“The baby will come when it's ready.” All mothers-to-be must have heard or read this numerous times. After a long nine month journey when the due date comes and goes without any exciting action, the mother runs out of patience and is willing to try any natural method to bring the baby into the world. But what happens inside the body while the mother is waiting desperately for the baby outside? In other words ‘What triggers labor?’
It's a question that science has been trying to answer for ages. There are two theories on this. One recent theory from researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, say that labor starts when the fetal lungs send a signal to the uterus by increased production of a protein. This creates an inflammatory response from the uterus, and contractions begin. The second theory says that the fetal adrenal glands send a signal by secreting hormones that trigger hormonal changes in the mother, resulting in labor.
Either way, scientists believe that the process of labor is initiated by the baby. In other words, labor will usually start when fetal development is complete inside the womb. But what about the old wives tales that are tried by most mothers who are at term? Many women swear by these natural labor induction methods. Why is it that one method works for a mother and fails for another? We explore some of these methods in this article.
15 Engaging In Intercourse
Making love is the second most popular choice for women for labor induction - 29% of women try starting labor in bed with their husband.
Michelle says that she tried having sex starting a week before the due date every day, but it didn't do anything to start labor. Dianna also tried this popular and fun trick at 39 weeks, but, again, with no results.
Another mom whose cervix was dilated 3 cms tried to speed things up with her husband’s help, but her status did not change for days. A mom of 6 laughs it off and says this is nothing but false. She has sex all the time, but it does nothing to induce labor. She gives her word on this one. Another mom of 3 had sex very frequently, but she only got Braxton Hicks that subsided after a few hours.
14 Eating Pineapple
Pineapple is often lauded as a great way to bring on labor. Most say that you have to be sure to eat the core portion of the pineapple because that's where the supposed labor-inducing enzymes are located. Vanessa says she ate pineapple when she was pregnant with her second child. However, when she tried it, she was already dilated 3 cms. According to her, pineapple will not work if the cervix hasn’t already started effacing or dilating. Before that, it doesn’t seem to have any purpose.
Veronica, another mom who tried pineapple, says she ate a whole fresh fruit and drank a can of juice, but ended up only having diarrhea. She tried eating pineapple when she was well past term. Later, she also tried acupuncture and membrane sweep, but none of it worked. Finally, she had to be induced artificially.
Alechia says she had loads of pineapple in her first pregnancy only to be disappointed. She also tried walking and eating spicy foods, but nothing worked in her favor.
13 Eating Spicy Foods
10.5% of pregnant women try eating spicy food to bring on labor. Hot food is third on the list of women who are past their due date and trying to get labor going.
Amy says that she tried eating spicy Mexican, Thai and Indian food to induce natural labor when her pregnancy when past 40 weeks. It wasn't successful, but she did get a lot of indigestion.
Another mum, who craves spicy food says she had been having it throughout her pregnancy. Now, at 38 weeks, she is still eating peppers, homemade salsa, spicy Cheetos, and jalapeños, but she had no signs of labor or pre-labor.
Many women who tried to spice it up say that they had diarrhea instead of labor. Asian mothers who already included a lot of spicy foods in their diets bet that this method doesn’t work because a lot of them also go overdue and have to be induced. Some mothers quip that when someone isn’t used to spicy food, the system gets a shock and that induces labor. But what about when it fails?
12 Drinking Castor Oil
Castor oil for inducing labor isn’t just a myth, but can also prove to be dangerous. Castor oil acts as a laxative and can cause diarrhea and intestinal cramping. It can cause the baby to pass meconium and inhale it. One mother posted about her tragic experience with castor oil. She started drinking castor oil everyday in a moderate quantity along with orange juice. However, she noticed that with each passing day the movements in her womb were slowing down. When she discussed it with her doctor he induced labor, but she was heartbroken to see that her baby was lifeless.
Lucy says that one of her cousins took castor oil as she was influenced by her mom and friends. They too swore by castor oil. But then tragedy struck. Her baby passed meconium and then inhaled it. She was born brain dead.
Another mom, Jody, admits that she did the most stupid thing in the world by unknowingly putting her baby at risk by drinking castor oil. Her baby also passed meconium, but fortunately her baby was saved by the team of experienced doctors who did not let the baby breath until they cleared her air ways. She warns other moms to never try castor oil.
