You're past your due date and desperate to get this baby out of you. You want to be safe, of course, but you've heard enough stories about how people have naturally induced labour at home — "My mom ate pineapple and I popped out a day later!" — that you're determined to try something. But is it safe to induce labour at home? And do any of the old home remedies for naturally inducing labour actually work?
There are certain things you can do to increase uterine contractions, says Radhika Sharma, MD, an ob-gyn provider at Maven Clinic. But she warns that there are side effects with some of these options. "What's important is that you have spoken with your doctor about inducing labour and also that you are at full term [after 39 weeks]," Dr. Sharma says.
Before you try to break your own water (which, for the record, is not recommended to do at home, before you're in labour), Dr. Sharma weighs in whether several common methods of naturally inducing labour actually work. Oh, and in case you were wondering: overconsumption of pineapple juice can lead to electrolyte imbalance and dehydration — but not labour. Sorry, Mom!
This information in this article is not medical advice. You should always consult your doctor regarding matters pertaining to your health and before starting any type of medical treatment.
Can you Naturally Induce Labour With Castor Oil?
There's so evidence that castor oil can work. One very small study of 103 people from 2000 found that pregnant people who drink a single oral dose of castor oil (60 mL) had an increased likelihood of initiation of labour within 24 hours. Another 2018 study of 81 people with low-risk, post-term pregnancies also found that castor oil helped induce labour.
But it's hard to extrapolate much from small studies, and the castor oil method comes with a cost. "Castor oil can result in significant abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, nausea and even vomiting," Dr. Sharma says. One 2013 review of three studies, involving 233 people, found that all of the participants who took castor oil felt nauseous.
Can You Naturally Induce Labour With Sex?
Sexual intercourse has also been touted as being effective at inducing labour. The theory is that semen contains prostaglandins, substances that help soften the cervix and stimulate contracts, reports Healthline. Oxytocin — the "love hormone" that the body releases during intimate moments — also regulates contractions, Dr. Sharma says. (In fact, pitocin, a medicine commonly used to induce labour at the hospital, is a the synthetic form of oxytocin.)
But a 2019 review involving 1,483 people found that there isn't enough evidence to prove that sex can induce labour. If you're not already in labour, it's unlikely that sex will help prompt your body to get going. You can still ask your doctor if it's safe to give it a try, but Dr. Sharma warns that sex can increase irritation to the cervix and side effects can include spotting or even bleeding — so definitely ask.
Can You Naturally Induce Labour With Nipple Stimulation?
Stimulating nipples can release oxytocin, too. But Dr. Sharma says nipple stimulation — while fun — may not be sufficient enough to induce labour naturally.
Can You Naturally Induce Labour With Exercise?
"Increasing your walking and rolling your pelvis gently on an exercise ball are two ways that can help with inducing labour," Dr. Sharma says. "But what is extremely important to prepare for labour is to eat and drink normally, and also to work on stretching to prepare your body for the difficult work of labour."
It's especially important to stay hydrated as you approach (and sometimes pass) your due date, as Dr. Sharma says dehydration can cause contractions without cervical change.
Ultimately, Dr. Sharma recommends patience. "When your body is ready to go into labour, it will," she says. "Sometimes, it is best to allow your body to have this happen naturally, as hard as it is to wait."