It’s been nine months of patiently waiting to meet your little chick, but bub is quite happy still in its nest and there are no signs that they’re flying the coop anytime soon.
The last few days of pregnancy can seem like an eternity, and mums-to-be will try almost anything to get their little bundle of joy earthside. From foods to eat, drinks to sip, exercises to try and even recipes to make, we’ve researched every possible thing to bring on labour.
So, if you’re in the final stretch pregnancy and ready to deliver an eviction notice, here are 50 ways to bring on labour.
1. Spicy food
Some women say that a spicy, nose-watering curry was enough to kick-start their labour. The theory is that spicy food stimulates the digestive system, and may even give you diarrhea. This can cause dehydration, and it’s possible for dehydration during pregnant to cause contractions.
2. Medical induction
While most methods to try and bring on labour aren’t scientifically proven, medical inductions are usually a sure-fire way to fast-forward to birth. There are a few different types of medical induction including:
- Artificial Rupture of Membranes (ARM)
- Prostaglandin Gel
- Foley’s catheter
- Stabilising induction
By the end of pregnancy, you should be avoiding high-impact exercises, but gentle movements like lunges or pelvic rocking and tilting may get things moving.
4. Eat this pizza
Overdue women in America are heading to Hawthorne’s NY Pizza & Bar’s eight locations to snaffle a slice of their Buffalo Chicken Pizza, which is now known as The Inducer. Dozens of women claim to have gone into labour after chowing down on a slice of the pizza – any excuse for pizza we say!
This one does have some scientific backing, and unless you’ve been advised otherwise there’s no harm in trying! Semen contains prostaglandins, which soften the cervix, so it’s thought in some case it may bring on labour. According to the mums in our Mum’s Grapevine Pregnancy & Baby Groups, three doses of sperm in a day does the trick!
Speaking of prostaglandins, liquorice (the real, proper stuff) is thought to stimulate the production of prostaglandins, thanks to the chemical glycyrrhizin. Eating lots of liquorice may also trigger diarrhea, which as mentioned in the spicy foods section, could instigate contractions.
A study from the University of Helsinki showed that women who eat large amounts of liquorice could be at greater risk of having babies prematurely. The researchers found that women who ate at least 2.5 packets of black liquorice, containing 100 grams each, per week were twice as likely to deliver before 38 weeks.
7. Eating this salad
A Californian restaurant has been serving up its ‘Maternity Salad’ for three decades, with overdue mums-to-be swearing by the balsamic dressing-drenched dish. The super salad is pretty simple, with romaine, watercress, walnuts and gorgonzola. But it’s a house-made vinaigrette that is said to hold all the power.
8. Nipple stimulation
This is another method that has some scientific backing – so it’s definitely one to ask your midwife or doctor about before diving into. Here’s how it works – after you give birth, breastfeeding your newborn triggers your body to release oxytocin. This is the hormone that signals for your uterine contractions to start so that your uterus goes back to its normal size. So, it makes sense that using nipple stimulation while still pregnant may trigger contractions.
Ok, this one is pretty ‘sciencey’ too. Fresh pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which is commonly used to tenderise meat because it breaks down the proteins in the tissue. Ever eaten too much pineapple and get a sore tongue? That’s why!
So, back to labour, the theory goes that the bromelain from the pineapple breaks down the tissues in your cervix, somehow. Is there evidence proving this? Not really. But it tastes good, so there’s no real harm unless you’re battling heartburn!
10. Castor oil
This is one of the methods your mum or grandmother may have suggested. Once again it’s another diarrhea-inducing substance, just like we mentioned with spicy foods and liquorice. It’s also thought castor oil might trigger the release of prostaglandin receptors, which signals the cervix to dilate.
There have been some studies that have found castor oil wasn’t really helpful in getting labour started. And then there’s dealing with tummy cramps and loose stools while nine months pregnant, and also concerns around the impact on baby’s first bowel movement in utero. This is one to check with a medical professional.
11. Stretch and sweep
If you’re overdue, your midwife or obstetrician may suggest a stretch and sweep. This is where a finger is inserted into the cervix and moved in sweeping, circular movements. The aim is to separate the sac around by from the cervix and help labour get started.
12. Induction massage
Yep, this is a thing. Some professional masseuses offer natural labour induction massages, which are a combination of essential oils, acupoints, reflexology, stretches and body movements.
