Table of Contents
Pregnancy Risk Factors
Any mother will tell you that the final trimester of pregnancy can feel like an eternity.
You’re eagerly anticipating the arrival of your new little one, and in the meantime, your body feels like it’s turning against you: you’re tired, sore, irritable, and can hardly sleep.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to induce labor that you can use to help speed the process along, and all from the comfort of your home.
But before we get to them, please consider the following risk factors:
- You should avoid inducing labor at home if your pregnancy is considered high-risk or if you’re experiencing pregnancy-related medical conditions (e.g. gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, etc.)
- It’s vital to inform your doctor of any steps you take to encourage labor, including any herbal or other natural remedies you consume.
- If your attempts to induce labor are successful, you should proceed to the hospital immediately. Keep a bag packed and ready to go for just this purpose.
- You absolutely should not attempt to induce labor before 40 weeks, as your baby will not have reached full gestation before then.
Natural Ways to Induce Labor
The following is a list of herbs known to help promote the onset of labor in pregnant women.
Please note that the majority of these herbs are not FDA-regulated, and in some cases the research supporting their efficacy is scarce.
You should consult with your OBGYN or midwife before beginning any regimen of medicinal herbs, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy, a pre-existing medical condition, or if you take any medications.
The medicinal properties of cinnamon have been well-documented.
In addition to being a tasty, flavorful seasoning, there are records of its health benefits dating back to the time of the ancient Egyptians.
Research shows that cinnamon may help promote weight loss, fight tooth decay, sweeten bad breath, relieve digestive problems, and even help reduce symptoms associated with conditions like arthritis, diabetes, MS, and certain cancers.
Steeping a few sticks of cinnamon in boiling water makes a delicious tea that can be consumed to help soften the cervix and promote labor.
However, you should only try it after your due date has passed to avoid the possibility of your water breaking early.
Cotton Root Bark Tea
The cotton root bark is harder to come by than cinnamon, at least in the United States.
However, if you have access to a professional herbalist, you may be able to get your hands on some.
This extraordinary herb has the ability to shut down your body’s production of progesterone, helping trigger labor.
These properties are also why it has historically been used as an abortifacient.
You have to be very careful when preparing a cotton root bark tincture, however, because cotton’s status as a non-food crop means it’s subject to fewer pesticide and herbicide regulations.
Throughout history, thyme has been used to treat a range of ailments including urinary tract infections, digestive complaints, and even the common cold.
Thyme tea has also been used for generations to stimulate labor.
Simply boil the fresh or dried leaves for ten minutes, let steep for five minutes, strain the leaves and drink.
The tea will help encourage uterine contractions, coaxing you into labor.
You can safely drink up to two cups a day.
We recommend sweetening it with honey for a more pleasant taste (2).
Ginger Root Tea
Ginger is another herb widely recognized for its incredible medicinal properties.
Most of us have ingested ginger to help soothe a sore throat or calm an upset stomach, but fewer are aware of its value to pregnant women.
Its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to relieve nausea mean that it’s invaluable to expectant mothers suffering from morning sickness, and later in your pregnancy, it can also be used to stimulate labor.
As a bonus, ginger is a known stress-reliever and a time-tested remedy for improving circulation and boosting the immune system, so drinking a few cups a day will help strengthen your overall health.
Cumin tea is another popular folk remedy for inducing labor at home that has been recommended by midwives for generations, and a staple of traditional Indian and Egyptian medicine.
Simply boil the seeds, add a small piece of raw potato to help reduce the bitterness of the flavor, strain, and drink.
Please note, however, that cumin has blood-thinning properties, so if you have a clotting disorder or a similar condition, you should consult your doctor before attempting to use cumin tea to start labor.
Raspberry Leaf Tea
Raspberry leaf tea is another popular folk remedy for starting labor.
Drinking tea steeped from the leaves is said to help soften the cervix.
