How to: Birth Prep + Induction Tips

Updated: Apr 28

Let’s learn ways we can prepare ourselves for birth physically, mentally and emotionally.

Photo Credit: my real client, Mama Danielle (the millionaire realtor extraordinaire) & I was her doula & lactation consultant with both babes. One natural water birth & one natural earth side birth. She did an amazing job and if you need to buy a house, she's the perfect agent for families!

We will learn:

Hi, I’m Chardá, a mom, doula and lactation consultant in San Diego, California and I love teaching families how to have a more healthy and positive pregnancy, birth, parenting & breastfeeding experience! My focus is on empowering Black moms, babies and families to be resilient, informed and protected on their life journey!

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We are still dying. I’m tired and distraught after doing the work for years now and still seeing the same catastrophic headline year after year–Black women are STILL 3-4x more likely to die of pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum related causes than our non-Hispanic White women. Don't look at us, this isn't out fault, but it is our fight. This isn’t because we aren’t educated on childbirth, this is because we aren’t educated on all of our options. We aren’t educated on these options because the medical “care” systems and institutions in which providers are taught, don’t care at all and remain inherently racist and therefore the neglectful ways of medical racism and toxic stress still exist and harm Black families. For black birthing folks in America, successfully surviving childbirth transcends socioeconomic factors. Healthcare providers of all backgrounds, often reflexively categorize educated, middle-class or affluent Black women as low risk and overlook red flags that may even be very obvious. This is exactly what happened with Serena Williams, as she had to demand life-saving treatment for known complications after she gave birth. Birth should be a sacred time, not a time to be scared. For many Black women giving birth, our experience is not as positive due to having to fight for basic rights like bodily autonomy. This doesn’t have to be the case, and I’m here to tell you how you too can plan for birthing liberation! This is why I created Melanin Milk SD.

Birthing While Black - Melanin Milk SD FREE Community Birth Plan Coming Soon!

Birth plans are a guide to having patience, allowing time and practicing or planning for as many scenarios as you can control in your birth. You can create a birth plan alone, but I highly recommend doing it with a supportive partner, doula, midwife or your OBGYN if you like them and trust them with guidance, but do keep in mind doctors have strict protocols at their institutions and therefore they will likely have to “err on the side of caution” due to the constraints of hospital policies.

Your preferences are your own and important to improve your chances of a more positive birth experience and to increase your knowledge around your body and the process.

This is a sample of a birth plan that I use with my clients:

To book a birth planning session with me, click here!

This is a custom birth plan I use from a shop on Etsy called The Birth Plan Co. the owner and creator, Sarah, is amazing and very responsive. Please consider using her if you are birthing or have a doula business and need custom content.

A free & easy to understand birth plan I like to refer my clients to is by March of Dimes

What can I do to prepare my body for birth?

Perineum Massage

Can be done to prevent tearing, a perineal massage is done by gently massaging the lower half of your vagina using a u-shaped motion for 2-3 mins at a time, do this 2-3 times a day.

  • Don’t start this until after 35 weeks

  • Reduces your chances of tearing & stitches

  • Lowers your risk of episiotomy (a doctor performed cut to of the vagina during pushing)

  • Helps with scar tissue

  • Try a warm bath before doing it

  • Lubricate! Use something safe and natural

  • Try using the thumbs

  • Partners, with consent you can do this on your birth giver!

Pelvic Floor Preparation

During pregnancy, the pelvic floor stretches to make room for your growing baby. Over time, these muscles become weak from being weighed down.

  • Find a pelvic floor therapist prenatally or postpartum

  • Browse around on social media and ask doulas, birth centers or OBGYN’s in your area

My favorite two personal recommendations are:

Breast/Chest Prep

There is nothing you need to do to prepare your breast/chest or nipples for feeding and lactation! Baby will be fine on the drops of colostrum you provide in the first 0-3 days, because while the amount is small, the caloric and nutrient content is rich. Your baby also only needs a tsp or so of milk per feed session in the first few days, so it works out perfectly. Allow your body to do its thing and if you need help, find a lactation consultant near you.

  • Take a breastfeeding class

  • Wait for your milk to increase in volume around 3-5 days postpartum

  • If you or baby struggle, contact an IBCLC

  • Watch for output; if they are peeing and pooping normally it's a good sign of intake!

