If you are pregnant and anxious to meet your little one, you’ve probably spent some time looking into methods to kick-start your labor. There is no shortage of suggestions when it comes to ways to get the process started, but which methods have real science behind them? The methods listed here haven’t been proven to work (yet), so rest easy when all your friends insist that you must try them all to get labor going!
1. Castor oil or enemas—These methods tend to bring back fond memories for our grandmothers, since they were common many years ago! A review was done to see if they actually helped put women into labor, and while no effect was detected, the review was really too small to say. One thing was for certain: all women who took the castor oil felt nauseated. Avoid these substances if you don’t want nasty side effects of vomiting or diarrhea!
2. Having sex—This is another scenario where we don’t have enough studies to confirm or deny whether or not sex is helpful in jumpstarting labor. The proposed mechanism is that orgasm causes oxytocin to be released, and semen has prostaglandins in it. Both should theoretically cause contractions. Bottom line: don’t feel obligated to have sex if you don’t want to, since it’s not proven to help.
3. Walking—Walking may help your baby get into a good position in the pelvis (and being upright in labor is also a good idea), but you shouldn’t feel you have to do a marathon to get into labor. Stay hydrated, and stop if you are uncomfortable.
4. Acupuncture—A review that included 2,220 women was not able to conclude if acupuncture helped to induce labor. More studies are needed.
5. Homeopathic herbs or teas—Another review involving only 133 women was unable to draw conclusions on whether or not herbs commonly used to induce labor (such as caulophyllum) actually worked. Be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife before taking any herbal preparations, as most are not regulated and some may be dangerous to use in pregnancy.
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020
- Many old wives’ tales exist when it comes to inducing labor naturally.
- None of these methods have been shown to help start labor, but it may be because we don’t have enough good studies yet.
- Don’t feel obligated to try any of these methods, as you will give birth eventually with or without them!