Plus, because raspberries are typically available in your local supermarket and are therefore easier to acquire than many of the other herbs on this list, this remedy is a lot more obtainable than some of the others.
However, it should be noted that there is currently no scientific evidence supporting this remedy (5).
Aside from being a zesty, flavorful addition to your favorite Caprese salad or artisan pizza, basil is said to help promote circulation, treat stomach spasms, and help rid the body of internal parasites.
For its contraction-stimulating properties, we’ve included it here on our list of natural ways to induce labor.
You can simply add a handful of basil leaves to your meal, or you can steep it in a tea and drink it twice a day to encourage the onset of labor.
Some mothers even find that consuming basil helps with milk production, which makes it especially valuable to mothers having difficulty with nursing (6).
Licorice is a strong-tasting herb that also contains prostaglandins: hormone-like chemicals produced naturally by the human body.
High quantities of prostaglandins are manufactured by the endometrial cells of the uterus during menstruation, and they constrict the blood vessels and cause your uterine muscles to contract.
This is what causes period cramps.
Fortunately, the prostaglandins contained in licorice tea can help stimulate uterine contractions to start labor at home.
Better yet, you can buy pre-made licorice teas in most supermarkets, so you won’t have to go to the trouble of buying and steeping the herbs yourself (7).
Motherwort is one of the less commonly-known herbs on our list of ways to start labor.
However, as its name suggests, it was at one time well-known to expectant mothers for its medicinal value during pregnancy.
It can be taken in pill form, consumed as a tincture, or steeped into a tea and drunk to help initiate labor.
It can also be consumed to help regulate Braxton Hicks contractions and relieve false labor.
Fenugreek is another amazing multipurpose herb on our list.
Long a staple of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, fenugreek is known for reducing many of the symptoms and side effects of pregnancy, including breast growth and tenderness, gestational diabetes, and low milk supply.
There’s also some evidence to suggest that it can help shorten labor by inducing contractions.
If you’re wondering how to speed up labor naturally, dosing yourself with fenugreek may be just the solution you’re looking for.
Black and Blue Cohosh Tea
For generations, these herbs have been prized as ways to start labor in expectant mothers.
Taken together, they help to stimulate simultaneously uterine contractions and dilate the cervix, much like the same drugs administered during a medical induction.
They can be taken in tincture form every five hours or so, or the tincture can be diluted into a tea and drunk a few times a day once your due date has passed.
However, you should be sure to discuss using these herbs with a qualified midwife before you begin taking them, as some studies have linked them to high blood pressure and newborn heart failure.
Food & Drink
The remedies listed in this section aren’t primarily medicinal herbs, but foods and beverages you’re likely to have in your pantry right now.
Take care that you only eat them in moderation, as too much of anything may upset your stomach.
There’s a myth that eating spicy food during pregnancy can adversely affect your baby’s hair growth.
Fortunately, there’s no evidence that there’s any truth to this myth whatsoever.
On the contrary, eating moderate amounts of spicy food (such as hot peppers, Thai or Mexican dishes, Tabasco sauce, chili, etc.) can help to ripen the cervix and encourage the start of labor.
Plus, indulging in some of the favorite foods you’ve forbidden yourself from eating will help make whatever remains of your pregnancy a little more enjoyable!
A 2011 study of the effect of date fruit on pregnant women found that expectant mothers who consumed six dates a day for four weeks went into labor earlier than those who did not.
The study also found that the longer contractions associated with eating dates helped to dilate the cervix faster, ultimately shortening total labor time.
And among women in their third trimesters, the chances of going into spontaneous labor after eating dates was higher than for those who didn’t.
Still, you should only consume this miracle fruit in moderation, as dates also have laxative properties and can cause digestive problems (10).
Pineapple is not only a delicious snack, it also contains an enzyme called bromelain that helps soften your cervix and the neck of your womb.
