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7 Old Wives' Tales for Inducing Labor

If you’ve gone past your due date, there’s a good chance that you’re desperate to meet your little precious angel. There’s a never-ending list of things that are rumored to help women induce labor. It’s rather common for women to try these old wives’ tales out as a desperate attempt to get labor started. 

There’s no denying the fact that these methods have never been medically proven to work, so their safety is not guaranteed. For this reason it’s best for you to get in touch with your healthcare provider and get a go-ahead before experimenting with any of them.

Please remember that these old wives’ tales mentioned here are for interest only. They are in no way intended to substitute for appropriate medical care and are in no way the final or definitive word on inducing labor. With that, here are 7 of the most popular old wives’ tales for inducing labor are:

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7 Sex Leads to Labor

Oh yeah, the number one old wives’ tale associated with inducing labor is that of having sex. Women who’re nearing their due date or have gone past it are told by people to have lots of sex as it’s rumored to induce labor. To be honest, it’s not the act of having sex that induces labor, but the semen that is ejaculated as a result of it.

Semen contains prostaglandins, hormones that can assist in ripening (softening and opening) the cervix and may possibly trigger contractions. On the other hand, when a woman has an orgasm, she releases the hormone oxytocin which stimulates the muscles of the uterus and makes them contract.

It’s understandable that people think having sex can help them get labor started. There are actually three different ways in which having sex may help them out. However, all three of these are plain theory and haven’t been proven by science. These include:

  • Having sex leads to the release of oxytocin – a hormone that assists your contractions
  • Having an orgasm may help the woman stimulate her uterus into action
  • With a high number of prostaglandins, the chemical that assists in relaxing tissues, semen can help ripen the neck of the cervix and prepare it for opening during labor

But is it safe?

Having sex is pretty safe as long your water hasn’t broken. In case your water has broken, then having sex is just going to increase the risk of infection. Also, you should refrain from having sex if you have a low-lying placenta (placenta praevia) or have had vaginal bleeding.

6 Nipple Stimulation Will Help Get the Baby Out

Gently rubbing and massaging the areolas for an hour, three times a day is believed to trigger the release of oxytocin, thereby leading to uterine contractions – the same effect that is produced by nursing, right? This technique is believed to work for women who have had a straightforward pregnancy and their body is ready to go into labor. However, you shouldn’t count on it to kickstart labor. 

That’s because there isn’t much evidence that proves it works. Also, it’s fairly time-consuming, so you will obviously have to think about whether you’re interested in investing so much effort or not. For those who want to try nipple stimulation to induce labor, just gently roll or rub your nipples. You will also have to massage the darker area around your nipple – the areola –not just the tip of your nipple. 

For this, just place your palm over the areola and move it in a circular motion, gently and firmly. Keep stimulating your breasts this way for an hour or so, three times a day. Continuously stimulate one breast for 15 minutes and then alternate to the other breast for 15 minutes – keep doing this until the hour is up.

Is it safe?

Yes, nipple stimulation is considered fairly safe by experts. However, what you need to bear in mind is that the contractions brought on by nipple stimulation may be intense and long and may even cause stress to your baby, including slowing down your baby’s heart rate. Hence, if you’re willing to put in the effort, go ahead and try out nipple stimulation.

5 Spicy Food Will Start Contractions

Yes, there’s an old wives’ tale that feasting on pad Thai or chicken wings smothered in lots and lots of suicide sauce has the potential to fire up your digestive system and bowels, and consequently, your uterus, thereby forcing it to contract. However, this is just another ‘old wives’ tale’ – there’s no evidence that the consumption of spicy food can trigger labor.

Pregnant women who have had it with being pregnant are always on the lookout for ways to encourage their body to go into labor. Because of this, you will always come across stories of how indulging in a particular spice or food (such as cumin and garlic, pineapple, or chilies) or eating at a particular pizzeria will do just that. But no spice or food has been scientifically proven to get labor started. 

It has been theorized by people that spicy food has the potential to cause contractions by stimulating the digestive system. There are those too who believe that spicy food increases production of the hormone prostaglandin, which also assists in moving the process along. Opponents of this theory are also quick to point out that a woman’s gastrointestinal tract and her uterus are not connected in anyway, so having spicy food will have no affect whatsoever on her pregnancy.

Word of caution

If you have a full stomach during labor, there is a good chance that you will suffer from a severe bout of vomiting, nausea and heartburn. The worst part is that it can also lead to further complications in case anesthesia is necessary.

4 Pineapples Can Trigger Labor Too

Fresh pineapples are known to naturally contain a combination of enzymes known as ‘Bromelain.’ It’s said that the consumption of pineapples by pregnant women makes the bromelain soften the connective tissue of the cervix, thereby triggering labor. However, it isn’t just pineapples that contain bromelain and have the potential to trigger labor. There are many tropical fruits that contain enzymes that may cause mild contractions and can help to soften the cervix. These include fruits like mango, kiwi and papaya etc.

