40 Natural Ways to Induce Labor
Things to Know Before Inducing Labor Naturally
- Natural induction should only be a helping hand. You want the method to be gentle enough that you won’t go into labor if your body isn’t ready. Induction is not recommended before 39-40 weeks. If you do try to induce before then, chances are it won't work anyway.
- Don't stress about being overdue. First-time pregnancies are up to 80% more likely to go beyond the due date and you are not officially "overdue" until 42 weeks. Even then, a doctor cannot legally induce labor without your permission.
- Do your own research. Make sure you know the risks and are taking the correct amount of any herbal product. Don't overstrain yourself with labor-inducing exercises.
- If you aren't sure, talk to your doctor. This is especially true if your pregnancy has been complicated or is considered high-risk.
Good luck with natural induction. Hopefully you'll be meeting your gorgeous new addition very soon!
Always Ask Your Doctor or Midwife
Before trying any of these methods, talk to your doctor or midwife, especially if your pregnancy has had complications or is considered high-risk.
Past Your Due Date? Top Ten Ways to Induce Labor Naturally.
Week to Start
How to Use it Safely
1. Red raspberry leaf tea
Make a tea and sip, or take in pill form.
2. Evening primrose oil
35 weeks orally, 38 weeks internally
Consult your doctor or midwife before using as complications can occur.
Make sure your acupressurist has experience working with pregnant women.
Eat in moderation to assist with uterine contractions. Do not take potassium supplements.
Stimulates blood flow to the uterus when added to food.
6. Borage seed oil capsules
Can be inserted vaginally. The oil can also be used to massage the perineum.
7. Bouncing on exercise ball
Find a comfortable position and bounce to bring the baby's head into position.
Walk on a level path or up and down stairs to bring the baby into position.,
9. Castor oil
With the support of your doctor or midwife, take castor oil orally when induction is medically necessary.
10. Black and blue cohosh
Take these herbs together in a tincture with the support of your doctor or midwife to strengthen contractions.
Getting Labor Started at 34 Weeks
1. Red Raspberry Leaf - Taken either as a tea or pill, red raspberry leaf can be taken at about 34 weeks. Opinion is divided as to whether it will start labor, but it definitely strengthens the uterus, leading to a (hopefully) shorter labor, because each contraction is more productive. It has been shown in one study to shorten the pushing stage of labor.
When Induction Is Medically Necessary: Evening Primrose Oil at 35-38 Weeks
2. Evening primrose oil - Can be taken orally from 35 weeks or used internally from 38 weeks. If you decide to go with the second route, I would recommend doing it at night and using a pantyliner. However, keep in mind that evening primrose oil does present risks, so do your own research. Some medical information warns against using this supplement during pregnancy. While evening primrose oil is commonly used by midwives to hasten and ease labor, studies question its effectiveness and warn that its use may lead to ruptured membranes and other complications.
Did You Know?
Legally, no doctor can induce you without your permission. A big baby is not a reason to induce. If in doubt, get a second opinion, refuse the induction, or ask for more information.
Starting at 39 Weeks: Foods and Gentle Induction Methods
3. Acupressure - In addition to alleviating morning sickness and stopping bleeding or spotting in the early months of pregnancy, acupressure massages can also induce labor. Before using though, you’ll want to make sure that your acupressurist has experience working with pregnant women. Typically, there are acupressure points in the ankles and in the webbing between your thumb and forefinger that can cause muscle contractions, including in the uterus.
4. Bananas - Bananas have lots of potassium, which is crucial to muscle contractions. So a potassium deficiency could potentially delay labor. Note that you should eat bananas in moderation and avoid taking potassium supplements as they can be poisonous when take incorrectly.
5. Basil - Basil is an emmenagogue, or an herb that stimulates blood flow to the uterus, and can stimulate menstruation. Throw some in your cooking!
6. Borage seed oil - Along with primrose oil and black currant oil, borage seed oil is a natural source of prostaglandins, fatty acids that help induce labor. Borage oil prepares the body for birth by softening the cervix and increasing the flexibility of the pelvic ligaments. With that tissue softened, labor often quickly follows because of the pressure exerted on the cervix by the baby’s head.
7. Bouncing on a birth/exercise ball - Ball exercises can help turn your baby and move him or her into the birth canal. Midwives and doulas have been using this technique for years to speed up dilation and move the baby down into the pelvis. Find a comfortable position and gently bounce up and down to encourage your baby to move into position.