13. Eat this Eggplant Parmigiana
A delish dish from Scalini’s Italian Restaurant in Atlanta is famous for its ‘Eggplant Babies’, with more than 300 women claiming the Eggplant Parmigiana recipe helped kick-start their labours. Even if it doesn’t work – at least dinner is sorted!
14. Evening primrose oil
According to What to Expect evening primrose oil is a herb that can help thin and dialate the cervix and get it ready for labour, either taken in capsules or rubbed directly onto the cervix. But there are some instances where it’s not recommended to use evening primrose oil, for example, if you have placenta previa, so make sure you check this one out with your doctor.
15. Swallowing sperm
So this works on the same theory as having sex to bring on labour – semen contains prostaglandins, which soften the cervix. So there’s a school of thought that giving oral sex to your partner may help labour get going. But the jury is out on this one, given that studies say the prostaglandin needs to be directly applied to the cervix to work.
Certain points in the lower back and hands are thought to help start contractions, while points in the shoulders are said to help bub move down.
17. Stress reduction
Pregnancy is all about hormones, as is labour and birth – so it stands to reason stress hormones may actually stop labour from happening. But there are also concerns that stress may send a woman into premature labour. Either way, staying relaxed and happy is a great way to prep yourself and your body for labour.
18. Raspberry leaf tea
There are lots of mums who say that sipping raspberry leaf tea helped get their labour started, but there’s no scientific evidence to back it up. However, there are some other benefits of drinking raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy including soothing the uterus and helping with morning sickness.
Like acupuncture, this method uses certain points in the body which relate to other areas of the body or specific organs, but doesn’t use needles. Instead, physical pressure is applied to the points that run along the body’s meridian system. This is another technique to check with the healthcare provider first.
20. Eating dates
Some studies have shown that eating dates late in pregnancy may increase ripening of the cervix, but whether this actually leads to bringing labour on isn’t quite known. However, the studies did find those women who had eaten dates had a reduced need for induction.
21. Fit ball
Much like exercise, bouncing on a fit ball is great for relaxing the muscles. No one really knows if it’ll help get that baby moving, but as long as it’s not too vigorous there’s no harm in it.
22. Clary sage oil
It’s thought that clary sage oil may induce contractions (although some studies disproved this theory), and that’s why pregnant women are advised against using it during early pregnancy. This is one to ask your midwife or doctor about.
23. Blowing up balloons
It’s almost party time (hurry up baby!) so why not get the balloons inflated and help bub get a wriggle on. This is one of the more unusual methods, but there are plenty of mums who have given it a go. The theory behind it is that it builds up abdominal pressure, but as this hasn’t been tested by science.
There is some science behind this theory, with walking and standing upright helping your tiny one move down onto your cervix. It’s also thought that the pressure of bub’s head on your cervix helps the release of oxytocin, which in turn helps get those contractions started.
25. The butterfly position
Sitting in the butterfly position is said to help your body open up for labour – it’s basically just sitting with your knees out and feet together.
26. Watch emotional movies
Let go of the tension, have a good cry or good belly laugh and hopefully, your hormones will do the rest!
27. Coffee grounds
From the strange but true files is a coffee steam bath. Apparently, it encourages your cervix to dilate but it could also give you steam burns in places you don’t want steam burns. It’s done by putting a plastic bowl in the toilet and adding a cup of coffee grounds. Then pour hot water over the coffee and sit on the toilet and allow the steam to do what it does. Which could be absolutely nothing.
28. Labour dancing
Perhaps it’s the rhythm or maybe the hip-circling but there’s a whole movement of mummas using dance to bring on labour. So pop on your favourite tunes and get dancing!
29. Bumpy car rides
Apparently, it’s the up and down rhythmic movements that help bring bub’s head down towards the cervix. Now we’re not advocating four-wheel-driving at nine-months-pregnant, but a Sunday drive won’t hurt.
30. Essential oils
It’s said that essential oils have been used for centuries to help bring on labour, and the ones to look for include rose, jasmine, lavender and clary sage as we mentioned before. They can either be diffused or applied. Just keep in mind not all essential oils are safe in pregnancy so it’s best to consult an expert in the field.
There’s hypnobirthing for helping with labour pain, and there’s also hypnosis to help get things started. It involves relaxing and imagining your uterus contracting and labour progressing. There doesn’t appear to be any scientific backing for this method, so find a hypnobirthing practitioner to investigate further if this has piqued your interest.
Along the same lines as nipple stimulation is expressing. Again, it’s thought to trigger hormones that kick start contractions. Some experts recommend expressing for 15 minutes on each side to see if it gets things moving.
