Oh due dates, you’re so funny! It’s kinda crazy that we still get a 40 week due date considering that up to 40% of babies are born after this date… that’s a whole lotta babies arriving ‘late’.
If you’ve just sailed past your due date with no end to your pregnancy in sight… or you’re staring down a medical induction date and hoping that things will kick start so you don’t have to go through with it you’re probably looking everywhere for natural ways to induce labor at home.
You’re in good company too! Did you know that more than 50% of women according to this study tried natural methods to bring on labor? That’s a whole lot of us not willing to just sit back and wait passively for baby’s arrival.
When Is It Safe to Naturally Induce Labor?
The third trimester gets so uncomfortable you just want baby out RIGHT NOW! I get it.
If you’ve gone past your due date and you’re staring down at a medical induction you could definitely try these methods. Otherwise, I wouldn’t try to induce unless you’re at least 39 weeks along – due dates aren’t always accurate and babies do a lot of maturing in the last couple of weeks of pregnancy. You don’t want to risk evicting your little one too early if your dates aren’t spot on!
Natural methods of induction don’t have a 100% success rate – I believe that most won’t work unless your body is pretty well ready. I’m hoping this time I’ll have a chance to go into labor naturally (or via my own natural induction!) which is why I intend to talk to my doctor about natural induction methods closer to the end of my pregnancy.
Note: this blog post probably contains affiliate links, which means we may receive small commissions from purchases made through links in this post (at NO extra cost to you). You can read our full disclosure for more information.
What You Should Do Before Trying to Induce Labor At Home
If you’re ready to have your baby, what steps should you take before you jump in and start trying to induce your own labor?
1. Discuss Things With Your Doctor
Although it may be awkward, you should let your health care provider know that you’re going to try some things to get labor going. Who knows? They may have even more ideas to share with you!
Discussing your ideas for labor induction with your doctor is a great idea because your doctor will be able to tell you if there’s anything you should avoid because of current health status. For example, you should definitely NOT be trying to induce labor at home if you have placenta previa (but you already know that and you’ve probably got a c-section date scheduled before your due date.)
2. Get Informed
Read up on the pros and cons of the induction methods you’re considering and don’t forget to apply them to your own situation! For example, vigorous walking exercise and squats are two natural methods often recommended – but if you’re suffering with bad pelvic girdle pain this is one of the worst things you could possibly do because it will severely aggravate your joint pain. Also, new research comes out all the time about various things and how effective they are at inducing labor. Stay informed with the most up to date info!
3. Be Prepared
If you haven’t read up on labor, birth and caring for a newborn now’s the time. It’s also a good time to pack (or more likely, repack) your hospital bags to make sure you’ve got everything 100% ready for baby’s arrival. If your induction efforts are successful you’ll be meeting your little one very, very soon!
Sex to Induce Labor
One of the most popular methods of inducing labor is to have sex. It’s said that because semen contains prostaglandins that it helps to ripen the cervix.
Does it actually work though?
Results are mixed. It also takes some creativity to do at 40+ weeks pregnant!
However, there are other benefits to having sex (if you can):
- it can relax you (which also helps get things started on the labor front).
- an orgasm causes the release of oxytocin which is the main labor hormone and also makes you feel good.
But of course, sex requires a willing partner… if you’d rather ways to induce labor on your own, here are even more ways:
Bouncing on Birth Ball
Bouncing up and down on a birth ball or exercise ball is another popular method for inducing labor.
How Does Bouncing on a ball induce labor?
It’s said that the bouncing helps to move baby down into the right position for labor. Plus all that bumping and pressure on your cervix helps it to start to dilate and open.
Does it actually work? Results are mixed! But this method is so easy to do you can bounce up and down while relaxing and watching Netflix without getting too tired.
Squat Your Way Into Labor
I’m not a fan of this method… mainly because I know I won’t be able to do it! If you’re suffering from SPD or pregnancy related pelvic girdle pain, squatting is a baaaad idea as it puts more strain on all those ligaments that are already hurting.
The premise behind squatting is that it helps to open your hips and pelvis and move baby down into position for birth.
It is also quite a tiring way to induce labor… and you’ll want to save as much energy as possible for go time!
Or perhaps we might say ‘waddling’? Hehehe. I’m guessing this is another method best left for those ladies feeling spry and able at the end of pregnancy.
