Labour need a helping hand? Try this...

Natural ways to help induce labour if you’re overdue

8 things that could induce labour

Feeling you need to help labour get underway? Try these...


20 per cent of babies go past their due date

If yours is one, try giving nature a helping hand and bringing on labour. To help you we've separated the truth from the old wives’ tales. 

1. Hot, spicy food

The theory is that the spiciness of a curry or chilli will stimulate your stomach and bowel muscles, especially if you aren’t used to hot food. That could have a knock-on effect on the muscles of the uterus to start contracting. 

2. Nipple stimulation

Massaging your nipples, especially the areola (the area around the nipple) can trick your body into thinking you’re breastfeeding, causing your uterus to begin contracting. Try it for five minutes then take a break for 15. Research has proved it can work, and some midwives do advise trying it if you’re over 40 weeks.

3. Sex

The idea is that having an orgasm can trigger your brain to release oxytocin, the hormone that starts and regulates contractions. Semen contains prostaglandins, which may encourage the cervix to soften and dilate. Although NICE guidance is that 'the available evidence does not support sexual intercourse for induction of labour'.

4. Walking

Being upright and moving gently, with your pelvis rocking gently is thought to encourage your baby’s head to engage and start things moving. Ditto cleaning the floor on all fours. It might work, but midwives don’t advise it because you don’t want to start your labour exhausted from walking. Being on all fours can help the baby to get into a good position in the pelvis, but it won’t bring on labour.

5. Pineapple

Tropical fruit, especially pineapple, contains an enzyme called bromelain which is supposed to work like a prostaglandin to soften the cervix and get it ready for labour. Only fresh, not tinned, though – and most of the bromelain is in the tough, central stem. Technically it could work, but you’d have to eat a lot of pineapple. And what about the indigestion?

6. Acupuncture

The ancient Eastern art of using needles in one part of the body to stimulate another part has been found in some research to successfully induce labour in two thirds of cases. However, other studies have found zero effect so it is not recommended by NICE or health professionals but it won’t harm you as long as the acupuncturist is properly qualified.

7. A bumpy car journey

There’s no evidence for this, but many women swear that driving along an uneven or rough road has brought on their labour. The explanation is the same for walking: the weight of the baby’s head against a moving pelvis can get things moving. Just make sure you’re not the one driving when the contractions start.

8. A green salad

A US restaurant makes a fortune from its Romaine lettuce, watercress, blue cheese and walnut salad that hundreds of women claim has brought on their labour. The key is the basil balsamic dressing, apparently but it's mostly nonsense - yet there’s nothing to lose from eating a tasty, healthy salad.

Things not to try:

Raspberry leaf tea: Thought to stimulate the womb, but shouldn’t be used to bring on labour.
Drinking castor oil: Traditionally used to induce labour, but it’s a fearsome laxative. Need we say more?
Homeopathy: There’s no evidence it works.
Black/blue cohosh: This herbal remedy is too strong to use in pregnancy and could be dangerous. 

Labour need a helping hand? Try this...