Natural ways to help induce labour that really work and those that don’t

You swore to yourself you would let nature take its course but during this final stretch you find yourself desperate to help move things along.

Friends and family will probably pass on tips they’ve heard or tried, and an online search will give you an endless amount of options – but do they really work?

We’ve compiled a list of commonly heard suggestions to help induce labour naturally and lifted the lid on which ones are the real deal.


MYTH: Unfortunately, sex is the reason you are at this point but it won’t necessarily get you out of it, according to The Conversation.

While semen is a a natural source of prostaglandins, used to encourage cervical ripening in preparation for labour, and actual sex can increase uterine activity, “there is very little scientific evidence so far to support sex as a method of inducing labour”.

But, as long as your doctor says it is safe and your waters haven’t broken, there is no harm in trying.

Nipple stimulation

FACT: Studies have shown women who practice nipple stimulation are more likely to go into labor within 72 hours than those who do not. It requires firm pressure for long periods of time to be effective. US physician, midwife and mother-of-four Aviva Romm suggests a partner or close friend be given the task.

“Pulling on the nipples very firmly in a motion intended to simulate a baby’s suckling stimulates uterine contractions and has been used to induce labor (a breast pump is not usually recommended),” Dr Romm says.

She says women with high-risk pregnancies should not attempt this without first consulting their doctor.


MYTH: Widespread opinion says fresh pineapple, which is a natural source of an enzyme called bromelain, can help ripen the cervix and initiate labour but there is no conclusive scientific proof, so for now it falls under myth.

But again it can’t hurt, and fruit is good for you.

If you do want to give it a go, Dr Lisa Watson says the key is to eat fresh pineapple (juicing and canning destroys the precious bromelain) daily in the final weeks of pregnancy and warns excessive amounts could contribute to heart burn and diarrhoea.

Castor Oil

MYTH: Well this old wives tale, which many swear by, has long been circulated but it just isn’t true.

Giving Birth Naturally explains, “The theory behind using castor oil to induce labor is that it causes intestinal cramping and diarrhoea, which stimulate the uterus, thus producing prostaglandins, which then cause contractions”.

Apart from not sounding like a whole lot of fun, there is no definitive proof taking castor oil will induce labour if the mother’s body isn’t already well on the way to getting things started.

But there are plenty of doctors, including Dr Aviv Romm, who say that the diarrhoea-inducing castor oil can add a whole lot of pain and discomfort to the birthing process.

Membrane stripping

FACT: Your midwife or doctor may offer to perform a stretch and sweep to try and bring on labour, usually only if you are 40 weeks plus gestation but some will offer it from 38 weeks if considered safe, Pregnancy, Birth and Baby reports.

The procedure involves an internal vaginal examination where the doctor or midwife separate the membranes of the amniotic sac from your cervix, releasing hormones called prostaglandins that will prepare the cervix for birth and can start labour.


MYTH: There is no definitive proof exercising can naturally induce labour. Walking, dancing and stretching may be great for getting baby into position and for relaxation but it is not a failsafe method for bringing on baby’s arrival.

Spicy food

MYTH: It may be better than castor oil but again there is no concrete proof it will do anymore than satisfy your spicy craving and/or contribute to your heart burn struggles.


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