Have you heard of the famous Eggplant Parmesan at Scalinis Italian Restaurant that’s supposedly responsible for inducing labor in over 300 women? How about these “Labor Cookies” made with pineapple and pecans?
From the beginning of time women have been gorging themselves on pineapple and hiking all over town to bring their babies sooner, but what you probably want to know is whether or not any of this stuff actually works!
“Can you really naturally induce labor? And which of the hundreds of natural induction methods actually work?” – very valid questions you might be asking yourself as your due date edges closer.
Whether you’re feeling huge and tired or just trying to beat an indication date at the hospital, trying to start contractions at home can be exciting and fun. Just don’t wear yourself out, and remember, baby comes when baby is ready to and your body knows what to do!
Below you’ll find a comprehensive list of all the natural induction methods the internet can provide. Some of them are supported by evidence or common sense. Others…not so much. We’ll tell you which are which and help you find the best (and safest) methods you can try!
7 Foods “Famous” For Starting Labor
like the Eggplant Parmesan mentioned above, this pizza has made national acclaim.
Loaded with practically every pizza ingredient imaginable, it will either put you into labor or give you serious indigestion.
Click the link to read the dozens of success stories of women who went into labor after eating this pizza!
Watch this video from Evidence-based Birth to learn about how a chemical component in pineapple actually causes uterine contractions and could induce labor.
3) “Labor Cookies”
We already mentioned pineapple-pecan, but what about this tasty ginger-molasses version?
It’s thought that the spices will encourage baby to show up early. If nothing else, a yummy snack to curb the cravings.
Eating 6-7 dates a day could ripen your cervix and encourage an early start to labor – or could it?
The jury is still out on this one, but it’s safe and easy to try, not to mention there are dozens of recipes using dates that you can enjoy.
Bonus: in one 2017 study, the women who consumed dates daily before labor began didn’t need Pitocin to augment their labors as much as those who didn’t.
5) Spicy food
The capsaicin found in hot peppers and similar foods stimulates the digestive system and is thought to induce labor, but be careful though – that super hot curry might just give you stomach pain.
In addition, eating capsaicin could be linked to blocking endorphins, which may lead to a more painful labor experience.
If you enjoy spicy food and eat it regularly, this is something you could further experiment with – otherwise, you might want to stick to cookies.
This tasty yellow fruit contains a high concentration of potassium, which is essential for muscle health and can help your uterus contract effectively.
Avoid taking a potassium supplement, however, as it can be poisonous when taken in the wrong dose.
7) Balsamic Vinegar
It makes a delicious dressing for salads and a great marinade for chicken, but did you know it could also induce labor?
Like any of the foods mentioned, Balsamic vinegar isn’t a guarantee, but it could bump your body over the edge if you’re ready to go!
Drinks That Can Induce Labor
1) Castor oil
Used by doctors and midwives alike, this less-than-appealing natural induction method is recommended as a last resort.
Taken internally, it causes the intestines to spasm, thus irritating the nearby uterus into contracting and hopefully producing a baby.
Recipes for castor oil induction include mixing 1-ounce castor oil in 4-6 ounces of root beer or orange juice, or added to a smoothie, and chugging it down. It can even be mixed into scrambled eggs or drizzled over a salad.
The worst thing that can happen is a severe bout of diarrhea…and no baby.
2) Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
This gentle herb is a uterine toner.
If taken during pregnancy (starting in the second trimester) in capsule or tea form, it can strengthen the uterine muscles and prepare for a quick delivery.
This one isn’t a quick fix induction method and should be avoided by women who are at risk for preterm labor or miscarriage, though.
While alcohol consumption should be drastically limited during pregnancy, studies show a small glass of wine may help a pregnant woman relax, and possibly get labor started.
If it’s something you enjoy, curl up with that pregnant belly and a good book, and let the good times flow. In moderation, of course!
Get Labor Going By Being Physical
Besides the benefit of feeling weightless when you’re 9 months pregnant and enormous, swimming has a long list of benefits for pregnant women.
