Can Sex or Spicy Food Trigger Your Labor? (Infographic)

What works, and what’s safe for pregnancy

How to Induce Your Labor: 9 Myths Explored

Ah, the final days of pregnancy. You can’t see your feet. Every meal means heartburn. And you just want to hold baby in your arms.

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Women have tried almost anything to get their labor going. Below, find out what’s safe to try with advice from Elisa Ross, MD.

How to Induce Your Labor: 9 Myths Explored

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Red raspberry leaf tea: No scientific studies prove that drinking red raspberry tea can start labor. Some people swear by it, but its effects are not truly known. In pill form, it becomes even more concentrated, which can make it act like a medication. Doctor’s advice: Don’t try it.

Walking: Walking is good for you, and experts say it can start contractions — but contractions that don’t open the cervix aren’t really labor, just contractions. And the cervix only opens when it’s ready. Doctor’s advice: Definitely do it, but not to start your labor.

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Jumping: If you’re jumping around to start your labor, it’s time to stop and take some deep breaths. It’s probably painful with a baby’s head resting on your bladder, and it’s about as effective as swinging from a trapeze. Doctor’s advice: Just say no to pregnancy acrobatics.

Sex: Semen contains prostaglandins, which soften the cervix and, in some cases, may even start labor. For this reason, it might be worth trying, even though sex isn’t proven to start labor and may be physically difficult at the end of pregnancy. Doctor’s advice: If you try a sideways position, it might be easier.

Evening primrose oil: When you swallow this oil, the body converts it to prostaglandins, which soften the cervix and can start labor. But there is no dosage control or federal oversight of the manufacturing process. An overdose of prostaglandins can lead to serious complications, including the uterus rupturing. Doctor’s advice: Never, ever try it.

Castor oil: This gets your bowels moving, which can get your uterus contracting. However, most evidence shows it works only when the uterus is already ready (when labor is about to happen anyway). If you do go into labor after taking castor oil, look forward to a messy and smelly labor. Doctor’s advice: Definitely not advised.

Spicy food: There’s no evidence that spicy food can trigger labor. It might give you heartburn, but it won’t bring baby into the world any sooner. Doctor’s advice: Enjoy your tabasco; take TUMS as needed.

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Acupuncture: Some small studies find that acupuncture may have a slight effect in starting labor, but larger, controlled studies are needed to confirm. The reported benefit is modest and requires at least three treatments. Doctor’s advice: It might help; the jury is still out.

Nipple stimulation: This technique, which is irritating, does cause contractions. But contractions don’t necessarily turn into labor. For labor to begin, the cervix needs to open. Doctor’s advice: Probably not worth the pain.

Massage: If only massage could stimulate labor! However, there’s no evidence that it does. It can, however, help with body aches and sore muscles. Doctor’s advice: Do it if you like, but not to start labor.

Cohosh: This herbal supplement has estrogen-like properties. It’s not recommended because rising estrogen doesn’t appear to start labor, and it could create a hormonal imbalance at the end of a pregnancy. Doctor’s advice: It’s best to avoid it.

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Elisa Ross, MD

Elisa Ross, MD, is a obstetrician and gynecologist in Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Health Institute. She loves caring for and educating women.
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