Women who wish to induce labor are encouraged to eat fresh or tinned pineapple or drink pineapple juice once they reach the 40-weeks mark. They can obviously have limited amounts of the fruit, which is why they’re asked to think of ways in which they can have pineapples – smoothies are one of them. 

Most importantly, they’re told that having lots of pineapples will also assist in keeping their digestive system in check – but if they end up being constipated, there will be a reduced chance of them going into labor. What you need to bear in mind here is that one pineapple contains a very small amount of bromelain. This means that you will have to eat around seven pineapples to get things going. 

A few tips

On top of it all, having so many pineapples at once is just going to lead to indigestion followed by a severe bout of diarrhea, so this method of inducing labor isn’t really safe.

If you still want to go ahead with this method, feel free to do so. However, for it to work, try to have fresh pineapples – not the canned ones. This is because bromelain may get destroyed in the whole canning process. Also, try to have the whole of the peeled fruit including the core as that is where the most bromelain is found.

3 The Old Stand By - Castor Oil

Castor oil is a rather unpleasant-tasting vegetable oil that is known to work as a laxative. If you wish to take it orally, it’s best for you to disguise its yucky flavor by mixing it with juice. When taken orally, castor oil is known to trigger cramping in the intestines that surround the uterus during the latter stages of pregnancy. This is what leads to uterine muscle spasms and eventually, labor.

The ingestion of castor oil is a labor inducing technique that is used by way more women than you can ever imagine. Research on mice has shown that the active compound in castor oil attaches to the molecules that make muscles in the intestines and uterus have contractions. In case you’re pregnant, forcing the uterine muscles to contract is a fairly efficient means of jumpstarting labor.

A research study was once conducted on over 100 women who were given a dose of castor oil. Most interestingly, more than half of these women went into labor within 24 hours, which shows that castor oil really does have the potential to trigger labor.

Is it safe?

However, this in no way means that castor oil can get your labor going with a 100% guarantee. Even in the study, nearly half the women who consumed castor oil did not go into labor right away.

To be honest, the utilization of castor oil for the sake of inducing labor is not safe at all. Yes, taking a small dose is harmless, but women often end up taking large amounts of the oil. This can result in dangerously precipitous labor and delivery together with a severe bout of diarrhea and dehydration. 

2 Acupressure as a Means of Starting Labor

case you don’t know, acupressure is a form of touch therapy that is commonly used in Chinese medicine. When performing acupressure to induce labor, the therapist aims to target certain pressure points on the mother’s body, thereby making the baby descend. The technician will press onto the cervix, thereby ripening and dilating it and triggering contractions. 

A few acupressure techniques are even meant to help pregnant women directly stimulate contractions. Most importantly, there are certain acupressure techniques that even promote relaxation and relieve tension during labor.

Acupressure can go a long way in terms of safely inducing labor. However, experts suggest that it’s best for you to get your physician’s consent first. If you’re into the 40th week of your pregnancy, a professional can also perform acupressure on the web between the thumb and index finger of both your hands so as to stimulate uterine contractions. Several research studies have even shown that acupressure also has the potential to accelerate slow or stall labor.

A few more details

Using acupressure to induce labor is an effective and very pleasant method that can get labor going naturally. In order to induce labor through acupressure, there are two pressure points that can be stimulated to trigger contractions and get labor started. These are found in the webbing of the thumb and index finger and four finger-widths above the inside of your ankle bone. Just pinch the webbing of your hand and rub it in a circular motion for 60 seconds at a time. 

Take a 1-2 minute break between contractions while you’re at it. For the latter point, just press firmly on the said spot – if it feels sore, it means you’ve found it. Press and rub it in a circular motion till you have a contraction. Start again when the contraction ends.

1 A Bumpy Car Ride

Bouncing motions are believed to break your water and push your baby farther into the birth canal or into the right birthing position. However, there’s no scientific reasoning that supports this rumor and there’s no evidence that labor might start just because a pregnant mom finds herself on a gravel road or hits a few speed bumps. Oh and a bumpy ride is not going to hurt her baby at all, either. 

Unborn babies are rather well-protected in the womb surrounded by all that fluid – life’s minor bumps are going to harm them.

For the record, driving on a bumpy road actually poses many risks to the woman. To be honest, the risks actually outweigh any possible benefits that driving on a bumpy road may have to offer. However, there’s no reason why anyone would believe that it can help a woman induce labor. This particular old wives’ tale perhaps got started due to the concept that stimulating the cervix would start labor. But in this case, it doesn’t seem to work.

What about herbal teas?

Some herbal teas are safe for pregnant women interested in inducing labor, and some aren’t. For instance, raspberry-leaf tea is safe, but it won’t do anything in terms of starting labor. 

On the other hand, tea that contains the uterine-stimulating herb known as black cohosh can be very dangerous. Why is that so? Well, because the uterine contractions that this tea would trigger can be so harsh that they may lead to certain complications like placental abruption (a condition in which the placenta separates from the uterus before the baby is born).

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