Hospital vs Natural Induction

Labor induction or Induced Labor is the use of medications or other methods induced to stimulate contractions of the uterus. This can be a lengthy process, longer than an average spontaneous birth, especially if your cervix, body, baby and mind are not ready for this to naturally begin.

To prepare for birth, the cervix begins to soften or ripen, thin out, and open. These changes usually start a few weeks before labor begins. Sometimes when labor is going to be induced, the cervix is not yet "ripe" or soft. A good way to know the firms they are checking for is to do this, try touching the tip of your nose push it and see how firm it feels there, now touch your lip, see the softness of this is what they are looking for with a ripe cervix, a cervix that is not quite ready would feel more like the tip of your nose and this means that labor cannot progress until it's softer like your lip. This is all so that the baby has a clear and easy pathway out, and for the birth giver to have an easier time. The provider may use a Bishop score to rate the readiness of the cervix for labor, and the scoring ranges from 0-13, your doctor is looking for the cervix to be an 8 or higher to be considered favorable for induction.

Ripening the cervix is a process that helps the cervix soften and thin out in preparation for labor. Medications or devices may be used to soften the cervix so it will stretch (dilate) for labor.

When your water breaks, the fluid-filled amniotic sac that surrounds the baby has ruptured (burst). Most will go into labor within hours after their water breaks. If the sac hasn’t burst already, breaking it can start contractions. Or if the contractions have already started, breaking the sac can make them stronger or more frequent. To rupture the amniotic sac, an ob-gyn makes a hole in the sac with a special device. This procedure, called an amniotomy may be done before or after a birth giver has been given oxytocin. It can be performed to start labor when the cervix is dilated and the baby’s head has moved down into the pelvis.

A few methods used:

  • Membrane sweep - also called stripping the membranes, is a common way to induce labor. The ob-gyn sweeps a gloved finger between the amniotic sac and the wall of your uterus, separating the fetal membranes from the cervix. This can be done in your doctor's office at an appt, when the cervix is partially dilated. This may cause your body to release prostaglandins, which soften the cervix and may cause contractions.

  • Pitocin - Pitocin (artificial oxytocin) oxytocin is a hormone that can cause contractions of the uterus. It can be used to start labor or to speed up labor that began on its own. Contractions usually start about 30 minutes after Pitocin is given, they usually slam you harder than normal contractions so be ready for the intensity! I know because I've had a birth with and without Pitocin. Can be turned up or down, on or off at anytime! Do not let them fool you. It is often administered through an IV (intravenous line) A pump hooked up to the IV tube controls the amount given. Your condition, your contractions, and the fetus’s heart rate will be monitored when you are given this medication. Funky things will probably happen, don't be surprised, just know you control it. Read the risks here.

  • Prostaglandins - are medicines used to ripen the cervix such as misoprostol aka Cytotec or Cervidil, are both commonly used in the US hospitals for inducing labor. These medications can be inserted into the vagina or taken by mouth. Some prostaglandins are not used in folks who have had a previous cesarean delivery or other uterine surgery to avoid increasing the possible risk of uterine rupture (tearing).

  • Devices - Laminaria are slender rods inserted into the cervix to dilate it. They are made of a substance that expands when it absorbs water. Foley Bulb - A catheter (small tube) with an inflatable balloon on the end. The tube is inserted through the vagina and into the opening of the cervix. Then the balloon expands, which helps open the cervix. Once it inflates to a few centimeters, it falls out or is removed when you have reached about 3cm.

  • AROM - "breaking your bag of water" (artificial rupture of membranes) sometimes the doctor will offer this as labor stalls or is not going “fast” enough for their liking. The theory behind it is that if the water bag is no longer intact the baby drops lower and is touching the cervix more directly, the process then speeds up and contractions become more intense, stronger and progressive. Only a doctor or midwife is qualified to do this job!

Don’t forget to use your BRAIN! Your best decision making tool here:

  • Benefits - of both accepting or declining an intervention

  • Risks - of both accepting or declining an intervention

  • Alternatives - What are the alternatives to this proposed intervention?

  • Intuition - What does your gut tell you, go with it?

  • Nothing - What happens if you wait an hour, a day or week for this proposed intervention?

