It is not uncommon for pregnant women to want to induce labor. This article will provide information on how to do that naturally and safely, as well as what you can eat, drink, and do during the process.
This article will cover: What foods to eat (and avoid), what exercises are safe (and unsafe), and which herbs may help with inducing labor. We’ll also talk about when it might be time to call your doctor if natural methods aren’t working.
Let’s begin with discussing some of the best ways that have proven effective in stimulating contractions naturally–starting with food.
What can I eat to induce labor?
What should I avoid eating when I’m trying to naturally induce labor?
It is important that you do not go too overboard with foods because it could cause side effects that are harmful for you or the baby. It’s also important to remember that not all food works for everyone, so in some cases you may need to try several different foods before finding what stimulates your body.
Some of the most common foods recommended are pineapple, raspberry leaf tea , castor oil, spicy or sour pickles, sour fruits like grapefruit or lemon, and parsley.
While these foods may work for some, they many not work for others. As long as you are aware of the risks involved with each food, and follow the instructions to avoid harm to yourself or your baby, then it is okay to try out some different options.
Pineapple has been used for hundreds of years to induce labor.
Pineapple contains the proteolytic enzyme bromelin, which breaks down proteins into smaller peptides and amino acids. One of these is called actinidine, which stimulates the production of oxytocin by your body. This hormone causes uterine contractions that will lead to labor .
The best way to consume pineapple is to eat it raw and unpasteurized. You can add it to your favorite salad or smoothie, or even make a fresh juice with it.
Parsley is a stimulant that contains many nutrients and chemicals which help tone the uterus.
It also has a mild hormone-like effect, similar to black cohosh , which causes contractions by stimulating the corpus luteum on your ovary to increase progesterone production.
The best way to consume parsley is as a tea. Steep a teaspoon of dried parsley leaves in hot water, and drink up!
Another option is to munch on some fresh parsley as a snack, or chop it up finely and add it to your favorite salad or sandwich.
Eggplant contains a chemical called solanum, which works to stimulate the muscles of your uterus.
For this reason, many herbalists have suggested that you can induce labor naturally by munching on some eggplant parmesan or making an eggplant lasagna .
Raspberry Leaf Tea
Raspberry leaf tea has been used for centuries
The raspberry plant belongs to the rose family, which contains over 3,000 species. This powerful herb is known to help tone and strengthen your uterus as well as move blood through your pelvic area.
In addition to this, Raspberry leaf tea contains plant estrogens that help relax the muscles in your uterus and cervix, thus softening them to prepare for dilation .
Raspberry leaf tea can be consumed hot or cold, depending on your preference. A cup of raspberry leaf tea every day is all it takes–but avoid drinking more than one cup per day, as it can be harmful if you drink too much.
While many women swear that cayenne pepper, chili peppers, or spicy food of any kind help them induce labor naturally , there is no scientific evidence to back this claim.
This is because spicy foods have several different effects on the body. For example, they can cause heartburn and increase your stomach acid, but they can also increase your body temperature and cause contractions, which may bring on labor.
So if you think spicy foods worked for you in the past to induce labor, then by all means keep eating them, but don’t go out of your way to eat them now because it hasn’t been proven that spicy food will help you deliver.
Black cohosh is an herb often used by midwives to induce labor naturally .
It is best known for containing a chemical called cimicifuga, which increases the production of oxytocin in your body (the same chemical that is checked for when you get a drug test).
For this reason it is thought that black cohosh can help bring on contractions and encourage labor.
Many women have used this plant to help them induce labor naturally , however, research has not been able to find any scientific evidence that the herb causes contractions or stimulates labor in pregnant women.
Castor oil has been used for centuries to induce labor .
The uses of castor oil are believed to stretch back into ancient times when women would use the oil during childbirth for pain relief.
Castor oil is made from pressing castor seeds and is rich in fatty acids like ricinoleic acid, which can help soften the cervix and promote contractions when applied externally. Some women find that taking a teaspoon of castor oil orally before bedtime can work wonders .
This isn’t recommended for everyone, however, as it can have side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and flatulence. For this reason, it is important that you speak with your doctor before trying any herbal supplements or medicines on your own.
Licorice root has been used for hundreds of years to help induce labor naturally .