The alternating motion of arms and legs can assist your body into labor, and keep you fit so the baby weight falls right off.
Enjoying a refreshing swim could be one of the best things you do to prepare for your baby to arrive.
2) Go For A Ride
A car ride, that is. A bumpy car ride could be really uncomfortable, or it could be just what the doctor ordered.
3) Hit The Park
And get swinging!
Maybe it’s the pressure on your hips in that plastic seat meant for the tykes or the pumping of your legs, or perhaps it’s the velocity on your body as you push yourself through the air…whatever it is, swinging at the park is known to be one way you might induce labor naturally.
What got the baby in gets it out, right? Semen has a high concentration of prostaglandins, which soften and ripen the cervix.
Pig semen is actually used on pregnant women in topical medications applied as part of the medical induction process, so it must be pretty effective (though I think most of us would prefer the human kind!).
Additionally, female orgasms cause an increase of naturally-occurring oxytocin, which makes the uterus contract and encourages labor to start.
The evidence has shown that women who have intercourse frequently in the last weeks of pregnancy are less likely to go past 41 weeks. Check those facts out at Evidence-based birth, in this video explaining the studies of starting labor with sex.
5) Nipple Stimulation
Like having an orgasm, stimulating nipples with fingers or a breast pump works by increasing your body’s production of the labor hormone oxytocin.
This can be a very pleasurable, natural way to induce labor contractions.
Scientific evidence does support this as an effective method IF your cervix is ripe and ready to go. It also reduces the rate of postpartum hemorrhage.
It should not be attempted with high-risk pregnancies until further research is done, though.
Squatting more would benefit us all, pregnant or not.
Less common in today’s world of sitting in a chair at a desk or lounging back on a comfy couch, squatting was something our ancestors did, and many tribal people still do all over the world.
Squatting widens the pelvis, opening everything up for baby to descend and put pressure on the cervix to soften and open it up.
You can squat to pick things up (easier than bending over, and better for your back), fold laundry, and while watching T.V.
The most commonly-recommended method of natural induction, taking a walk has to be the easiest way to get things moving.
Safe as long as you’re healthy and capable, but don’t walk too far!
Some moms-to-be have hiked mountains or walked miles, only to go into labor shortly after, too exhausted from the marathon workout to finish labor on their own.
Don’t overdo it, mama!
Being constipated at some point during pregnancy is almost a given, and being blocked up can prevent that baby from descending comfortably.
Using an over-the-counter enema to get things moving will make labor a lot easier.
And who knows, you might not have a bowel movement during labor.
Hand-in-hand with its tamer sister, walking, stair-stepping is a motion known to widen the pelvis, loosen your ligaments, and help baby drop onto that cervix.
Mix up the walking routine and do a few lunges.
At the very least, you’ll get a good stretch out of it.
10) Bounce On A Birth Ball
Those big round exercise balls are good for more than just sitting in the corner – they’re great for posture and aligning your pregnant body for labor!
There’s a reason they’re so often included as part of pregnancy workout DVDs, you know.
Take it to work to replace that office chair or sit on it to rest or watch TV at home instead of leaning back on the couch.
Like squatting, sitting on the birth ball keeps your pelvis open, your spine aligned, and baby in an optimal position for starting labor.
Like to boogie down? Get your groove on for this energetic natural induction method.
Turn up the tunes and try out your favorite dance moves to shake that baby down!
Check out this mama, late-term with twins, doing her best to wiggle those babies out.
12) Kneeling On All Fours
Also known as “Cat-Cow” position, where you kneel on all fours and alternate rounding your back and arching it.
It sure feels good and is a great position to add to your squats, lunges, and walking.
It keeps baby in a good position and opens up your pelvis, all good signs leading to a quick and easy labor.
It’s important to keep your muscles loose and relaxed as you prepare for labor.
And who knows – taking that yoga class at 38 weeks could just make your water break.
