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Old wives tales! How to induce labor..

Updated on January 12, 2013

Ooohhh boy...

If you've been pregnant before, you've probably heard a few suggestions on how to induce labor. Advice ranges from practical to down right odd. Being in the middle of my third pregnancy, I thought I'd like to enlighten you all into some old wives tales I've heard from friends, family, co-workers and strangers.

Castor Oil:

  • Taking a spoonful of castor oil is said to start contractions, by stimulating your intestinal tract. However, it is a laxative and if you're not close to going into labor already, you might end up on the toilet all night anyway. The doctors and midwives I've worked with through my pregnancies have caution against using this measure.

Foods to bring on labor:

  • Pineapple and black licorice are thought to stimulate the production of prostaglandins and help get the cervix ready for labor. Red raspberry leaf tea is said to help strengthen the uterine muscles and help you tone the area for labor and delivery, not to bring on labor. Spicy foods however can work against you, as you try to prep for labor. The capsasin in spicy foods may work against the endorphins your body releases as your labor begins to progress, which lessens your ability to naturally block out some of the pain.


  • Having sex is something I've heard from many people. My midwives and doctor from all pregnancies have suggested this. The prostaglandins found in semen help soften and stimulate the cervix and possibly help the onset of contractions. CAUTION: If your water has already broken or you are leaking any fluid, sex should not be used to help along labor. Due to the fact that the amniotic sac is no longer fully protecting you or your baby from infection.

Nipple Stimulation:

  • Nipple stimulation causes the release of oxytocin, which can lead to some contractions. I've had my midwives suggest this to me as well. However like most tips and tales, unless you're already in the beginning stages of labor these contractions are not sufficient enough to speed things along.

Long walks or exercise:

  • Long, brisk walks and exercise is good to maintain your pregnancy weight and keep those muscles toned. Some sources say that the walking and exercise will help the baby move further down into the pelvis allowing the extra pressure to help prime your cervix. With my current and previous pregnancy I've been very active in maintaining my physical fitness level. I've noticed that short walks trigger some contractions, enough to tone up the muscles and feel some Braxton Hicks contractions. However be sure not to wear yourself out trying to push yourself into labor. You will need all the energy you can get once the time comes. CAUTION: Keep well hydrated, while being dehydrated can cause contractions and send some women into preterm labor. Forcing yourself to become dehydrated to start your labor is neither healthy for you or your baby and can crop up a whole new set of problems.

The only sure fire way for labor to start is to play the waiting game. I know being as big as a cow, and waddling like one too is neither sexy nor fun, but your baby knows when the right time to come is.

In the mean time there's lots to do while you wait:

  • Give into that Nesting instinct and prep the house for the new addition!
  • Cook and freeze meals for the oncoming days, both a time and a sanity saver for the first few weeks when you'll be low on sleep and energy.
  • Pack your hospital bags. Make sure you have the essential basic hygiene gear, as well as an out fit for both you and the baby to go home in. Prep for several days, in case of an unexpected delay at the hospital.
  • Buy and install the car seat. Make sure the instructions have been followed or take it in to the local fire station to have them inspect the installation as well.
  • Never too late for an infant CPR class, it's better to be prepared for anything then caught off guard.
  • Have a plan and a back up plan. How are you getting to the hospital? If you have other kids, who is going to watch them? Know the signs of the different stages of labor to be prepared.

Please feel free to comment and leave your old wives tales below! What's worked for you? What's the strangest advice you've come across?


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    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Great hub for expectant mothers! I have heard bits and pieces of these along w/ first hand testimonials about their effectiveness. Don't know anyone who has had castor oil- yuck!) We all have our own stories to tell.

      For all moms out there: Happy Mother's Day!!