However, there are many natural methods that women can use to encourage labor to begin once the pregnancy has reached full term.
In this article, we cover the risks of breaking your water and provide alternative ways to induce labor safely.
Can you make your water break at home?
It can be dangerous for a woman to try and break her water at home before natural labor begins.
There are no proven safe ways for a woman to break her water at home. It can be dangerous if the water breaks before natural labor begins or before the baby is fully developed.
During the natural process of labor, the water breaks when the baby's head puts pressure on the amniotic sac, causing it to rupture. Women will notice either a gush or a trickle of water coming out of the vagina.
Many doctors say that women must give birth within 12–24 hours of the water breaking. After this time, a doctor may recommend a cesarean delivery to ensure the safety of the woman and the baby.
This is because it is easier for bacteria to get into the uterus after the water breaks. This increases the risk of infection, which is a major complication that puts both the woman and the baby at risk. It may also make the birth more difficult.
It is particularly dangerous to use artificial instruments to rupture the amniotic sac, as this can introduce bacteria into the uterus and cause infections. It could also injure the baby.
Labor can begin without the water breaking. As a result, women can speed up or induce labor naturally without breaking their water.
Can a doctor speed up water breaking?
A doctor can use a procedure called an amniotomy to break a woman's water.
In some cases, a doctor can help a woman's water to break using a procedure called an amniotomy. They will insert a device into the vagina and very carefully use it to break the amniotic sac.
Before carrying out an amniotomy, the doctor will ensure that the baby is head-down and that the procedure is safe for both the woman and the baby.
Most women will not need an amniotomy to induce labor. However, it is usually safe and provides an alternative or additional option to using medication.
An amniotomy may not be safe for every woman. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend against a woman having an amniotomy when her labor is progressing normally, and the baby appears to be in good health.
Apart from an amniotomy, doctors can induce labor by using a catheter to dilate the cervix or by prescribing medication, such as Pitocin.
The World Health Organization (WHO) say that attempts to induce labor may be harmful if there are no medical reasons to justify them. This includes efforts to speed up the water breaking.
Allowing a woman to go into labor naturally can lower the risk of complications and minimize the likelihood of unwanted labor interventions, such as cesarean deliveries.
Women whose doctors recommend breaking their water should ask questions about the risks and benefits and get clear details about how this might affect their options during labor.
Any intervention to induce labor will present benefits and risks. For some people, the risks of remaining pregnant may be greater than the risks of inducing labor. For others, it is safer to wait.
It is essential to discuss each pregnancy with a doctor to determine the best course of action.
How to induce labor safely
The end of pregnancy can be exhausting. People believe that there are many ways to induce labor, from eating spicy food to going for long walks.
There is little evidence to support most of these ideas. However, the following methods may safely help to induce labor, if the woman's body is ready.
Women should only consider using these techniques to encourage the natural onset of labor once the pregnancy has reached full term. They should also confirm first with a doctor that their pregnancy is low risk.
Having sex, particularly vaginal penetration, may help to start labor. It is not clear whether this is due to hormonal changes, physical stimulation, or something else.
A 2014 study found a link between having sex during the last week of pregnancy and going into labor. Women whose water has already broken should not have sex as this can increase the risk of infection.
Try nipple stimulation
Nipple stimulation may be a natural way to get the body to release oxytocin, a hormone that plays a key role in both labor and breast-feeding.
Learn more about how nipple stimulation can induce labor.
Eat some dates
A small 2011 study asked women to eat six dates per day during the last 4 weeks of their pregnancy.
The researchers found that 96 percent of the women who ate dates had spontaneous labor, compared to 79 percent of those who did not. The women who ate dates also had greater dilation of their cervix during labor.
Risks of inducing labor at home
Having sex may help to induce labor.
The risks of inducing labor at home depend on the chosen method.
Natural methods that do not expose the baby to new chemicals tend to be the safest. These include having sex or stimulating the nipples.
Nutritional and herbal remedies can be dangerous, especially if a woman eats large quantities of herbs or is not aware of the possible side effects.
Any food that a woman consumes during labor can affect the baby, so it is essential to talk to a doctor before trying any herbal or dietary remedies.
Some women try to induce labor with intense physical activity, such as playing a sport. Exercise is generally safe during pregnancy, although there is little evidence to suggest that it can induce labor.
Women who have not exercised during their pregnancy should not begin an intense exercise regimen at this late stage. It is also vital to avoid falling or doing anything that could impact on the abdomen.
The last few weeks of pregnancy can be challenging. Many women who are giving birth for the first time will go past their due date. This may be worrying, but it is common and is not likely to harm the baby.
Almost all women eventually go into labor on their own. While the waiting can be tough, it is generally safest to wait for the natural onset of labor. A doctor will be able to provide advice for each individual.
Women may also need a labor induction if there are any signs that the baby is distressed. In such cases, inducing labor safely may increase the likelihood of vaginal birth and a healthy baby.
Women should discuss their concerns with their doctor and ask them to explain the benefits and risks of each option. Women should also be aware of what to expect during the onset of labor, and how to get hold of their doctor if they suspect that they might be in labor.