I just finished reading "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" and "Spiritual Midwifery," both by Ina May Gaskin. Ina May has been a community midwife for more than 30 years, and helped invent home birthing methods.
The midwives in her practice believe that birth is a holy experience, and they do everything they can to make birth pleasurable, drug-free and intervention-free. (They do have physician and hospital back-up and use them when necessary.) They also operate a birthing center, The Farm Midwifery Center, where women can come to have a home-like birth with their husbands. (Members of The Farm spiritual community believe in monogamous, heterosexual marriage.)
Tnrough experimentation, study and intuition -- and allowing laboring mothers to express themselves freely -- Ina May and her partners have learned many natural ways to stimulate labor and speed it along.
Two things they highly recommend are kissing and stimulating the breasts of the mother-to-be. When her husband holds her in his arms and kisses her, when he fondles and sucks her breasts, her brain releases pulses of oxytocin. These are the same oxytocin pulses that cause the strong uterine contractions of labor.
Doctors regularly use Pitocin, a synthetic oxytocin, to induce and manage labor. But they give a steady drip that doesn't give the mother's body time to rest, and the constant contraction of the uterus can block the baby's oxygen supply.
Encouraging the body to do its work with love and kisses is not only safer, it's nicer. As Cara, one of the midwives, writes,
"Over and over again, I've seen that the best way to get a baby out is by cuddling and smooching with your husband. That loving, sexy vibe is what puts the baby in there, and it's what gets it out, too."