Natural Labor Induction Techniques

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Folklore for Labor Induction:

As a woman nears her due date it is quite common to start to wonder when labor will begin and to wonder if there is anything that you can do to influence the beginnings of labor. Sometimes the goal is to simply have the baby, other times it is to avoid a medical induction of labor. Here are some of the folklore about labor induction:

  • Driving on a bumpy road will bring the baby.
  • Eating spicy foods will bring on labor, like these cookies.
  • Dancing naked in the moon will speed labor.
  • Walking, exercising or other strenuous physical activity will spur on labor.
  • A full moon or bad weather will bring a baby.

Sexual Intercourse

Sex as a way to start labor is an old one. While some studies say that labor is not influenced, other studies say that regular sex at the end of pregnancy does lower the risk of being past your due date. Now the big question is what is it about sex that supposedly brings on labor? Is it the act of sex? Is it the semen that contains prostaglandins that ripen your cervix? Is it the oxytocin released during orgasm? We just don't know yet.

Nipple Stimulation:

Nipple stimulation is an old form of induction. It can be done by manual, oral or mechanical stimulation. Some practitioners feel that this gentle release of oxytocin from the body can ease into contractions for many moms.

Others do not agree. While we can't prove it starts labor, studies show that the number of women pregnant after 72 hours after trying nipple stimulation is less - isn't that the goal?

Castor Oil:

Castor oil is an often talked about method of induction. By drinking or eating something with castor oil, or even rubbing it on the skin, it is said to bring about contractions by stimulating the bowels.

This supposedly irritates the uterus and contractions of labor ensue. While no one can agree if this really works or not, the side effects can be nasty, including diarrhea and vomiting. Be sure to check with your practitioner about this method of induction.

Herbs and Remedies:

Herbs for induction have long been used by midwives and older practitioners of medicine. These days, many of the hospital-based methods of induction are from the same lines of care as the original herbs. Herbal inductions should only be carried out with the help of your doctor or midwife, as their safety and effectiveness are not proven. They may use some combination of the following herbs/remedies:

Relaxation and Guided Imagery:

Relaxation and guided imagery can be very helpful in starting labor for some women. This is merely a way to help release tension and worries, particularly those surrounding birth and parenting. There are some professional products out there to guide you or you can write your own script. These are not harmful and even if they do not start labor, can help aid in relaxation and a feeling of calm about your upcoming birth.

It is important to remember that induction of labor, either using natural techniques or using medical intervention, is the forcing of labor.

This can increase the risks for baby and mom. Labor may be longer, harder, and even more painful. There should be a good reason why you and your practitioner decide on an induction of labor using any method.


Kavanagh J, Kelly AJ, Thomas J. Breast stimulation for cervical ripening and induction of labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jul 20;(3):CD003392.

Kelly AJ, Kavanagh J, Thomas J. Castor oil, bath and/or enema for cervical priming and induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD003099. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003099.pub2

Evaluation of the effect of castor oil on initiating labor in term pregnancy. Azhari S, Pirdadeh S, Lotfalizadeh M, Shakeri MT. Saudi Med J. 2006 Jul;27(7):1011-4.

Methods for cervical ripening and induction of labor. Tenore JL. Am Fam Physician. 2003 May 15;67(10):2123-8. Review.

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