Can You Bring on Labor?

As your due date comes and goes, you may get desperate for labor to begin. You may start looking for ways to get labor started. Family and friends may offer suggestions to help get things moving. There may come a time when you get desperate enough to try anything. There are some common ideas about how to start labor. Some may work under certain conditions, but others will not.


Many people swear by this one. They will tell you to walk to bring on labor. The idea is that walking helps the baby drop into position and can bring on labor. This generally only works if your cervix has started to efface and dilate. If labor has begun, but is slow, the doctor may have you walking the hospital hallways. However, if there are no signs of labor, walking is not likely to help.

Spicy Food

Inevitably, someone will tell you to try a variety of spicy foods to help bring on labor. Your mother or grandmother may actually bring over a few dishes for you to sample. The day may come when you get desperate enough to eat them. This won’t work. You may end up awake all night, chewing Tums. In the morning, you will still have no baby, just a sleepless night. Spare yourself the pain and skip the spicy foods.

Castor Oil

The older women love this one. I’ve heard this with each of my pregnancies and always from older women. Like spicy foods, there is no evidence this will work to bring on labor. You may end up with cramping and diarrhea, but this won’t bring on contractions. If you really want to try this one, ask your doctor first. Be aware that it is very unlikely to work, even though it is a very popular myth.

Have Sex

This is a common method for bringing on labor. I must admit to trying this one with every baby. After the due date passes, you may have absolutely no desire for sex, but really want to get labor started. This may actually work, but only under certain conditions.

In general, sex may work if the cervix has begun to efface, or soften. This is because sperm contain prostaglandins, which are sometimes used to help induce labor in the hospital. If at your doctor’s visit, the doctor tells you that your cervix has begun to efface, you may want to go for it. Sex under these conditions may be enough to put you over the edge.

My midwife told me to do this with the first baby, when I was partially effaced and about 2 centimeters dilated. I had her the next day, which may have been a coincidence, or maybe not. It didn’t work for the next two babies, but is harmless enough to be worth a try.

Nipple Stimulation

Stimulating your nipples releases the hormone oxytocin. This is a natural hormone that is believed to play a role in bringing on labor. Pitocin is a synthetic form of this hormone that is used to induce labor in the hospital. This method may work, but takes time. It’s best if you are already showing signs of labor.

Don’t attempt nipple stimulation without talking to your doctor. Many will only allow you to do this in the hospital, while the baby is being monitored. This is because stimulating the nipples can cause strong contractions, which can affect the baby’s heart rate. For this reason, you want to be monitored when attempting this.

The bottom line, the end of pregnancy remains a waiting game. Most methods suggested by friends and family are old wives tales and will not help bring on labor any faster than nature. A few may work, depending on the circumstances. Although the days after the due date seem to drag on forever, you really won’t be pregnant for the rest of your life. Soon you will be holding your baby, whether you try any home remedies or wait for nature to take its course.

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About Pattie Hughes

Pattie Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four young children. She and her husband have been married since 1992. Pattie holds a degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. Just before her third child was born, the family relocated to Pennsylvania to be near family. She stopped teaching and began writing. This gives her the opportunity to work from home and be with her children. She enjoys spending time with her family, doing crafts, playing outside at the park or just hanging out together.