Your due date has been and gone and you’re starting to get more than a little bit impatient for labour to begin. And so are all your friends and family.
Your best friend tells you to get some bedroom action, your Mum suggests eating pineapple and your Granny tells you to walk barefoot on a sandy beach.
But do any of these weird and wacky suggestions to kick start labour actually work?
We take a look at some of the most bizarre ways to bring on labour and the theories behind them.
There’s little or no scientific evidence to back them up but plenty of anecdotal evidence from mums who swear it was what got things going for them.
Tweak your nipples
Rubbing or rolling your nipples helps your body release the hormone oxytocin, which plays a key role in stimulating contractions. In a study of 390 Turkish women, those that tweaked their nipples during labour had shorter durations of each stage of labour.
But before you start reaching down your nursing bra to have a tweak beware – as nipple stimulation in late pregnancy can have powerful effects and can be dangerous, especially for high risk pregnancies.
Always speak to your doctor first and, if you want to try it, it’s best to wait until you’re in early labour and not before.
Take the 7 pineapple challenge
One food linked with an ability to bring on labour is pineapple. That’s because it contains the enzyme bromelain. Bromelain is believed to be able to soften the cervix and trigger contractions.
In studies, when bromelain was given to pregnant rats, it was found to induce contractions. Researchers then added drops of bromelain to a strip of uterine tissue in the lab and, again, it triggered strong contractions.
So could eating pineapple start off labour? The answer is probably not. To get enough bromelain into your body to have any effect at all you’d have to eat an awful lot – about 7 a day. And you’d also have to eat the woody core, which contains the greatest amount of bromelain.
Some studies also suggest that your digestive system will prevent the enzyme from working before it even has a chance to reach your womb.
Unfortunately eating loads of pineapple in late pregnancy is more likely to give you heartburn and diarrhoea than it is to get your labour started.
Put your best foot forward
Something that might get things moving is a good old walk. The theory is that walking will encourage your baby to bear down into your pelvis and put pressure on it making things ready to get moving.
The extra pressure is thought to promote production of the hormone oxytocin, that stimulates birth.
There isn’t much reliable evidence to prove that walking brings on labour. If you’re in early labour it’s a good way to keep things going and encourage stronger contractions. And a walk always works to make you feel less stressed – so that’s reason enough to get strolling.
Walking barefoot on a sandy beach
If you’re going to walk and you live by the seaside you might want to take off your shoes and socks and stroll along the sand.
Uneven walking (which is what walking on the sand forces you to do) is a good way of rocking your baby lower and can encourage cervix dilation. Even if it doesn’t bring on labour all the sea air will lower your stress levels and help you get a good night’s sleep. And who doesn’t need more of that?
You can also do some uneven walking by walking with one foot off and one foot on the kerb – but you’ll probably get some funny looks and might fall over – so it’s best not to try that one.
Bouncing gently on a birthing ball is a great thing to do in late pregnancy as it encourages your baby to get into the best position for birth and it’s thought it might get things moving.
The added bonus is that rolling on your ball in gentle circles helps relax lower back and hip muscles, so will help you feel less sore and stiff too.
Blow up some balloons
This one sounds out there, but there is actually a theory behind it. The theory is that the pressure placed on your tummy muscles when you blow up balloons can help start labour.
But does it actually work?
The truth is that it is still just an old wives’ tale and blowing up balloons at 9 months pregnant will just make you feel breathless and exhausted. And surrounded by a whole bunch of balloons that you probably don’t need.
There is some evidence that acupuncture can soften the cervix in preparation for labour.
Not enough research has been done to prove how effective it is in actually bringing on labour.
If you’ve never had it before, acupuncture is an alternative medicine which comes from ancient Chinese practices. It is not within the realm of mainstream medical care. Fine needles are inserted into particular points on your body where they are thought to have certain effects.
Acupuncture can relieve pain and help you relax, which is great anyway in the late stages of pregnancy, even if it doesn’t get things moving.
Go for the big ‘O’
Having sex releases oxytocin, which is the hormone that stimulates contractions. Sperm contains prostaglandins, which help soften the cervix. Sex can also encourage uterine activity.
Put all these things together and you can see why many people think that having sex might is a great way to bring on labour.
Unfortunately however, there are no scientific studies to prove this. One study that was conducted found that women who had sex at full term went into labour earlier.
But then when researchers repeated this study they then found the opposite – that mums-to-be who made love at full term were less likely to go into labour early than women who abstained.
So – the jury’s still out.
In normal pregnancies (without complications), sex in late pregnancy won’t do you any harm. Unless your waters have broken, which means you are at higher risk of infection. So avoid it then.
The only other thing that might put you off is feeling so huge and heavy at 9 months pregnant.
Otherwise go right ahead and enjoy!
Make a date with some dates
There have been some small studies that suggest that eating dates for a few weeks before your due date can encourage your cervix to dilate.
In the studies mums-to-be ate six dates per day in the last four weeks before labour. One study found that spontaneous labour occurred in 96% of pregnant women who consumed dates, compared with 79% of women who didn’t.
All the studies have been very small, involving only a few women. And more research is needed to prove whether eating dates has any effect on kick starting labour.
Bring on the vindaloo
Don’t fancy dates? What about cooking up some chicken korma?
If you’ve been suffering with heartburn all through your pregnancy eating a vindaloo might be the last thing you want to do. But could it bring on labour?
The theory is that a spicy curry can stimulate your bowel to empty and that can stimulate your uterus to start contracting.
There’s no actual medical evidence to prove it works but many mums-to-be might want to give it a go anyway!
What NOT to try
Here are a few old wives’ tales that you should actually avoid.
Raspberry leaf tea
Drinking cups of red raspberry leaf tea is something that traditionally pregnant women did to bring on labour.
However, recent advice is to avoid it as there is not enough research into its safety.
So – it’s best to stay clear, or at least discuss it with your doctor first.
A traditional way of bringing on labour in the past, dating right back to the Egyptians.
It is now not recommended as it can make you feel sick, cause diarrhoea, irritate the uterus and even cause irregular and painful contractions, which are stressful for both mum and baby.
The coffee potty method
This bizarre way to bring on labour has been passed round social media and on parenting forums since 2013.
It suggests that mums-to-be should squat naked over a pot of hot coffee for 20 minutes to encourage contractions and loosen the mucus plug.
There’s no evidence that it works and experts warn that it puts women at risk of vaginal burns and infection. One to steer clear of!
It can be so frustrating when you’re past 9 months pregnant – hot, heavy and uncomfortable – and would do almost anything to get labour started.
Everyone will have their own tricks and theories to bring on labour. Whether they’re superstitions, or things that happened to work for them, if it’s harmless give it a try. But beware it may all be hogglewash!
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- Natural Labor Induction Series: Eating Dates, Evidence Based Birth
- The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery, PubMed
- Natural Labor Induction Series: Evidence on using Pineapple to Naturally Induce Labor, Evidence Based Birth
- Does Eating Pineapple Help Induce Labor?, Mom Junction
- Can Walking Bring On Labour?, Belly Belly
- Acupuncture or acupressure for induction of labour, Cochrane
- How Nipple Stimulation Works to Induce Labor, Healthline
- Effect of coitus at term on length of gestation, induction of labor, and mode of delivery, PudMed
- Coitus and orgasm at term: effect on spontaneous labour and pregnancy outcome, PubMed
- Is It Safe to Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea When You’re Pregnant?, What to Expect
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Castor Oil to Induce Labor, Healthline
- Pregnant Women Are Steaming Their Vaginas With Coffee to Induce Labor. Here’s What Ob-Gyns Say, Health.com