A note for military moms: I'm just going to put it out there, the things society doesn't want you to know, is how little they value their female members of service. I work with a high population of military moms in San Diego, both active duty or spouse and many veterans as well, they are almost all being scheduled for induction dates around the 30 week mark, deemed by the government and it’s scary! One day I will write separately about my extremely negative experiences at Balboa Naval Medical hospital in San Diego, CA as a doula and seeing how women are treated like prisoners while in birth. I have several clients who have been forced into inductions and c-sections, all to keep up with the military’s assembly line of workers and to ensure these soldiers can get back to work at the military’s desired time. Whether it’s due to deployment schedules or not, it’s wrong to be taking a baby prematurely before they are ready without logical and evidence based medical rationale.

A note on elective inductions: Now, sometimes people or providers plan inductions for other non-medical reasons, known as elective inductions. You may be feeling a little anxious to go into labor just really want to have this baby! You may live in a rural area too far away from your birthing location. Some feel physically uncomfortable in their pregnant body over time. 41 weeks birth givers may feel pressure to be medically induced by their provider and want other options. Whatever your situation, you may be wondering how to induce labor naturally at home.

You should not induce for the following reasons:

  • Breech babies - Try Spinning Babies!

  • Growth restriction or a Large/Big baby

  • Previous speedy deliveries

  • Your doctor is off that day

  • You want to meet your baby sooner

Some possible reasons your doctor may suggest induction include the following:

  • Your pregnancy has lasted more than 41.4 to 42.0 weeks (past 42 weeks you are at increased risk for stillbirth)

  • Serious health problems, such as with your heart, lungs, or kidneys

  • Placental insufficiency

  • Extreme decrease in amniotic fluid

  • Uterine infection

  • Gestational or Preexisting Diabetes

  • Preeclampsia or Eclampsia

  • PROM - Premature rupture of the membranes; water breaking before term

  • Placental abruption; usually immediate c-section

Induction would not be planned for:

  • Placenta previa (the placenta covers the opening of the uterus)

  • The fetus is lying sideways in the uterus or is in a breech presentation

  • Prolapsed umbilical cord (the cord has dropped down in the vagina ahead of the fetus)

  • Active genital herpes infection

A gentle cesarean is highly recommended by ACOG for these conditions.

There are several natural induction methods that can be helpful for jump starting labor.

A natural induction can be attempted on healthy full term pregnancies, oftentimes I’ve done this with military moms to avoid c-sections and planned inductions. They a date and then we go buy some dates! You’ll get the reference if you keep reading!

How can you begin to safely and naturally encourage your own labor to begin?

When your baby’s lungs have matured and proteins are released, this is when you want to speak with your midwife or doctor to begin this process, around 38 - 42 weeks when the baby is considered full term. Do not attempt any methods or techniques without medical guidance from your personal healthcare team or provider. I am not a doctor or physician.

  • DATES - have been dubbed the superfruit of birth, and therefore we like to start there. Eating dates increases your chance of spontaneous labor, shorter labors and almost 30% reduction in the use of pitocin (artificial oxytocin). Higher cervical dilation upon hospital or birth center arrival, by almost 2cm, lower rates of artificial induction. Dates are high in sugar, so if you suffer from yeast overgrowth, BV (bacterial vaginosis), or blood sugar/glucose issues, then you should skip the dates and ask your midwife or trusted provider for alternative recommendations.

Read My Blog 10 Ways to Date Fruit Recipe

  • NIPPLE STIMULATION - can be done by you or your partner with hand massage. In addition, using a breast pump simulates nursing a baby. Any of these methods releases oxytocin, a hormone that can ripen the cervix and cause uterine contractions. Nipple stimulation can be used both before labor as a natural induction method and during labor to increase contractions. This natural induction technique has been pretty well studied, and it’s important to understand that nipple stimulation can be powerful. Researchers have noted that there’s no way to control the amount of oxytocin being released during nipple stimulation. Because of its effectiveness, always check with your midwife before attempting nipple stimulation as a way to induce labor.

