Inducing Labor Naturally

Techniques for inducing labor at home

Although pregnancy is traditionally measured at 40 weeks long, you are considered full term when you reach 37 weeks. By this point, many women are tired of waiting and are feeling impatient for the big event. While your doctor can use certain medications or procedures to kick-start the birth process, many women prefer natural ways to induce labor. Proponents of inducing labor naturally claim it is a safer, more wholesome and more satisfying experience than taking suppositories or intravenous drugs.


Methods of inducing labor naturally include everything from the use of herbs and oils to physical stimulation (including the very act that got you pregnant in the first place!) Most aren't proven to be effective, but if you're anxious to get things started, you might give them a try. Before considering any of these methods, however, talk it over with your prenatal caregiver ahead of time to make sure it's safe for you and your baby.

Natural Nudges to Get Labor Going

The most common methods of inducing labor naturally include:

  • Castor oil to induce labor. Check with your doctor before using it, but castor oil will empty your bowels, and the contractions that result may sometimes be strong enough to induce labor contractions.
  • Herbs to induce labor. You may have heard of the "labor salad," made up of watercress, romaine and red cabbage. These foods contain high levels of oxytocin-like compounds, which is what your doctor might use if he or she were to induce labor with medications. Goldenseal, squaw vine, red raspberry leaf and blue cohosh herbal teas are also claimed to induce labor naturally. Don't try any herbal supplements before checking with your medical practitioner that they're safe.
  • Acupressure to induce labor. An ancient Eastern art, acupressure is the application of downward pressure on certain "hot points" of the body. According to practitioners, pressing down on certain acupressure points will cause labor contractions to begin.
  • Walking to induce labor. Some women swear that their labors have been triggered by taking a long walk. Even in the hospital, doctors will often recommend walking around in the early stages of labor to help things progress.
  • Nipple stimulation to induce labor. Anecdotal evidence suggests that prolonged nipple stimulation, performed by yourself or another person, can trigger labor.
  • Sex to induce labor. There are two ways in which vaginal sex is believed to induce labor. First, having an orgasm causes vaginal contractions, which may trigger labor contractions. Second, semen contains chemicals which cause cervical dilations that may lead to giving birth.

A doctor or midwife can also use a method known as "stripping" or "sweeping" the membranes to get the birth process started. Similar to a pelvic exam, your medical practitioner will insert a finger into your vagina and gently separate the amniotic membrane from the cervix. This is thought to cause a natural release of the hormone prostaglandin, which may in turn stimulate the onset of labor. If you've cleared it with your doctor and you feel ready to give birth, giving these methods a try before using medications to induce labor may be worth a shot.