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Health & Pregnancy

Can Labor Be Induced Naturally?

Other Methods to Induce Labor

When it comes to inducing labor, the following methods draw mixed reviews from childbirth experts. Either there's no evidence to support them or they might work but carry risks. If you plan to try any of them, consult your doctor or midwife first.

  • Long walks: Going for a long walk is "good exercise," Harper says, "but I don't think that it helps bring on labor." Stein is more critical. "Short walks are OK, but I'm not a fan of long, tiring walks. Exhaustion is not a good way to go into labor."
  • Spicy foods: It's a popular theory, but there's no direct connection between the stomach and the uterus. So, there's no reason to think a particular type of food will bring on contractions. "I have never seen anything that supports [spicy foods] one way or another," Harper says.
  • Castor oil: Stein sometimes recommends taking a small amount of castor oil after the 38th week. "There's no direct action on the uterus. It's indirect via stimulation of the bowels, which lean on the uterus. This only seems to work when the body is ready to go into labor." But Harper says there's "no good evidence" for inducing labor with castor oil. "Castor oil brings on horrific diarrhea. I don't recommend it, because you could get moms dehydrated."
  • Cohosh: Some women try starting labor with cohosh, but doctors caution that this herb contains plant-based chemicals that may act like estrogen in the body. "I'm actually pretty nervous about it," Harper tells WebMD. "It's not well enough studied."
  • Evening primrose oil: Harper is more positive about another herb, evening primrose oil. It has substances that your body changes into prostaglandins, which soften the cervix and get it ready for labor. "Evening primrose oil does supposedly release prostaglandins," Harper says. "But it needs more study."

WebMD Medical Reference

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