How Can I Induce Labor?

It can seem like time just creeps along once you enter the final weeks of pregnancy and patience can wear thin as you fill with excitement and maybe a bit of apprehension. If you are beyond the 38th week of pregnancy and are hoping to encourage labor to begin, or maybe you are trying to avoid a caesarian delivery or medical inducement, you might be hearing a lot of advice about how to induce labor on your own.

The most important conversation you can have about inducing labor is with your physician who knows your body and your pregnancy. He or she might endorse some alternative methods you can try at home to encourage labor to begin, but keep in mind that in order for them to usually work, your cervix needs to already be thinning and dilating. This means that labor is typically close, anyway. There are several methods that pregnant couples try in order to begin labor, but they are not without side effects and risks. So you might be wondering “How can I induce labor?”

Walking – and Walking Some More

Many women try this as their first go-to choice to bring on labor. It seems to perhaps make sense that warming up the muscles and encouraging positive exercise endorphins might bring on labor, but there is not real evidence that this is the case.

Nipple Stimulation

Also referred to as breast massage, either the woman or her partner gently massages and twists the nipples for more than an hour each day. This can encourage the body to release oxytocin, the hormone responsible for signaling contractions. There are risks involved, too, including starting very long and painful contractions that might even result in lowering the heart rate of your baby. Another potential side effect is that the nipples become even sorer and it makes it more uncomfortable to begin breastfeeding.

Having Sex

One of the methods considered by some to be a wives tail invented by husbands is to have sex to encourage labor. There is no scientific proof that intercourse will cause you to go into labor, but there are possible reasons why it might seem to work. During sex the hormone-like substance prostaglandins in the ejaculation is released, and it has some of the same properties of the substances used in a medical induction. Do not use sex to begin labor if your water has already broken.

Spicy Foods

There is no real scientific backing to the idea that consuming spicy foods will lead to labor, but women everywhere still seem convinced that it is worth the try. Spicy food can be responsible for irritating your digestive system and cause you to have diarrhea, which can then cause dehydration, and then lead to contractions as a response to the dehydration.


In many parts of Asia acupuncture has been the method of choice for a more natural way to induce labor. There is beginning to be research that points in the direction that this is a legitimate way to start labor without medication, but those studies are still under review and no definitive agreement has been reached. What most physicians and researchers do agree upon is that acupuncture when done by a highly trained professional usually poses little risk to the mother and child.

Other methods, such as taking castor oil, other supplements, or evening primrose oil, are still under scrutiny. Castor oil can be very dangerous as it tends to cause severe dehydration. Women with conditions such as placenta previa should not try methods such as evening primrose oil – or other artificial methods of inducing labor. The bottom line is that most babies have their own timelines and you should discuss any concerns and strategies with your healthcare provider.


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