What foods can induce my labour?

As you may have read already many old wives tales exist for what helps with inducing one’s labour. This topic explores the foods that are claimed to be an alternate means to giving your labour process a gentle little nudge along.

The term ‘induction of labour’ refers to the act of stimulating your uterus to begin the labour process. Pregnancies are said to last for 40 weeks, however any pregnancy that lasts between 37 and 42 weeks is considered normal. There are medical ways to induce labour however the decision for this will be dependent on the clinical guidelines and your treating obstetrician. Natural methods for getting labour going have been around for centuries, and although your doctor may not formally endorse these recommendations given it is not based on scientific evidence, they may in fact mention some of these to you in efforts to help bring on labour.

Astudy performed in the USA showed that by 37 weeks, half of the pregnant female participants had tried some sort of natural method to induce their own labour. Eating spicy food was in the top three methods, alongside exercise and sexual intercourse.

What foods are said to help induce labour?

  • Spicy foods – This is claimed to kick-start your contractions due to spicy foods causing irritation to your intestinal lining which then also irritates the nearby lying uterus, and stimulates contractions. There is no scientific evidence to back this theory, however spicy foods are harmless with the only side effect being that it may worsen any pre-existing heart burn.
  • Pineapple – Each pineapple contains a certain compound called ‘bromelain’ which helps soften and stretch the cervix. However this compound is only present in minuscule amounts so you would be required to consume approximately 7 pineapples for full therapeutic effect. Given that the fruit contains very high levels of vitamin C, consuming 7 pineapples will inevitably cause intestinal upset and give you diarrhoea, which on the other hand may stimulate contractions and get labour going indirectly.
  •  Castor oil – This oil is derived from the castor plant and was used back in Ancient Egyptian times. Castor oil is said to stimulate contractions by stopping then body re-absorb fluids and electrolytes in the intestine, and hence causing peristalsis or diarrhoea. A study was conducted on this and results have there is no scientifically proven effect on inducing labour, and must be used with caution as it is likely to make you not only feel nauseated but also sends your tastebuds wild with its unpleasant flavour.
  • Red raspberry – Red raspberry is a popular natural method that is claimed to help ease the tone of the uterine and pelvic muscles and increases blood flow to the uterus, resulting in more efficient contractions during labour. It is available in tablet form or can be consumed as a tea, with 1-3 cups per day recommended in the last month of pregnancy. Red raspberry also provides vitamin A, C and E. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim, however has no side effects either.

On a lighter note there is even an Italian restaurant that exists in the United States which claims its famous ‘Eggplant Parmesan’ pasta dish has induced nearly 300 babies since its opening. The walls of the restaurant are filled with photos to support their notion.

As mentioned above that despite there is no scientific proof to support any of these claims, foods that are described to help induce labour may be worth a try provided there is no risk to yourself or your baby. If anything, it will help distract you and pass the time before your baby is born!


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