Can You Induce Labor at Home? The Truth Behind Labor-Inducing Myths

Getting close to your due date? Can you really speed things up?

By: Amanda Mushro
Midsection of pregnant Black woman holding belly

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Midsection of pregnant Black woman holding belly

Photo by: LWA/Dann Tardif

LWA/Dann Tardif

As you near the end of your pregnancy, your excitement to meet your little one grows but so do the aches, pains, and discomfort of those long nine months. When you’re getting closer to your due date, you may find yourself Googling "What can I do to naturally induce labor?" and what you’ll find is a ton of old wives tales that promise to get that bundle of joy into your arms a little faster. But do they really work? Let’s find out!

Walking: While walking is a great way for you to stay in shape while pregnant, and at the end of your pregnancy pull your baby down into your pelvis, it probably won’t kickstart your labor. However, it can help your labor progress if you’ve had some strong contractions. Plus, exercise is a great stress reliever and can help you sleep better too.

Sex: As you edge closer to 40 weeks, a little hanky panky might sound like the last thing you’re up for, but there are a few reasons it could kickstart labor. Sexual activity can release oxytocin, which starts uterine contractions and the prostaglandin hormones found in semen that might help ripen the cervix.

However, some studies show that women who have sex later in their pregnancy may not go into labor earlier than women who do not have sex.

Even if having sex doesn’t induce labor, it is a great way to reduce tension and stress.

Dates: Not the dinner and a movie kind, but actually eating dates may be an effective way to help your labor along. According to a study, eating the fruit increases cervical ripening and cervical dilation at the start of labor and decreases the need for Pitocin use during labor. So maybe add dates to your hospital bag.

Massages: Studies show that massages can raise your levels of the hormone that can bring on labor contractions, oxytocin. So if you’ve been wanting a prenatal massage or a great foot rub– it could help things along, or it can help ease those aches and pains of making a whole person.

Not a fan of massages? You can still raise those levels of oxytocin by finding ways to relax- cuddle with your partner, get cozy in bed, or get some really great sleep.

Castor Oil: This no-so-tasty option is actually a laxative and a method of inducing labor that has been around for a long time. Drinking castor oil will cause spasms in your intestines (and you’ll need plenty of bathroom breaks), and the thinking is that the action in your intestines will cause your contractions to start.

However, drinking too much can make you sick and a bad case of diarrhea can make you feel awful and cause dehydration. Which is bad for you and your baby. So we vote to pass on this one.

Spicy Foods: This is the same theory behind castor oil and will probably just leave you with heartburn and a belly ache.

Acupuncture: Acupuncture is inserting thin needles into pressure points on the body and some practitioners believe it can get your labor moving along.

Smaller studies have shown success with acupuncture, but only if the baby is ready to make his or her appearance. Even if it doesn’t work, it can help relieve aches and pains.

Nipple Stimulation: If you’ve got your breast pump ready for the arrival of your baby, you may want to test it out and possibly get your labor moving. Nipple stimulations stimulate oxytocin production. Since oxytocin causes the uterus to contract and the breast to eject milk, it could help speed up contractions.

After you have your baby, breastfeeding will release oxytocin and help your uterus shrink back to its original size.

So what have we learned?

  • It's important to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider to discuss any risks associated with these methods.
  • While some of these methods may help things along, they aren’t backed by tons of scientific research and are mostly anecdotal.
  • Your baby will come on their own time, and you’ll want to make sure they are safe and healthy from the start to the end of your pregnancy.

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