Why does walking help? It can help your baby move down into position and apply pressure to your cervix to help it start to open.
Along with squatting, this is also a pretty tiring way to induce labor…
Does Nipple Stimulation Really Work to Induce Labor?
Actually, there’s a good reason why nipple stimulation helps to induce labor – oxytocin. Nipple stimulation causes the release of oxytocin (same as during breastfeeding) which helps to kick start labor. Sounds promising right?
How to do it: while you could choose to manually stimulate your nipples… this is a great opportunity to try out your shiny new breast pump (if you got one – did you know you can probably get one for free through your insurance?) I must say this is high on my list of things to try because it’s
- requires minimal energy expenditure.
- can be done while doing something else… like relaxing or reading.
- can be done alone and for as long as you want… because of the above points.
As an added bonus, you may also be able to collect and store some colostrum for your baby. It’s always handy to have a stash… though you won’t get too much until your milk comes in.
One quick warning though, don’t crank up the suction too far. It will hurt and cause damage to your nipples / breasts. Don’t ask me how I know this…
Clary Sage for Labor Induction
Can clary sage induce labor? Not really – however, it does help your body to relax which will definitely make it easier for you to go into labor on your own.
You don’t want to eat clary sage for this method – just get clary sage oil and sniff it, or add a few drops to a warm bath or into massage oil.
Edible Natural Induction Methods
There are so many natural methods of induction and old wives tales about various things you can eat to bring on labor… but do they work?
Here are some of the most popular:
Labor Cookies – Do they Work to Induce Labor?
I was scrolling Pinterest the other day and I came across a recipe for these somewhat delicious sounding cookies. I say somewhat, because cayenne pepper in a cookie? I don’t know how I feel about hot, spicy cookies…
However, these cookies get rave reviews and if you read some of the comments it seems that they actually work to induce labor.
This is one recipe I’m definitely saving for later!
Can Dates Start Labor?
Did you know that eating dates can help your labor? While studies have shown you may not go into labor earlier (boo), eating dates can help you avoid interventions such as pitocin and improve labor outcomes (awesome!)
Watch the video for a summary of the evidence:
Pineapple for Labor
Pineapple is a super popular labor induction idea that is based in fact: pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that helps soften your cervix. Unfortunately, you’d need to eat several entire pineapples (including the core, which is most rich in bromelain), which puts pineapple as a labor induction method into the out of reach category.
Spicy Food helps you go into labor?
Similar to castor oil (not recommended!), spicy food helps you go into labor by stimulating your digestive system… or so the story goes. In reality, there’s little evidence that eating spicy food can help.
But, if you’re a fan of spicy things normally this is a pretty harmless method… so long as you aren’t suffering major heartburn or reflux issues, why not give it a shot?
Complementary Medicine for Labor Induction
I’m not a huge fan of complementary medicine methods for inducing labor… mainly because I prefer things I can do by myself in the comfort of my own home! But, if you’re already seeing a chiropractor or if you’ve had acupuncture in the past, you might love to include these methods in your kit of things to try.
Chiropractic Adjustments for Labor
I’ve never been to a chiropractor, but many women include a chiropractic appointment in combination with the other labor induction methods on this list.
How does it work? I’m not convinced it helps bring on labor, however, if your pelvis is misaligned an adjustment can help relax overtight ligaments which could bring on labor. I’ll admit, I used to think the idea that a person could be ‘misaligned’ was a load of rubbish… however, that’s basically what happened to me in my first pregnancy with my pelvis. I went to physio several times and they put pressure on one side of my pelvis to put it back into the correct alignment. Bodies are crazy things, aren’t they?
Chiropractic adjustments to improve your alignment may also help to shorten labor because everything is in the right place so your muscles are able to move and work to bring baby down the way they’re supposed to.
Does Acupuncture Work to Induce Labor?
You might have heard that acupuncture can help with all kinds of things, including labor induction. However, there’s no proven track record of acupuncture being able to induce labor or even shorten labor.
You can learn more about it in this video:
Acupressure to Induce Labor at Home
There is some evidence to suggest that acupressure can help cervical ripening. If you want to try this at home, here’s the pressure point you need to target. In the study, participants applied acupressure for around 20 minutes to the pressure point.
This is definitely a method I’d be willing to try at home! It’s easy, doesn’t require drinking or eating anything gross (haha!) and you don’t need any special equipment.
