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Natural Induction of Labor Techniques


Updated May 16, 2014

Man holding pregnant woman's hand, sitting in car.
Bernd Opitz/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Old Wives Tales for Labor Induction:

As a woman nears her due date it is quite common to start to wonder when labor will begin and to wonder if there is anything that you can do to influence the beginnings of labor. Sometimes the goal is to simply have the baby, other times it is to avoid a medical induction of labor. Here are some of the old wives tales about labor induction:

  • Driving on a bumpy road will bring the baby.
  • Eating spicy foods will bring on labor, like these cookies.
  • Dancing naked in the moon will speed labor.
  • Walking, exercising or other strenuous physical activity will spur on labor.
  • A full moon or bad weather will bring a baby.

Sexual Intercourse:

The reference to sex as a way to start labor is an old one. While some studies say that labor is not influenced, other studies say that regular sex at the end of pregnancy does lower the risk of induction for being past your due date. Now the big question is what is it about sex that supposedly brings on labor? Is it the act of sex? Is it the semen that contains prostaglandins that ripen your cervix? Is it the oxytocin released during orgasm?

Nipple Stimulation:

Nipple stimulation is an old form of induction. It can be done by manual, oral or mechanical stimulation. Some practitioners feel that this gentle release of oxytocin from the body can provide the gentle ease into contractions for many moms, others do not agree. While we can't prove it starts labor, studies show that the number of women pregnant after 72 hours after beginning is less - isn't that the goal?

More on nipple stimulation.

Castor Oil:

Castor oil is an often talked about method of induction. By drinking or eating something with castor oil, or even rubbing it on the skin, it is said to bring about contractions by stimulating the bowels. This supposedly irritates the uterus and contractions of labor ensue. While no one can agree if this really works or not, the side effects can be nasty, including diarrhea and vomiting. Be sure to check with your practitioner about this method of induction.

More on castor oil.

Herbs and Remedies:

Herbs for induction have long been used by midwives and older practitioners of medicine. These days many of the hospital based methods of induction are from the same lines of care as the original herbs. Herbal inductions should only carried out with the help of your doctor or midwife as their safety and effectiveness are not proven. They may use some combination of the following herbs/remedies:

  • caulophyllum
  • evening primrose oil (EPO)
  • black and blue cohosh

Relaxation and Guided Imagery:

Relaxation and guided imagery can be very helpful in starting labor for some women. This is merely a way to help release tension and worries, particularly those surrounding birth and parenting. There are some professional products out there to guide you or you can write your own script. These are not harmful and even if they do not start labor, can help aid in relaxation and a feeling of calm about your upcoming birth.
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