11 Applying Evening Primrose Oil
Hailey shares her trial with evening primrose oil that she took both orally and vaginally, but it didn’t work for her. She advises other women that different methods seem to be working for different women.
Cara says that she took primrose oil in the form of a capsule starting at the 37th week. However, she went past her due date. She had to endure a long labor too, which lasted for about 36 hours.
Another mom, Barb, took primrose oil, orally and vaginally, when she went overdue with twins. It was of no use. They waited until the end of the 42nd week and ultimately had to go through a c-section.
While evening primrose doesn’t bring on labor, it may help ease labor when a mother has started dilating. However, it has other benefits for example, making the skin more pliant, and women who use it often do not need any stitches.
10 Drinking Raspberry Leaf Tea
A mother who started taking raspberry leaf tea from the 27th week onwards went overdue. She says she started drinking 3 cups a day, but it didn’t do anything to induce labor. However, it does tone the uterus and makes the labor easier according to her.
Another mom of 4 kids, Drew, says that she drank it in all her pregnancies and it did not induce labor for her. The benefit that she got from raspberry leaf tea was that her pushing stage of labor reduced to 10 minutes and 8 minutes in two of her VBAC pregnancies.
Morgan, who has a toddler aged 4, was pregnant with her second child and was running out of patience and wanted to deliver on her due date. Morgan tried raspberry leaf tea but it didn’t work. Later, she ended up trying almost all the natural methods purported to induce labor, only to be disappointed.
Women with two or more children say that the only thing that raspberry leaf tea does is make the labor go steady and easy, so although it may not induce it, having it easier is still a blessing.
9 Signing Up For Acupuncture
All mothers who got acupuncture done are clear on one thing: they know that acupuncture will bring on labor only when the body is ready. It means when the cervix effacement and dilation has begun. In other words, it doesn’t do anything to make the body ready for labor. It only makes the already in process labor a bit faster.
A mother of 2, Sarah, says that she underwent acupuncture in her first pregnancy, however it didn't bring on labor. Even though it didn't work the first time around, she tried it again in her second pregnancy too as it is safe, natural and done by trained professionals. But again, no luck.
Another mother shares her experience of acupuncture. She got it done throughout the pregnancy, which made it a great journey. But when she went for the appointment for induction treatment, it didn't start her labor and she had to wait for another week for labor to begin.
One commonality that all pregnant women share is is that, even though it didn't induce labor, it was nevertheless relaxing and they enjoyed the therapy.
8 Eating Date Fruit
A mother of 2, Robin, reveals that she ate date fruit throughout her pregnancy, but she didn’t find any effect to induce labor or even on delivery. According to a study done at the Jordan University, it was found that eating 4 dates everyday in the last month of pregnancy reduces the need for artificial induction. Also, the labor paces more steadily for women who eat dates every day. However, it does not induce labor contractions.
However, a mother recently posted a comment on dates saying that she started eating them at 32 weeks, but she ended up having a 30 hour labor. This one sounds like an exception to the easy labor theory. Dates are nevertheless a yummy fruit for the ones who have a sweet tooth and they are full of vitamins and minerals. They can safely go for it if they want a short and easy labor. Eating too many though, can send you running to the washroom.
7 Undergoing A Membrane Sweep
A membrane sweep only helps in speeding up the process of labor when the cervix is ripe. In such a case, a membrane sweep can result in labor contractions within 48 to 72 hours. This is precisely the reason that many women who still had their cervix intact did not go into labor even after getting membranes stripped two or three times.
In one scenario, a mother at 41 weeks had membranes stripped, but it did nothing to start labor. Another mother reveals that she got membranes stripped at 38th week and she bled for about 2 hours afterwards, and the result was a disappointment. She ended up with irregular Braxton Hicks contractions that ended after 5 hours.
Even practising doctors and midwifes agree that there is no guarantee that a membrane sweep can bring on labor. A membrane sweep does help if the cervix is soft and ready. Doctors usually offer membrane sweeps to women who have reached their 40th week.
6 Signing Up For Acupressure
A mother posted in Mumsnet that she went for acupressure at her 41st week, but it didn’t work to induce labor. She had to be induced at her 42nd week instead. Another mom who tried both acupressure and acupuncture says that the stimulation level of acupuncture is better. Acupressure did not work for her.