If you’re wondering how to induce labor naturally and you don’t want to take your chances with herbs you haven’t tried before, snacking on some pineapple can be an easy alternative that feels safer than downing a tincture or a tea.
Bananas may be one of the more surprising items on our list of suggestions for how to induce labor at home, but don’t be so quick to dismiss them.
This fruit is rich in the electrolyte potassium, which is crucial to a good heart, skeletal, muscular, and digestive function.
Because it helps promote muscle contraction, it can also be a valuable tool for stimulating labor in overdue mothers.
Be careful not to get carried away, though.
Most of us have used balsamic vinegar as a simple salad dressing or cooked it into a reduction to top our favorite dishes.
To help encourage the onset of labor, you can pour some on your salad every day once you’ve passed your due date or, if you’re feeling especially brave, even drink a shot of it.
If the taste is too overwhelming, you can also dilute it in a glass of water.
Alternative Medicine and Therapies
The following labor-inducing strategies are considered alternative because they don’t fall under the umbrella of Western medicine.
However, these remedies are common in other cultures and therapeutic modalities.
A relative of acupuncture (in which special needles are inserted into meridians, or energy centers, in the body), acupressure involves strategically pressing different points in the body to stimulate reactions elsewhere.
It has been used for thousands of years, particularly in Eastern medicine, to help relieve pain and prevent illness.
Some naturopaths are also trained in acupressure and can help speed along the labor process by massaging certain pressure points on a pregnant woman’s body.
You can also find resource guides online for performing acupressure on yourself at home.
In acupuncture, tiny needles are inserted into different parts of the body to stimulate the flow of qi, the energy that circulates through the human body along fourteen different paths.
There are a total of 361 acupuncture points, each associated with a different bodily function, and some of those points are related to the ripening of the cervix and the thinning of the membrane that leads to water breakage.
Unlike acupressure, acupuncture should never be self-administered at home.
It should only be performed by a licensed acupuncturist (14).
Castor oil is a thick, viscous oil obtained from the seeds of the castor oil plant.
It’s an ingredient found in soaps, perfumes, plastics, and other products, and it’s also long been used as a folk remedy to treat skin conditions and other ailments.
Unlike some of the other remedies on this list, it is recognized by the FDA as being generally safe and effective.
Some believe that castor oil can help improve the complexion and also encourage hair and nail growth.
Some also believe that its stimulant laxative properties can cause the uterus to contract, stimulating labor.
However, pregnant women should only ingest castor oil under a doctor’s supervision, because it can also cause diarrhea and trigger fetal bowel movements in utero (15).
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil is well known for its medicinal properties for women.
It can be used to help control symptoms associated with PMS, including bloating, water retention, abdominal cramping, and breast tenderness.
It can also be taken to help ripen the cervix and induce labor.
Evening primrose oil is available in most health food stores, as well as the natural products sections of many supermarkets.
It can be taken as a tincture or in capsule form.
You can even insert the capsules as a vaginal suppository (16).
Massage is invaluable to pregnant women from a pain-relief standpoint, and it can also help encourage the onset of labor.
If you’re past your due date, consider seeing a licensed massage therapist to help speed the process along.
You’ll find that gestational massage therapy can help relieve muscle soreness, control nausea and other symptoms of morning sickness, reduce labor pain, and even trigger labor in some instances (17).
These are all activities you can do at home that can help encourage labor.
You don’t need to be an athlete to perform any of the following activities, though for some it may be helpful to have a partner.
Walking is one of the oldest, most reliable ways of inducing labor.
Even in hospitals, it’s common for OBGYNs and midwives to encourage women in the early stages of labor to walk the halls to move the process along and help the baby to drop into the birth canal.
Even if you have yet to go into labor, you can move your body in that direction by taking short walks.
After you begin feeling contractions, you can speed up the time between them by continuing to walk with assistance.
Be sure to take frequent breaks, as you’ll want to conserve your energy for the later stages when it’s time to push (18).
