Pregnancy can be exhausting, and after months of growing another life inside your body, you might start to feel #OverIt. You might wonder how to naturally induce labor once you reach the end of your third trimester.
Pregnant people have historically done a few different things to jumpstart labor naturally, and one of these methods is eating certain foods that naturally induce labor.
Most foods known as natural labor-inducers are just subjects of pregnancy folklore, and yet, it doesn’t seem to stop pregnant people from researching this topic. Many of these foods bring on other symptoms like diarrhea, cramping, and contractions. Still, such symptoms could kickstart labor, so eating these could work.
Here are ten foods that are thought to speed up the labor process – but take it all with a grain of salt (just not literally).
Which foods naturally induce labor?
Drinking about 1 to 2 ounces of castor oil could help naturally induce labor by stimulating your body’s release of the hormone prostaglandin. This hormone is known for encouraging the cervix to dilate, a key part of jumpstarting labor.
Before drinking castor oil to induce labor naturally, we recommend consulting your OBGYN. Consuming too much castor oil can irritate your GI tract and cause symptoms such as cramping and contractions, says Pampers.
Another “drink” known to naturally induce labor is red raspberry leaf tea. Even if it doesn’t cause you to start having contractions, red raspberry leaf tea is thought to prepare the uterus for labor and even strengthen your inner body. However, for such a popular remedy, experts speaking to Today's Parent say that red raspberry leaf tea cannot induce labor, but it is "a tonic for the uterus" and should be drunk purely for the nutrients.
Like the effect of drinking castor oil, consuming spicy foods to naturally induce labor might also have some unpleasant side effects, as per What to Expect. Spicy foods could include cramping and contractions, especially if you are already dilated.
There isn’t much scientific evidence to back this pregnancy legend up; however, one study that targeted preterm births did find a connection between consuming spicy foods and inducing labor, What to Expect noted.
One study from 2011 suggests eating dates could induce labor naturally. In the study, pregnant women who ate six dates per day during the month before their due date were more likely to go into labor naturally; they also had higher dilation levels when admitted to the hospital.
So, while snacking on a few dates won’t result in immediate labor-related contractions, it can affect your labor experience, making it generally easier and potentially faster when the time comes.
Consuming pineapple is said to initiate labor, potentially because the core contains bromelain, an enzyme known to break down proteins in the tissue. The myth seems to contend that the bromelain makes its way to a pregnant woman's cervix, which can break down tissue, softening the cervix and initiating labor.
Healthline cautions pregnant people to be careful and consult their doctor first; too much pineapple could lead to heartburn, nausea, stomachache, and diarrhea.
Other foods that could potentially induce labor naturally – though these are mostly based on anecdotal evidence and not scientific data – include green papaya, black licorice, garlic, black or blue cohosh, and cumin tea.
What else triggers labor?
Various activities supposedly trigger labor, from sexual intercourse and mild exercise. Some pregnant people try a combination, so it can be difficult to tell which activity is most effective.
However, exercise is generally a safer bet when it comes to naturally inducing labor — the Journal of Perinatal Education reports that exercise worked best for people in a survey who tried to induce their labor naturally. Walking, having sex, and nipple stimulation were the top types reported.
Does evening primrose oil induce labor?
While there is no scientific evidence to suggest that evening primrose oil – in either oral capsule form or by inserting it vaginally – induces labor naturally, many people believe it to soften the cervix in preparation for labor. Consult your doctor first before trying this method as potential side effects could include diarrhea, nausea, and upset stomach, which could lead to other GI symptoms.
Does rubbing your nipples help induce labor?
While full-on sexual intercourse is recommended to help naturally induce labor, according to Healthline, stimulating the nipples is also a perfectly effective way to naturally induce labor. Rubbing the nipples, massaging, or even lightly touching them can work as it stimulates the release of oxytocin – a hormone that can jumpstart labor.
Either way, be safe and good luck!
This article, originally published on Nov. 10, 2020, has been updated.