Who starts labour? Mum, baby, or other?

Who Starts Labour?A recent study implies that the Baby is responsible for starting spontaneous labour! “Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and supported by the National Instituted of Health and a Prematurity Research Initiative grant from the March of Dimes, the study expanded on former research that had suggested signals from the fetus are actually responsible for the initiation of birth,” (Growingyourbaby.com reports). UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have identified two proteins in a mouse fetus’ lungs that initiates labour. The proteins SRC-1 and SRC-2 activate genes inside baby’s lungs near full term, “resulting in an increased production of surfactant components, surfactant protein A (SP-A), and platelet-activating factor (PAF). Both SP-A and PAF are then secreted by the fetus’ lungs into the amniotic fluid, leading to an inflammatory response in the mother’s uterus that initiates labor,” (Sciencedaily reports).

What this means is once the proteins show up in the baby, the lungs begin producing these essential substances that aid in normal breathing outside of the womb, and the secretions reach the mother’s womb through the amniotic fluid, and the mother’s uterus reacts and contractions begin.

“Our study provides compelling evidence that the fetus regulates the timing of its birth, and that this control occurs after these two gene regulatory proteins − SRC-1 and SRC-2 − increase the production of surfactant components, surfactant protein A and platelet activating factor,” said senior author Dr. Carole Mendelson, Professor of Biochemistry, and Obstetrics and Gynecology at UT Southwestern.” (UT Southwestern Medical Center states).

Though this study was created mainly to investigate preterm labour on mice and how to predict or possibly prevent preterm labour, I want to open your minds to another idea: that in a natural and healthy full-term pregnancy, the baby decides when labour should begin.

There’s a lot of pressure on mums to get labour started, preferably before their 40-week mark, since the number of “You’re still pregnant?” comments from friends, coworkers, family, and medical professionals increases tenfold at the due date. This has resulted in numerous blogs with advice on how to get labour started.

You may have heard the following statements on how to get labour started:

  • get a membrane sweep*
  • get your bag of waters broken (artificial rupture of membranes)*
  • get ‘induced’ with syntocinon/pitocin, or other drug*
  • get ‘induced’ with a foley bulb*
  • bounce on a birth ball
  • eat spicy food (curry)
  • eat lots of pineapple
  • have lots of sex
  • stimulate your nipples
  • walk a lot
  • dance
  • relax, meditate, practice hypnosis
  • get acupuncture*
  • use castor oil*
  • use other herbal/homeopathic remedies*

Though some of these methods don’t hurt to try to start labour, they’re about as accurate in starting labour as predicting whether you’re having a boy or a girl based upon how high you’re ‘carrying.’ Other methods like the use of drugs, membrane sweeps, and artificial rupture of membranes have negative risk factors.

Now is the time of point out that even if these labour-inducing techniques work to start labour, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the baby is READY to exit the womb; meaning, it is possible that the two proteins SRC-1 and SRC-2 haven’t presented themselves in the lungs yet, and it may mean that the baby isn’t ready for normal breathing outside the womb!

This is why it is so important to understand the difference between natural spontaneous labour and induced labour. Natural spontaneous labour gives your baby the opportunity to be fully grown, well-baked, and ready to exit the womb. Induced labour takes the control away from the baby as we impose a time schedule on the baby from the outside.

If a baby knows when it’s time to grow a heart, eyes, and fingers, the baby knows when it’s time to start labour!

I hope you are encouraged that as more and more research is done on pregnancy, labour and birth, that the results are pointing yet again towards a more natural approach to giving birth. Conceiving and growing a baby inside your body is a miracle in itself. Let the spontaneous onset of labour be the finishing touch to the beautiful bun that’s been patiently baking in the oven!

Disclaimer: Thanks to medical advancements, there are times when we are able to detect that a baby needs serious surgery and cannot survive inside the womb before the onset of spontaneous labour. Other times, babies need to be rushed out of the womb for the sake of mother’s health. This post is meant to encourage low-risk healthy mothers who have reached full term and are feeling the pressure to induce labour. Know that you can trust your body and your baby to birth naturally and remain healthy.

*not recommended, as these interventions carry negative risks and/or require a medical professional for proper administering.

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