Old Wives’ Tales for Inducing Labour

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Old Wives’ Tales for Inducing Labour

If you have gone past your due date, you are probably feeling fed up, heavy and uncomfortable, not to mention impatient to see baby. There are lots of old wives’ tales about how you can speed up the process and bring on labour and we’ve put together a list of the most common methods below, some more enjoyable than others! Please remember, however, that none of these have been scientifically proven, and you should always check with your midwife before experimenting with any of them.


Apart from being, possibly the most enjoyable suggested method of inducing labour, sex is often recommended by medical practitioners, and may not be just another old wives’ tale. Semen contains hormones called Prostaglandins, which can help to soften and open the cervix, and may lead to contractions. In addition, orgasm releases the feel-good hormone, Oxytocin, which stimulates the muscles of the uterus to contract. Before you grab your partner and lead them to the bedroom, sex is not advised if your waters have broken, as there is an increased risk of infection. It is also not advisable if you have a low-lying placenta (placenta praevia) or vaginal bleeding.

Nipple stimulation

If sex is not an option because your doctor has said it’s not advisable, if your waters have broken, or if you just don’t feel like it, then nipple stimulation can work in the same way. By gently massaging the breasts and nipples, Oxytocin is released, which can bring on contractions. However, some suggestions indicate that bringing on contractions in this way mean they are more likely to be long and intense, and cause baby stress. Also, it is thought, you would need to massage your breasts for an hour or so, three times a day for this method to be effective.

Spicy food

The theory behind this old wives’ tale is that a spicy meal will trigger more movement in your digestive system and bowels, and therefore your uterus. However, there is no proof to this method, and in fact, a full stomach during labour can lead to heartburn, nausea and vomiting.



Pineapple to induce labour/birth

Many people believe that Bromelain, a combination of enzymes found naturally in fresh pineapple, will soften the cervix and help to induce labour. There is a lack of research about this, but it is still recommended that women eat pineapple since Bromelain may help to reduce inflammation in those who breastfeed. Unfortunately, however, you need to eat a lot of pineapple since just one fruit contains very little of the enzymes. Yet eating too much may result in constipation, or diarrhoea – something you certainly don’t want while in labour!

Herbal tea

While you should always check with your midwife before taking herbal tea as some can be dangerous during pregnancy, it is thought that red raspberry leaf tea is not only safe, but can bring on labour.

Evening Primrose Oil

Like herbal teas, always check with your midwife before trying Evening Primrose Oil, but this supplement is thought to soften and ripen the cervix ready for labour.


Exercise ball to induce labour/birth

While driving down a bumpy road, gently jumping on a trampoline, or bouncing on a birthing ball may all sound like fun, these methods are unlikely to bring on labour. It is believed by some that bouncing motions will help to break your waters, or push baby further into the birth canal or into the correct birthing position, but none of these have been proven. A birthing ball may help to open the pelvis though, allowing both you and baby to find a comfortable position.


While walking may not induce labour, it can help to position baby correctly by swaying your hips from side to side, and the simple act of gravity pushing baby further down into the pelvis. Walking is also a gentle and enjoyable form of exercise while you are waiting for baby – just don’t overdo it, as you’ll be too tired once you go into labour!


Acupressure on hand to induce labour/birth

Acupressure has been practised for thousands of years, particularly in Chinese medicine, to help relieve a variety of health problems including inducing labour.

Acupressure applies pressure to specific pressure points on your body, which it is thought can stimulate contractions by pushing the baby downwards and pressing onto the cervix to dilate it. Many women swear by acupressure to relax them and relieve tension during labour. This method can be a pleasant way of inducing labour, but always check with your doctor or midwife first.

Castor oil

Many mums swear by this method, but medical professionals do not recommend it. Castor oil is a vegetable oil, which, when taken orally, is known to work like a laxative. By causing cramping in the intestines, it is thought these cramps lead to uterine muscle spasms and labour.

However, not only does Castor oil taste unpleasant, but drinking it may lead to severe cramps, diarrhoea and possible dehydration.

Whether you decide to try out one or more of these old wives’ tales, you can rest assured that it won’t be long till baby arrives. Good luck!

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