. In some people, contractions may start an hour after pumping.
- However, if you feel contractions, stop pumping and allow your body to take charge of things by itself. If you notice the contractions getting weaker or stopping, you should pump your breasts again for 5 minutes each.
- Tell your doctor or healthcare provider of your progress especially if the contractions are not regular.
- You can apply coconut oil or olive oil on your nipple before pumping if you experience irritation or pain.
Pumping the breast to induce labor is not a new act, it has been in existence but was done manually. This process is done to induce labor especially if the woman has passed her due date. There are studies and researches to show the effectiveness of this procedure. However, it is advised that you check with your doctor or midwife if you are safe to pump your breasts and induce labor.