  • ACUPUNCTURE AND ACUPRESSURE - A traditional Chinese medicinal practice, acupuncture involves inserting tiny needles into certain points along the body’s Qi pathways. Studies have suggested that acupuncture can help with cervical ripening, while some researchers believe acupuncture might affect the uterus by stimulating hormonal changes or the nervous system. There’s no evidence of harm for people who have acupuncture during pregnancy. Similarly, acupressure also takes advantage of the same points, but the therapist applies physical pressure, rather than using needles. Acupressure can also be done at home — with your own fingers or those of your partner — but check with your midwife first. Local to SD try - Dr. Shani Cooper- Black owned provider and military veteran

  • CHIROPRACTIC CARE - multiple studies have shown that chiropractic care, particularly the Webster Technique, is beneficial for pregnant folks, especially those who experience lower back pain. In addition, chiropractic can help loosen the joints in preparation for delivery. In her book Nurture, birth and postpartum doula Erica Chidi Coen explains it this way: “Some chiropractors use a labor induction technique at 40 weeks combining chiropractic adjustments that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, activation of acupuncture points that ripen the cervix, and manual therapy to relax the ligaments around the uterus and pelvis.” Local to SD Try for an amazing Black female owned provider and as a second trusted source, a top choice amongst the birth worker community here.

  • RED RASPBERRY LEAF TEA - This herbal tea may tone and strengthen your uterus, which can help induce labor. It will also keep you hydrated. Some midwives recommend beginning to drink red raspberry leaf tea at about 32 weeks, giving it time to build up in the body. Start with one cup a day and gradually work up to three cups. The evidence on red raspberry leaf is limited, but research has shown no harm in humans. Studies with human participants revealed no difference between the group that drank the tea and the group that didn’t.

  1. Release of natural oxytocin from sexual intimacy

  2. Uterine activity from orgasm, which also releases oxytocin

  3. Prostaglandins in semen

How will I know if it’s working and labor is on the way? Free Handout Here!
  • Clear out - pooping and peeing frequently or releasing the bowels completely is a sign that the body is preparing for change

  • Discharge / Bloody Show

  • Extreme Nesting

  • Increased pressure in your booty

  • Lower back pains

  • Belly tightening (contractions)

  • Regular rhythmic contractions; you can predict these more and more over time

  • Feeling shitty like your period is gonna start, if you remember what that was like!

  • Lightening or baby dropping lower into the pelvis, making you feel lighter in the top half; easier to breathe and way less heartburn or indigestion (ask your midwife about some papaya enzymes for that by the way)

  • Water breaking before labor begins only happens about 10% of the time, so don’t expect it to be like a movie!

Don't be discouraged...

Sometimes labor induction doesn't work. If you and your pregnancy are doing well and the amniotic sac has not ruptured, you may be given the option to go home. You can schedule another appointment to try induction again, or go home and try some of the above practices and don't forget to try Spinning Babies, it is a winner every time!

Other ways to prepare for your baby’s true FIRST birth day!

The baby has a journey to travel and a job to do, they have to make it safely into this world and it is your job to help guide them. Some ways to get ready to be a great team with your baby to prepare for this amazing day to come:

  • Talk, sing or read aloud to your baby. - If you are bilingual or speak all languages to them!

  • Singing can be your favorite song, even if it’s Cardi B, whatever makes you feel good and happy!

  • Connect to your baby through their movements by “playing” with them with a flashlight near your belly or gently nudging them back when you get a wiggle.

  • Make a keepsake box and write letters to them during the pregnancy

  • Imagine what your sweet little baby looks like and describe them! Confidence boost in the womb is a great way to send them off to their birth.

Speaking of confidence boost...

Your mental and emotional health is important for this part of the journey.

Here are some ways you can feel more empowered in your birthing experience:

  • Learn about your body - I love Dr. Aviva Romm MD who is also a midwife, for all things Women's Health!

  • Watch positive and realistic videos only! Ones that might be more in line with your birth goals

  • Try different birth stories when watching videos to get perspective and make some decisions on what you may or may not want

  • Affirmations and meditations daily

  • Spinning babies will have you understanding birth like no other!

  • Try hypnobirthing

  • Stop following people who make birth, breastfeeding and parenting look easy, it’s not! This shit is hard, we need to own it and show the good, bad and ugly side of it all. Follow people who keep it real and show you all parts not just one part of life.

  • Learn how your love hormones work!

  • Practice belly breathing and focusing on the breath

  • Birth plan with a doula! I offer consults

  • Know and protect your rights for you and your baby!

  • You pay their salary, they work for you. Never be afraid to ask them for resources and options.