While most of us have heard of this herb to help boost breastmilk supply once baby is born, there are some who believe it stimulates the uterine muscles and can help bring on labour. While it’s reportedly been used in China for centuries to bring on labour, there’s a distinct lack of studies on its effectiveness and safety in starting the birth process.
34. Warm bath
This method is all about relaxing, releasing happy hormones and letting bub know that all is well with the world and you’re ready to meet them. No great science here, but either way it’s a great way to pass the time.
35. Balsamic vinegar
It’s thought that balsamic vinegar can somehow get labour started (and it’s a key ingredient in the labour-inducing salad dressing we mentioned earlier). There’s no scientific evidence pointing to this working, but there’s no harm in a zesty salad dressing in your last few days of pregnancy!
36. Lemon Drop Cupcakes
An American bakery (which is no longer operating) shot to fame a few years ago with it’s apparently labour-inducing Lemon Drop Cupcakes. More than 150 mums claimed the delicious cakes successfully kick-started their labour. The theory is that the zesty lemon icing was the secret, but regardless they taste delicious so either way it’s a win! Here’s the recipe courtesy of The Culinary Couple:
Labour-inducing Lemon Drop Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes
- 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups sour cream
- 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
- 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
- 1 tablespoon milk
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Step 2: In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Step 3: Add lemon peel and vanilla; mix well.
Step 4: Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream (batter will be thick).
Step 5: Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups with 1/4 cup of batter. Bake at 180°C for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean.
Step 6: Cool for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
For icing: Cream butter and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, vanilla, lemon peel, and milk; beat until smooth. Ice cupcakes.
Not only are these great for your legs, apparently squats can help move baby down into the right position using gravity, which may just get things moving along.
38. Foot massage
There are pressure points in your feet and ankles that, according to reflexology, may jumpstart labour. The theory is that certain parts of your feet are connected to nerve endings and blood vessels to your uterus. Any excuse to get your partner to massage your feet we say!
39. Ride-on mower
Yep, apparently, some mums say running over the lawn in a ride-on is enough bumping and jolting to get the action started!
40. Watch birthing videos
Those feel-good hormones may just get flowing after watching other women give birth. So tune in to some beautiful birthing videos and it may just get your little bub in the mood for birth!
If you’re wanting some alternative ways to stimulate labour, it may be worth visiting a homoeopathic practitioner who can guide you through the use of commonly-used homeopathic remedies to get labour started, like Pulsatilla, black and blue cohosh and Caulophyllum.
Gentle movement through the water has helped some mums bring on labour – apparently, the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton did it ahead of the birth of Princess Charlotte.
This clever herb helps stimulate blood flow, so go crazy on pizza or pasta night!
Now, we have mentioned sex, and that’s to do with sperm stimulating the cervix. But this is all about you mumma, so whether you do this on your own or with a partner it doesn’t matter! Orgasms cause contractions, so in theory, they may also help get labour started.
45. Eat bananas
Apparently while being incredibly tasty and packed with potassium, bananas can also help with uterine contractions. Eating a few over the course of a few days is said to do the trick, but don’t eat too many as too much potassium can be dangerous.
Visualisation and relaxation techniques are all about surrendering your mind and body, and many believe it’s enough to trigger labour. It’s also thought that when we’re stressed or worried, it may inhibit the release of oxytocin, which controls the start of labour.
This is another method that’s all about getting your bowels moving and hopefully triggering contractions. So indulge in some garlic-packed meals and see what happens!
48. Ask your doctor to book you in for an induction
Trust us when we say as soon as you’re prepared for a date, you won’t make it!
Said to stimulate blood flow to the uterus, basil may just jumpstart some action. So whizz up a pesto pasta and cross your fingers!
50. Put fresh sheets on the bed
An almost fool-proof way to guarantee that your water will break!
Just remember that baby will come in its own, sweet time. Your body won’t go into labour until it’s ready. While lots of mums swear by these methods, there’s not a lot of evidence to back up most of them. So by all means, indulge in a spicy curry and relax, but don’t be too disappointed if your little one stays put a little longer. Eventually, being pregnant will be a distant, sweet memory.
Read next …
While you’re waiting for baby to make an appearance, here are a few articles filled with time-passing inspiration:
- 50 things to tackle during the nesting phase
- The final to-do list before baby arrives
- 52 series to watch while on maternity leave