Evening Primrose Oil
This is another method to help ripen the cervix and get things ready for baby’s arrival. It works like prostaglandins, though not as strong as the ones the hospital would use in an induction.
You can take Evening Primrose Oil orally, but using capsules internally seems like it would be the most effective. If you decide to try this method, I’ve seen recommendations for 2-3 capsules inserted up to the cervix overnight. And make sure you wear a pad to contain the mess!
Relaxation for Labor Induction
When you think about labor, you probably aren’t thinking about relaxation… but that could be a mistake! Relaxation can help your body go through the processes it needs to, whereas stress can cause things to stall.
Some top ways to relax:
- watch a movie
- take a warm bath
- have a massage…
Massage To Induce Labor
A good massage? Sounds like bliss, especially at 40 weeks pregnant! While you may not go instantly into labor from a massage, there’s a few benefits you’ll get out of it:
- relaxation – if you’re stressed out about labor or playing the waiting game, relaxation might be just the thing to get things going.
- oxytocin – a massage can cause your body to release oxytocin, the labor hormone which might help tip your body over the edge into labor.
This is not a particularly comfortable method and it’s certainly not a non-invasive one! At your later appointments, you can ask your doctor about membrane sweeping or stripping.
What this entails is your doctor inserting his finger through your cervix and sweeping in a circular motion to separate the membranes from the wall of the uterus.
There are definitely some risks involved with this method:
- your membranes might rupture rather than simply separate from the uterus… leading to your waters breaking. If this happens, your doctor will most likely want you to go into labor naturally within 24 hours or be induced as having your waters broken is considered an infection risk for you and baby.
- it’s not very comfortable… you also need to be somewhat dilated (1cm or more) for your doctor to be able to reach through your cervix.
- there’s always a chance for infection when inserting anything through the vagina, even though your doctor will wear gloves.
Midwives Brew – The Secret Method With An Amazing Success Rate?
This was not a thing during my last pregnancy… but this time around I’m can’t stop reading about ‘Midwives Brew’ everywhere.
What is it? How does it work? And, is it safe? Learn more about Midwives Brew from a Labor and Delivery nurse!
- 10 oz apricot juice
- 8 oz pure lemon verbena tea
- 2 tbsp castor oil
- 2 tbsp almond butter
Brew a strong lemon verbena tea (leave the teabag in for 10 minutes). Add all ingredients to a blender and blend it up until smooth.Drink warm.
Sounds gross. Apparently it works though.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea to Induce Labor
Does red raspberry leaf tea help induce labor?
Red raspberry leaf tea is one of those old midwives wisdom tales – drinking red raspberry leaf tea from the second trimester can help tone the uterus leading to more powerful and effective contractions during labor.
To induce labor, you’ll want to brew up a very strong batch of red raspberry leaf tea and drink quite a bit of it!
Is raspberry tea the same as red raspberry leaf?
And will raspberry tea induce labor?
Not necessarily… you’ll need to look at the ingredients to be sure. RED raspberry leaf tea and raspberry leaf tea are the same… but raspberry tea may just be a herbal tea flavored with sweet herbal ingredients and/or artifical flavors which won’t work at all.
Here are a couple of brands you might like to try available on Amazon:
- Traditional Medicinals Organic Raspberry Leaf Tea
- Celebration Herbals Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
- Organic Biokoma Red Raspberry Leaves
Frequently Asked Questions about Natural Labor Induction
Coffee to Induce Labor
What about drinking coffee to induce labor? Can coffee help induce labor? Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that drinking coffee can help induce labor. I wouldn’t recommend trying this either as caffeine does cross the placenta and can affect baby (even at this late gestation).
Oh and please don’t try this method either, it literally gets the prize for the weirdest method I’ve ever heard of to induce labor… the ‘coffee potty’… You can learn more about that here but honestly, can we just agree that steaming your vagina with hot coffee has way too many risks to even consider?
What about Castor Oil?
I heard a lot about castor oil when I was in the third trimester with my little boy a few years ago… but I was way too chicken to try it. And actually, these days, no one really recommends it. Castor oil irritates the gut which can send you running for the bathroom… frequently and constantly. It might seem like a small price to pay for going into labor, except that you probably don’t want to spend your entire labor on the toilet.
Other Methods to Get Labor Going at Home?
Do you have any other methods you swear by for getting labor started? Let us know!
>>> read more on the Making of Mom home page.