The chemical in this herb that is thought to cause contractions in your uterus is known as glycyrrhizin. Studies have found that it does appear to be effective at helping the uterus get ready for childbirth, but it also can lead to side effects for you and your baby if taken in high enough doses.
This means it should only be used to help induce labor naturally under the supervision of a medical professional.
Months before you are due, start eating lots of oatmeal every day. Oats contain healthy amounts of fiber, which can soften the cervix and cause it to dilate more quickly.
They also contain iron, calcium, and magnesium, which can all help strengthen your contractions.
If you are not a fan of oatmeal cooked in water or milk, there are many other ways to ingest this food. You can make cookies, muffins , or even bread with oats to get enough every day.
Sour pickles or fruits like lemons and grapefruit help stimulate the production of a hormone called oxytocin in a woman’s body, which helps induce labor.
Oxytocin is the hormone that causes uterine contractions and is required for a woman to have a successful birth. Sour foods cause your body to produce more oxytocin, so eating them can help stimulate contractions .
It’s important not to go overboard with these foods, however, as too much acid in your body can lead to an increased risk of urinary tract infections and dehydration, which you want to avoid throughout labor.
Some women find that having an occasional cup of coffee helps to speed up the labor process, possibly because caffeine is a stimulant and can cause contractions in your uterus.
However, too much caffeine can also be dangerous for you and your baby, so limit yourself to just one or two cups per day maximum.
Remember that decaf coffee doesn’t contain any caffeine either.
Dates, Figs, and Prunes
Dates, figs, and prunes contain a chemical called phytic acid which can help ripen your cervix by increasing the amount of prostaglandins in your body .
In addition to this, they are high in dietary fiber as well as some B vitamins. For these reasons it is recommended by some midwives and herbalists to eat a handful of dates or figs throughout the day to help induce labor naturally .
However, eating too many of these can result in stomach upset and diarrhea so it is important not to overindulge.
Prego Pizza comes from Skipolini’s Pizza, a pizza chain in California. Prego pizza was created in the early 1980s after a pregnant woman wandered in and asked for a pizza that would help her have her baby. The manager created a special pizza just for the desperate mom-to-be.
The pizza had thirteen toppings, including onions, garlic, fresh veggies and six different meats. It weighed over four pounds! After eating it, the woman went into labor that evening! So the legend was born, and now pizzerias all over the country offer up their own versions of the “Prego Pizza” to expectant mothers.
Alfalfa is another herb that has been known to speed up contractions when ingested by pregnant women. This is because it contains a chemical called phytoestrogen, which can help relax your muscles and make it easier for labor to start.
It is also a diuretic that can reduce swelling in your body and lower your blood pressure, all of which may be helpful when trying to induce labor naturally .
In order to get the correct dosage you should work with a healthcare professional who can instruct you on how to use this herb effectively.
So which of these foods is best proven to work to induce labor? Well, based on the research available, your best bet is to go with dates, as these high-fiber fruits have been proven beneficial at accelerating delivery and reducing the need for labor augmentation.
The other foods are mostly based on anecdotal evidence and some really legendary stories!
What Exercises Can Induce Labor?
Regular exercise not only keeps you healthy during pregnancy, but can help prepare your body for labor. It has been proven to reduce the length of labor by an average of 16 hours, and can also increase uterine blood flow which helps encourage contractions .
However, it is important that you avoid intense exercise such as jogging or aerobics in your final month because it can lead to uterine contractions before labor begins .
Therefore, the best way to induce labor naturally is by staying active throughout your pregnancy. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym every day, but try activities such as walking or even swimming which are as easy as sitting on a couch.
Sit on a Birthing Ball
According to study published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, using a birthing ball can be an effective way to induce labor naturally .
Sit on one for 15 minutes, three times per day. This will help you get your uterus used to contracting, while also giving your baby some time outside of the womb.
Pelvic Tilt Exercises
Adding pelvic tilt exercises to your daily routine can help reduce the length of labor by encouraging the baby’s head to engage in the pelvis.
By doing this you are ensuring that their head goes into the birth canal correctly, which will make it easier for them to pass through when labor begins.
To do a pelvic tilt, lie flat on the floor with your hands by your side. Bend your knees and gently lift your pelvis so that it is even with your torso.
Hold the position for as long as you feel comfortable, then slowly ease back down onto the ground. Repeat this exercise 10 times per day to help induce labor naturally.
