Food is a topic that pregnant women are bombarded with from the first trimester onwards. Advice on what foods will harm or will help your growing baby are available in abundance. But another important role food has is in the last few weeks of pregnancy, when the body is preparing for birth. Many women might want to avoid being induced and will try all sorts of techniques to encourage labor to start naturally and timely. Whilst there has been not enough scientific research on the connection between food and labor to make solid claims, here are some suggestions of food and drink that women have commonly claimed to have worked in bringing on labor.
As a reminder, please consult your doctor before trying any of these options to determine the best course of action for you and your baby.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea: Known as the “women’s herb” this is a traditional classic for preparing for labor. The tea contains an important mix of vitamins, including C and B, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and iron, which according to the American Pregnancy Association, helps strengthen the uterus. A strong uterus can both speed up and ease delivery, and therefore reduce the need for induction. Drinking 1-3 cups a day from 32 weeks is the recommended consumption.
Dates: Date-eating is probably one of the oldest traditions in terms of food that is known to bring on labor. Dates contain a rich array of vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates and fats, which together create an oxytocin-like effect on the uterus, helping it to prepare for birth. A trial conducted in 2007 showed that women who had eaten dates needed less Pitocin had increased cervical dilation on admission to the hospital, higher rates of spontaneous labor, and shorter labors than those who had not eaten dates. From 36 weeks, the recommended date-consumption is 75 grams per day, which is either 6 deglet dates (the smaller kind) or 3 Medjool dates (the larger kind).
Castor Oil: Another traditional favorite that may even date back to the Ancient Egyptians, castor oil has remained a longstanding favorite of midwives. It is derived from the Indian plant Ricinus communis and is mostly made up of a fatty acid known as ricinoleic acid. Castor oil is famous for being an effective laxative, which may be a reason why it seems to help to bring on labor. It does not have a pleasant taste, however, and can cause side effects such as diarrhea and dehydration. It is important to only take it if recommended by your care provider.
Spicy Food: Eating a curry or other spicy food is one of the least scientifically proven methods of inducing labor and more in the category of an old-wives-tale. But many moms have sworn by it! A general theory could be that, a bit like castor oil but tastier, the spice gets the insides moving, which would encourage the baby to come out.
Before you try any of the above, make sure you consult your practitioner or health care provider. Bon Appétit, mamas!