8. Visualisation exercises - Many women swear by these. Try making a recording of yourself talking about the baby moving down and preparing to be born, or just imagine it in your mind. These are often really good to do along with relaxation exercises!
9. Walking - The bumping up and down of walking can help the baby move into the birth canal. In fact, this is one of the few ways that most doctors agree on for starting labor. If walking doesn't work, try walking up and down stairs. Lifting your legs higher as you step can help push the baby downward.
10. Yoga - Many yoga studios offer special classes for all stages of pregnancy.
11. Clary sage oil - Research shows that clary sage oil aromatherapy can help promote labor and relieve pain. In fact, it is so effective in promoting labor that its use is contraindicated at any other time during pregnancy. This method should only be used by a trained midwife or practitioner. It’s not one to do by yourself as it can cause harm if used incorrectly.
12. Dates - Six dates a day in the lead-up to your due date has been shown by studies to make labor start, help with dilation, and keep labor from going too long. Plus, dates are yummy!
Induce Labor with an Exercise Ball
13. Golden seal - Golden seal's active components of hydrastatine and berberine have long been used to induce labor. It’s most easily taken orally in tablet form. As it can be dangerous during pregnancy if taken incorrectly, seek professional advice before using.
14. Kneeling on all fours - A friend of a friend was told to do this. Get down on your hands and knees and swing your hips back and forth. Her waters broke just a few minutes later. Coincidence? Maybe!
15. Licorice root - Try to get the root, not the candy. You can see what the root looks like in the picture below. The root contains more licorice and usually less sugar. Like castor oil, it has a laxative effective that causes cramping in the bowls, which in turn can lead to uterine contractions.
Did You Know?
The average first pregnancy is 41 weeks and 1 day.
Which Week to Use Natural Induction Methods
16. Massage - Find a massage therapist qualified to work with pregnant women. Many will know various points to massage to induce labor. Massage is not recommended during the early stages of pregnancy.
17. Motherwort - This is a great herb to use at the end of your pregnancy. It makes your contractions more effective, regulates the Braxton Hicks contractions, and stops false labor. Taken shortly after birth, motherwort can also calm your nerves and potentially prevent postpartum depression.
18. Nipple stimulation - Gently rub or roll the nipple to try to induce labor. The stimulation releases oxytocin, a hormone that causes contraction. The jury is still out on this method though. Some claim that it causes very strong contractions which can be dangerous. If you’re concerned, some experts recommend only massaging one breast at a time, or only massaging for five minutes and then waiting to see what happens before continuing. I tried it and I had barely more than cramps! For increased stimulation, try a breast pump.
19. Pineapple - Best taken fresh and raw. Pineapples contain the enzyme bromeliad, which can soften your cervix and and bring on labor. It can also stimulate your stomach, which could also help get some contractions going. Statistically speaking, the chemicals in pineapple that are said to start labor aren't very high. It would take a lot of pineapple to get labor going.
20. Relaxation exercises - Try some relaxing music and lie back or even join a meditation class. Any of the relaxation exercises you learned in a childbirth class would work here. Tension works against labor, while letting everything go may help bring it on.
21. Sperm - If you feel up to sex, intercourse can work to get labor started. Sperm contains natural prostaglandins that release oxytocin to help soften and dilate the cervix.
22. Spicy food - A very well-known labor starter! The reason it works may be because of the upset it causes to the digestive system, which then upsets the uterus. Not highly recommended.
23. Squats - Doing a few of these each day often helps to move the baby down and into position. Squats use gravity to push the baby downwards, thereby jumpstarting your birth naturally.
24. Squaw Vine - Old remedy. Not sure how well it works. Can be taken during the last six weeks of pregnancy. Helps to thin and soften the cervix. Some medical information warns against using this herb during pregnancy.
25. Stretch and sweep of membranes - Your midwife or doctor can perform this simple procedure. A finger is inserted into the cervix and a gentle 'sweep' of the finger slightly separates the uterus wall and amniotic sac, sometimes leading to labor within hours or days. Some women say it's an easy, painless procedure, others find it very painful. How well it works can also depend on whether you are very far dilated or not.
26. Swimming - Relaxed swimming can help bring out the baby. Both the water and the movement help.
Did You Know?