Many women have found that taking a nice stroll can help make contractions more regular and induce labor . This is because the pressure of your growing uterus against your pelvis, combined with the gentle swinging motion of walking, helps trigger the release of oxytocin.
This important chemical is essential for starting labor because it causes uterine contractions that are much stronger than Braxton Hicks contractions.
The butterfly pose is designed to open your hips and encourage the baby’s head to engage in the birth canal. It can be difficult for some, so if it is uncomfortable or painful, skip this one and practice some easier poses.
To do the butterfly pose, sit upright on the floor with your back straight. Touch the soles of your feet together to form a diamond shape with your legs. Keeping your back straight, pull your feet toward you, then lean forward gently into this pose.
Hold for as long as you feel comfortable, then slowly release and rest for a moment. Repeat this exercise 10 times per day during your final month to help induce labor naturally .
Lunges can be very helpful when trying to naturally induce labor, but you must use them properly.
Stand with your legs together, then take one large step forward with one foot, keeping your knee above your ankle. Your back leg should be low and parallel to the ground. Hold for a moment, then push back to standing and repeat with the other leg. Do as many as you can up to ten at a time.
As strange as it sounds, squatting is an excellent way to naturally induce labor!
By imitating how we would stand and deliver a baby before modern technology, you can actually encourage your baby to be born sooner rather than later.
To do the squatting pose, stand with your feet hips-width apart and lower yourself down so that you are in a crouching position .
Squat as low as you can while keeping good form. Hold this pose for 5 seconds, then return to standing. Repeat this exercise 10 times per day during your final month of pregnancy to help naturally induce labor.
Gentle exercises are definitely a great way to naturally induce labor. You should always run your exercise plans by your healthcare provider, however, and if you are high-risk, you should definitely be more careful which exercises you choose.
You may also want to consider speaking with a physical therapist to ensure you are performing all exercises safely and correctly so that you do not hurt yourself in your quest to induce labor.
What Are Other Ways to Naturally Induce Labor?
Other than food and exercise there are a few other ways you can naturally induce labor.
Nipple stimulation releases oxytocin in your body, which can cause uterine contractions. Some women claim that giving themselves nipple stimulation for fifteen to thirty minutes will help induce labor naturally .
As long as you don’t have any medical conditions or are taking medications to suppress contractions, this is a safe way to help ripen the cervix and bring on contractions.
Nipple stimulation can also help make your contractions more powerful once they are established.
You have probably heard this one before, but sexual intercourse is a very effective way to naturally induce labor!
As far as natural ways to induce labor go, intercourse is a top choice. During orgasm, oxytocin goes into your body and causes contractions that can help bring on birth or speed up the process.
However, if your healthcare provider has told you to avoid intercourse for some reason, don’t do it!
Sex is safe during labor as well, so if everything else is going right, why not experiment at this stage of labor?
Sacred Throat Singing
There are many websites online that claim Sacred Throat Singing can help induce labor naturally .
Whether it works or not, you should definitely try it out! This is a great way to get in touch with your birthing energy.
Sacred Throat Singing involves making sounds from the throat without using any other part of the body to support them.
Practice Sacred Throat Singing by humming from your throat and singing songs in your normal voice. As you get better, try moving to a lower pitch and humming from the base of your throat.
Once you master Sacred Throat Singing, try slowly matching pitches with an “eeee” sound or even try to match pitches with your husband or partner while they hum from their throat!
How Long Will It Take to Induce Labor Naturally?
Unfortunately, there is no set time period for how long it will take to naturally induce labor. Some women start experiencing contractions within 24 hours of trying these techniques while others may not notice any changes at all.
Remember that if you are high-risk or have been told by your healthcare provider that you should not induce labor for any reason, these exercises will not work.
If you perform them correctly and still aren’t noticing any results after a few days, stop performing the exercises and consult with your physician about other options to bring on labor naturally.
Katie Reed is a passionate writer and mother of four vivacious boys from Salt Lake City, Utah. Drawing from her own journey through TTC, pregnancy, and the joys of raising children, she offers a wealth of insight into the world of motherhood. Beyond her heartfelt tales, Katie delights her readers with family-friendly recipes, engaging crafts, and a curated library of printables for both kids and adults. When she’s not penning her experiences, you’ll find her crafting memories with her husband and sons—Dexter, Daniel, Chester, and Wilder.