A few mothers share similar stories: one mom went through acupressure treatment after her due date, but all it brought was false labor. These irregular contractions stopped after a couple days and they had to still wait for labor. Another mom got acupressure done from a masseuse friend nearing 40 weeks. She got it done once again from a professional during her 41st week. Unfortunately, neither worked and she had to be induced.
The moms who got labor contractions after acupressure treatment were already slightly dilated. So acupressure can bring on labor only when the body or the cervix is ready and effaced.
5 Blue Or Black Cohosh
Blue cohosh, black cohosh, false unicorn root, motherwort are a few herbs that are popular for inducing labor. Depending on who you ask, moms-to-be are supposed to put a few drops under their tongues of each extract throughout the day at different time intervals. All agree that it tastes awful. These herbs should never be used without consulting a doctor or midwife as these aren’t regulated by the FDA. Women with a complicated pregnancy should steer clear.
Angela, a mother of 3, says that she tried blue cohosh when she was pregnant the third time, but she found that blue cohosh is only good for easing labor pain. Another first time mother shares that she took a combination of black and blue cohosh, however her labor lasted for 30 hours.
Another mother, who is a fan of the combo of black and blue cohosh, says that she would try it again, but only because her labor lasted only 3 hours. However, she advises that it doesn’t work if the body isn’t ready, and it doesn’t work for everyone.
4 Climbing Steps
One mother, Zimmy, says she tried stair climbing a lot at 41 weeks, but it did not work for her. She says that she realized that if climbing steps helped induce labor then the mothers who simply have to climb steps every day would deliver pre-term, but that obviously doesn’t happen. So, it works only when the body and baby are ready. Only when the cervix is ripe does climbing steps help move things along.
Ashley says that her midwife suggested climbing stairs sideways two at a time. She tried it for 11 days but nothing happened. Moreover, she almost tripped while doing it one day. So this could turn out to be dangerous as well. Climbing steps is however, good exercise that can make the labor easy. If overdone though, it could be extremely tiring and can make a mother go out of breath.
3 Taking A Warm Bath
A warm bath is another popular choice for inducing labor when mothers are overdue. Advocates of warm baths say that it helps to relax the mind and helps the cervix to become ready for labor.
However, women who had preterm labor contractions have been advised to jump into warm water to stall labor. Some midwives say that warmth helps in stopping Braxton Hicks and gives relief, and when the actual labor starts, it helps in shortening the labor. Therefore, warm water also works to induce labor, only when the actual labor is about to begin.
A mother at 40+6 weeks, says that she has been taking warm baths with Epsom salt for many weeks, but she is still waiting for her labor. Lesley says she tried everything along with warm water baths, but she ended up being induced. She advises women that if they try to induce labor before it's time then there are high chances of a long labor.
2 Walking Or Running
Although she tried her best, walking at a fast waddle failed to bring labor for Amy. She hiked more than she would have otherwise, expecting labor to begin soon. But she was left disappointed as her baby just refused to come. Another woman shared that her friend exercised every single day during pregnancy, but she delivered 9 days after her due date. It sure makes us believe that the baby comes only when he's fully developed and ready. So there's no guarantee that walking or extra exercise induces labor. But it does help in making the labor a bit easier.
In reality, 43% of women give walking a try to induce natural labor. Why not? It’s not as difficult as getting heartburn from eating spicy foods. Walking tops the list of natural methods women try for inducting labor. While there is no scientific evidence of onset of labor when a woman tries walking, it has actually been known to increase the intensity of Braxton Hicks contractions.
1 Drinking Ginger Tea
Victoria says that she drank ginger tea when she was pregnant for treating a cold and she wasn’t aware of the fact that it was often used for inducing labor. She says it's laughable as drinking ginger did not bring on labor for her. Dominique says that she drank ginger tea twice a week throughout pregnancy, but she was intact until her due date.
Another mom did some research and found out that ginger tea is taken mostly by Spanish women and it works for them. She found out about it from her friends and family who swore by ginger tea, but she became heavily pregnant and overdue at 42 weeks.
Katie tells that she had ginger tea almost every day throughout her pregnancy to treat nausea, however she never went into labor before her due date. Ginger, however, is an anti-inflammatory and protects the body from throat infections and colds.
It really just seems that no matter what people try, the body simply is not going to start labor until it and the baby are good and ready.