Medical induction greatly increases the risk of complications during labor, from bradycardia (low heartbeat in baby) to hemorrhage.
41-42 Weeks: Carefully Researched Use of Castor Oil or Cohosh
27. Castor oil - Statistically speaking, castor oil only works on 57% of women and causes lovely things like diarrhoea and, sometimes, vomiting. The theory is that the cramps in the bowel set off contractions. Opinion is still out as to whether castor oil causes babies to pass meconium in the womb, but most women using castor oil are overdue and babies that are overdue are more likely to pass meconium.
Warning: Please read the article linked above before using castor oil and make sure you're fully informed about how to induce safely this way.
28. Black and blue cohosh - Black and blue cohosh are two different herbs that, when taken together as a tincture, can help induce and regulate contractions. Some midwives use it during labor to strengthen uterine contractions. There have been some studies that claim the herbs have bad side effects for mother and/or baby, however. I'd recommend further research first, about how black and blue cohosh works and the risks of using it. If you decide to use cohosh, make sure you don’t take anymore than the manufacturer recommends.
More Natural Ways to Help You Go Into Labor
While the above methods have the most science behind them, there are still a number of natural induction methods that some mothers swear by. While some of them may be "old wives' tales," they certainly can't hurt to try. So if you're overdue and want that baby out, ask your midwife or doctor about trying these methods.
29. A bumpy car ride - Sometimes the baby just needs a little bit of jiggling to get into the correct position.
30. Chinese food - Not sure why, but some people have claimed this works. Or maybe they just ate Chinese food all the time anyway, so they thought it was responsible for the onset of labor. Either way, it's worth a try!
31. Balsamic Vinegar - According to the What to Expect book, balsamic vinegar can help bring on labor. However, it might not work until you're already dilated. Add a dash to your salad. Definitely won't hurt to try!
32. Dancing - Don't do anything too drastic; pole dancing might be a bit much! But if you get in there and swing your hips around a lot, there's a chance baby might think about coming out.
33. Mandarin Oil - I had a friend who was told that rubbing mandarin oil on her heels would send her into labor. It didn't work for her, but it might for you!
34. Quinine - Be sure to check the dosage with a medical professional. Reputedly, it releases oxytocin, which can help bring on labor.
35. Eggplant - A lot of people swear by eggplant parmagiana. Again, it's delicious and good for you, so go ahead and eat as much as you'd like!
36. Swinging on a swing - Similar to a bumpy car ride but probably a bit easier on the mother.
37. Orgasms - Orgasms cause contractions, which is one of the reasons they feel so good. It's also why many women enjoy orgasms more during pregnancy! You can try this method alone or with a partner . . . whatever you're comfortable with.
48. Thyme tea - Reportedly, thyme tea can cause stimulate contractions, sending you into labor.
39. A glass of wine - Wine helps release oxytocin, one of the hormones that signals the body to go into labor. However remember that drinking during pregnancy is NOT recommended. Check with your doctor first.
40. Skipping/galloping - You might feel a bit self-conscious skipping around your house or neighborhood, but it works according to the same mechanism that walking does. It uses gravity to help get the baby into position.
Thank You for Reading!
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- Tiran, Denise "Can raspberry leaf tea help to ease labour?" Babycentre.co.uk Retreived from https://www.babycentre.co.uk/x545986/can-raspberry-leaf-tea-help-to-ease-labour
- "Evening Primrose Oil" WebMD.com Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1006-evening%20primrose%20oil.aspx?activeingredientid=1006
- Dove D. & Johnson P., (1999 May-Jun) "Oral evening primrose oil: its effect on length of pregnancy and selected intrapartum outcomes in low-risk nulliparous women." Journal of Nurse Midwifery 44(3):320-4 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10380450
- Al-Kuran O, Al-Mehaisen L, Bawadi H, Beitawi S & Amarin Z., (2011) "The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery." Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 31(1):29-31. doi: 10.3109/01443615.2010.522267 Retreived from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280989
- "Squawvine" WebMD.com Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-745-SQUAWVINE.aspx?activeIngredientId=745&activeIngredientName=SQUAWVINE
- Brooks, Dominique W. "Black and Blue Cohosh to Induce Labor" LovetoKnow Retrieved from http://herbs.lovetoknow.com/Black_and_Blue_Cohosh_to_Induce_Labor
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Questions & Answers
© 2010 Susannah Birch