Just be careful to take each position slowly and stretch with care; the extra Relaxin hormone in your body right now makes it very easy to injure yourself by overstretching.
This is perhaps one of the most important “induction methods” on this list.
Stress hormones block labor hormones – It’s simple math. So, take a bubble bath and pour yourself a (small!) glass of wine.
You deserve the rest, and you might as well take advantage before that sweet bundle is here keeping you up at night.
Get Your Body Balanced
1) Visit the Chiropractor
Your spine and your pelvis are under constant pressure and strain during pregnancy.
Tight muscles, combined with the loose ligaments and joints (caused by our friend, Relaxin), can pull us out of alignment, which can prevent labor from starting.
2) Get a Massage
It’s been said before, relaxation helps the baby come. And what could be more relaxing than a prenatal massage?
Used in China for over 2,000 years and recommended for every birth-related pain or inconvenience imaginable, acupuncture is a great method of labor induction.
Using minuscule needles, an experienced (and licensed) acupuncturist can trigger the “labor” points found in various muscles of your body.
This stimulates blood flow and “qi” in the body.
According to Evidence-based Birth, some studies show that acupuncture can improve the softening and ripening of the cervix, which often leads to quicker, more effective labor.
Studies have proven that acupuncture is a harmless, even beneficial way to induce labor naturally.
4) Spinningbabies Exercises
www.spinningbabies.com is a website founded by Gail Tully, a pioneer in teaching physical balance as a way to help babies come faster, easier, and more naturally.
From her website: “Self-care and specific bodywork restores the balance and makes room for the baby. Then baby can put themselves in the best position possible for childbirth.”
Using specific stretches and positions, a pregnant woman can clear the path (so to speak) for her baby to make its way into the world, uninhibited by tight muscles or ligaments, or an unbalanced body.
Birth doulas find these exercises and positions to be invaluable in starting labor and keeping a stalled labor going.
Visit the website for a more in-depth explanation of the positions and the science behind them.
A rebozo is a long, colorful Mexican shawl or scarf used by Mexican women for many things – from carrying children and packages to dressing up for joyful fiestas, even to ease childbirth.
There are many rebozo positions that can be used when prepared for, or even during, labor.
Your birth doula probably knows many of them, and perhaps your midwife.
“Sifting” is a position where the rebozo (a sheet can also be used) is placed on the floor, and the pregnant woman lays down with it beneath her bottom.
A partner stands over her and grabs both ends of the rebozo, then alternates pulling each side so the mother’s hips rotate sideways – first one way, then the other.
This rocking motion should be continued for about 3 minutes, then rest, then repeat two more times.
This exercise helps relax muscles in the back, hips, and pelvis, making more room for baby to descend.
6) Emotional Release/Meditation
Fear (and the adrenaline it releases), can cause labor to stop when animals are birthing in the wild so they can get to a safer place if there’s a predator around.
The same thing happens for human mammals when they’re stressed, afraid, or tense.
So sit down, plug in that affirmation track, and get your relax on.
To start, try this video:
In the same vein as emotional release and meditation, visualization can be very effective in preparing your body and your mind for labor.
You can look at pictures, watch birth videos, draw or journal about your ideal birth experience, and take a few quiet moments each day to imagine your cervix softening and opening, your baby being in the optimal position, and your body being ready for the experience of birth that is coming.
Herbs And Supplements To Induce Labor
The safety of various herbs and supplements during pregnancy is a controversial subject, and not always widely studied.
The following information is provided for your convenience, but nothing said here should be taken as medical advice.
ALWAYS consult with your doctor or midwife before taking any of the following to start labor
This oil from the beautiful primrose has been touted as a natural way to soften the cervix.
There are very few studies on its effectiveness, though, and it’s not recommended by leading medical experts.
A relatively small study has shown a longer second stage of labor and that more babies needed assistance to be born (forceps/vacuum extraction).
Another study in 2016 showed a possible greater chance of having a vaginal birth vs. a cesarean.
