At around 39+ weeks in your pregnancy, sometimes a healthcare provider will suggest pumping to induce labor. This is more common with vaginal birth after Cesarean, when providers are unable to or uncomfortable with a VBAC induction.
Pumping is one of the most common and known ways to induce labor naturally. But a couple of big questions people often ask are: Is it safe and does it work?
In this article, we want to talk all about breast pumping to induce labor. Read on to learn about its safety and effectiveness, and how to do it.
What is nipple stimulation to start labor?
Nipple stimulation is the process of massaging nipples by hand, mouth, or even electronically, causing the breast to release a natural hormone called Oxytocin. This hormone has the nickname of “the love hormone” and is released while breastfeeding. It’s also released during labor and helps the uterus contract and labor to progress.
Pitocin, a synthetic version of oxytocin, is often given in the hospital to help induce labor or speed things along. Some providers suggest pumping to try and start labor because there is a chance that with the hormone release, labor may begin naturally. This can be desirable so a mother can avoid a repeat C-section or medical induction.
The hardest part is knowing if nipple stimulation to induce labor will work or not. Because everyone is different and so many people are doing nipple stimulation at different times of their pregnancy, it may or may not work for you.
Studies are limited and outdated, but one of the most recent Cochran reviews was done in 2005 with a group of 719 women. 37.8% of those used nipple stimulation and went into labor within 3 days. Cesarean section was significantly less in the breast stimulation group as compared to the control group (8% versus 20.4%).
There is a more recent study in 2014 that involved 200 participants. In the end, it was determined that breast stimulation increased the chances of a vaginal birth and also helped ripen the cervix.
Is nipple stimulation safe during pregnancy?
Before starting any activity that may induce labor, check with your healthcare provider.
Because the available research studies are not large or recent, it is still hard to determine if nipple stimulation or pumping can be considered safe. The studies that have been done have had women who are considered “low risk” pregnancies.
When it comes to nipple stimulation during pregnancy, it is important to remember that it can release the natural hormone oxytocin which can cause uterine contractions. Nipple stimulation in ways other than actively pumping or stimulating to induce labor, ie: during intimacy, the chances of labor starting is lower, but still there.
If you are closer to your due date, there is a chance that your body may be more ready and nipple stimulation could start labor.
How to use a breast pump to induce labor
Every pump is different, but most of them are very similar and straight forward. There are three simple steps we would suggest if you are going to use a breast pump in labor.
NOTE: Be sure to discuss with your provider before inducing labor.
- Set up pump according to directions
- Pump for 15 minute (both breasts) at the suction level that feels comfortable
- Take a 5 minute rest and then repeat for up to one hour.
This can be repeated daily for 1-3 days.
If labor does not begin, there is a chance your body is not ready, or you may need to go longer. When discussing with your provider, be sure to ask what schedule they suggest for pumping. If your breasts or nipples are becoming sore or raw, stop and give your body a rest.
You can also alternate pumping with other methods or gentle movements, like using an exercise ball to induce labor.
When can you start pumping while pregnant?
Make sure to check with your provider on when they would suggest a good time to start pumping during pregnancy. Most providers will consider a baby full term around 37 weeks pregnant, however, your provider most likely would suggest this sometime around 39-42 weeks. A study called The ARRIVE Trial didn’t include VBAC, but suggests that induction in the 39th week can be beneficial.
According to the March Of Dimes, if your provider suggests induction, at least 39 weeks gestation is best. This is because your baby’s important organs like the brain, lungs, and liver are still developing. At the end of pregnancy, it can be hard to want to stay pregnant because it’s uncomfortable.
Using a birth ball can help ease discomfort, and remember how important those last days are for your sweet little one.
How long after nipple stimulation do you go into labor?
If your body is ready to go into labor, you could begin contractions that could send you into labor as you are doing nipple stimulation. If it does not happen at the time, you could potentially go into labor one to three days after.
How long should I pump to induce labor?
You should pump for about one hour, once a day for up to three days. There have not been many studies, but the ones that have been done show that it is possible to go into labor using nipple stimulation.
Is it bad to pump to induce labor?
Because there are not a lot of studies to support whether or not pumping to induce labor really works or not, it is also hard to know the true safety of pumping to induce labor. Be sure to check with your medical provider before introducing a pump to induce labor.
What is the quickest way to go into labor?
There is not a specific way that is considered “quick” when it comes to going into labor. You can try all of the natural ways to induce labor, and some may work. Then again, they all may not work for you. If your cervix and body are ready, the chances of going into labor are higher, however, there is a chance your provider may suggest inducing labor at the hospital if your baby or body are showing signs of needing to give birth sooner.