Fact or Folklore: 7 old wives’ tales on how to induce labor naturally

Advice passed down over generations may help the birthing process
April 25, 2016

You may have heard your friends say, “We thought she was never going to come!” The stories of babies waiting to arrive days or weeks after their original due date can be daunting to eager new mothers. From consuming whole pineapples to taking the bumpiest car rides, we separate fact from fiction on how to induce labor naturally.

how to induce labor naturally - sex

Sex

Fact. While there have been contradicting studies in the past, a recent study in 2015 found a link between sex and early onset of labor. The origins of this method is based on the fact that a hormone that helps ripen the cervix for labor, prostaglandin, is found in high concentrations of semen. The study also found female orgasms helped spur contractions.

how to induce labor naturally - exercise
Exercise

Folklore. From walking around the room to bouncing on an exercise ball, many women turn to exercise to induce labor. Unfortunately, there is no scientific proof that exercise increases the chance of going into labor.

how to induce labor naturally - acupuncture
Acupuncture/Acupressure

Fact. Practiced for over 5,000 years, acupuncture and acupressure help various health issues, including inducing labor. Acupuncture involves inserting needles into certain points in the body, while acupressure is applying pressure to those points instead. Both therapies help with ripening the cervix for labor.

how to induce labor naturally - spicy foods
Spicy foods

Folklore. Eat as much spicy food as you want, but it won’t bring your little one into the world any sooner. The origins of this method are unknown, but one researcher found while conducting a study on labor inducing myths that pregnant women believed the intestinal activity from eating spicy foods would nudge the uterus.

how to induce labor naturally - breast stimulation

Breast stimulation

Fact. Massaging the breasts or nipples can help women trying to self-induce labor. When the breasts are stimulated, the oxytocin hormone is released. Oxytocin causes contractions during labor. Research published in 2015 studied over three hundred pregnant women and found that nipple stimulation helped increase natural labor. 

how to induce labor naturally - bumpy rides

Bumpy car rides

Folklore.  A trip down the road hitting every bump you can find will unfortunately not induce labor. Many believe that the bouncing in the car will cause a woman’s water to break, but there is no scientific evidence supporting this myth.

how to induce labor naturally - pineapple
Pineapple

Folklore. This juicy tropical fruit is loaded with bromelain, an enzyme known to help with inflammation and digestion. The tale is the enzyme will help soften the cervix, but a lack of research on the two makes this tale a myth. However, don’t give up eating pineapples just yet. Bromelain in pineapple can help a woman after birth. According to research, bromelain helps reduce inflammation in breastfeeding women.

While there is scientific proof supporting some of these old wives’ tales, be sure to consult with your health care provider before using any methods to help induce labor naturally.

— Suzannah Smith

You may also like
Rosylyn James charts her path in reproductive medicine
Two pairs of feet peeking out from beneath a blanket on a bed.
4 ways to boost your libido
Staff prepare healthy tamales
Healthy tamaladas keep traditions alive
A woman in a red dress is standing confidently with her hands on her hips
You Asked: How will I know I’m in menopause?