There isn’t enough research available to show that use of EPO is effective or safe.
2) Clary Sage Essential Oil
Clary Sage can cause or increase the strength of uterine contractions, but it may not be safe due to the possibility of uterine rupture.
Studies have not been done on the safety of this essential oil for pregnant and laboring women.
3) Mandarin Oil
This oil is said to induce labor when rubbed into a pregnant woman’s heels. Try it out and see!
Basil and Oregano, that famous pair of Italian spices, are thought to help the uterus contract.
Maybe that’s why those pizzas and eggplant Parmesans are popping women into labor at Italian restaurants, but no one can say for sure.
In any case, smelling like a pizza joint isn’t the worst thing, and it might just curb your pregnancy cravings.
5) Borage Seed Oil
Similar to Evening Primrose Oil, Borage seed oil is a natural source of prostaglandins and can help induce labor.
It softens the cervix when applied topically, and can also help the flexibility of the pelvic ligaments. Not studied for its effectiveness, so ask your care provider before using.
Motherwort, Goldenseal, Partridgeberry, Cinnamon bark, Cotton root, Squawvine, and Cumin are all herbs that are known for stimulating or toning the uterus.
They can be taken mainly as teas, though some may be taken as capsules.
Each one contains unique chemical compounds and should only be used when working with your doctor or midwife, and/or a licensed herbalist or naturopathic doctor.
7) Licorice Root
Not to be mistaken for the candy, the licorice root herb contains chemical compounds that can stimulate the uterus into action.
It can be taken in capsule form or as a tea.
Pregnant women be warned, however, that licorice root isn’t regarded as safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
8) Blue or Black Cohosh
Evidence-based birth is at it again, with another video about these controversial herbs.
These powerful herbs are often used by midwives at home births and birth centers to quell a postpartum hemorrhage in the absence of synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) that is commonly used in hospitals.
They do cause uterine contractions, but should not be used without proper dosing instructions given by your experienced doctor or midwife.
Risks include uterine rupture and fetal stress.
Important Things To Keep In Mind
1) Babies Come When They’re Ready
Most of these methods, if not all of them, only work if your body is prepared to go into labor.
The day you go into labor cannot be predetermined naturally, and nothing is made certain by calculating cervical dilation or having your membranes stripped.
Most women will go into labor by 42 weeks of pregnancy, and the evidence shows that it’s safe to wait as long as you and baby are healthy.
2) Bishop’s Score
Calculating your Bishop’s score can help determine whether your body is ripe for induction – either natural or medical.
The higher the score, the better, but it’s not a test.
Your baby isn’t a library book; he or she can’t be “overdue”, but there’s often a very real pressure and desire to get baby here as soon as possible, especially once you hit the last month of pregnancy.
3) Don’t Let The Pressure Get To You
If you’re facing a looming induction date and feeling pressured by your doctor because of a previous cesarean, a supposed “small pelvis” or “big baby”, try to relax and remember the following:
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) defines the length of pregnancy using several standards: Early Term (37+ weeks), Full Term (39+ weeks), Late Term (41+ weeks), and Post Term (42+ weeks).
Healthy women can give birth to healthy babies anywhere in this 5 week period.
The evidence also stands against induction as standard procedure for the following:
- Suspected “big baby” (larger than 8lbs 13 oz)
- Suspected “small pelvis”
- Gestational Diabetes
- Low Amniotic Fluid
- Previous Cesarean (VBAC)
So if you’re 39 weeks and your doctor is talking induction, take one of these articles to your next prenatal visit and talk about the evidence as it relates to your unique situation.
If you’re planning to give birth at a birthing center or with a licensed home birth midwife and feel like you’re on the clock to birth before that 42-week deadline, remember that relaxation and intuition are your friends.
This is your body, your baby, and you can do this! Your baby will be here in your arms before you know it.
Did you try any of these natural induction methods? Which one(s) worked for you?