A warm bath will not only help to relax your sore muscles, it can also help induce labor.
Be sure not to allow the water to get too hot, as this can cause the baby undue stress and yourself needless discomfort.
Instead, allow the water to run warm, add a few drops of lavender essential oil for some relaxing aromatherapy, and remain in the tub for as long as is comfortable.
You will probably require some assistance getting in and out, so for safety reasons, we don’t recommend doing this by yourself (19).
This is another activity we don’t recommend attempting without some assistance, if you’re experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, or if you find it difficult to get around without discomfort.
However, if you’re still feeling reasonably mobile after your due date, carefully climbing stairs with a partner by your side can have much the same effect as walking: it encourages the cervix to ripen and the baby to drop into position in preparation for delivery.
To avoid the risk of injury to yourself or your baby, we recommend doing this only with a partner nearby to support you (20).
Depending on what sort of shape you’re in after your due date, dancing may not be possible for you.
However, if you’re still feeling mobile, limber, and in good spirits, some light dancing either in the comfort of your home or at a pre-natal dance class can be just the thing.
Some community centers and other organizations offer dance or Zumba classes geared toward mothers-to-be, so throw on some comfortable sweats and get moving to the beat!
A refreshing dip in the pool can not only help alleviate muscle aches and joint pain, it can also help stimulate uterine contractions.
As with most of the other physical activities on our list, we don’t recommend going for a swim alone while you await the onset of labor.
Be sure to bring a buddy with you, and stick to public pools rather than lakes, rivers, or other bodies of water.
As always, safety should be the biggest priority.
Like climbing stairs, squats can help ripen the cervix, stimulate uterine contractions, and coax the baby into dropping into the birth canal.
Plus, it’s an exercise that can be performed at home without needing any sort of special equipment.
However, you should make sure to have an exercise partner working with you to help you avoid injury, or just in case you need some assistance getting back up again.
(Keep in mind that if your doctor has advised bed rest, you should not perform squats or any other strenuous physical activity.) (22)
Yoga has been increasing in popularity in the United States for years as many people have come to recognize its benefits.
In addition to strengthening and toning muscles, improving flexibility, encouraging better respiration, and promoting relaxation, prenatal yoga can also prepare the expectant mother for labor and delivery.
There are yoga poses intended specifically to help mothers prepare for the act of childbirth, and there are even some that can help relieve pain without medication.
Find out if there are any prenatal yoga classes available in your zip code!
Bouncing on a Birthing Ball
A birthing ball isn’t just a useful tool for mothers in active labor.
It can also be used to help kick-start labor if you’re past due.
In addition to providing spinal support and taking pressure off your knees and ankles, the birthing ball takes advantage of gravity and helps coax your baby downward.
By squatting on the ball and making gentle circles with your hips, you can begin to ease the baby downward toward your cervix.
Once you’re in active labor, the ball can help ease the pain of contractions and shorten your total labor time (24).
Believe it or not, this is one of the most highly recommended ways of inducing labor naturally.
Stimulating your nipples with gentle massage serves a very important function: it helps promote the production of oxytocin in your brain — the same hormone released when you nurse your baby.
By massaging your nipples for fifteen minutes each, three times a day, you can help increase your oxytocin production, which in turn stimulates uterine contractions (25).
The last labor-inducing strategy on our list may also be the most surprising.
In your third trimester, sex is probably the last thing on your mind, but if you can put yourself in the mood, you’ll find that the payoff can be huge.
Not only does sex with your partner help encourage oxytocin production and cervical ripening, but the prostaglandins released in male semen can help promote dilation (26).
Do’s and Don’ts
Now that we’ve discussed how to induce labor at home, let’s take a look at some critical dos and don’ts:
- DO talk to your doctor or midwife before attempting any of the strategies on this list.
- DO use these techniques only in moderation to avoid illness or injury.
- DON’T ignore doctors’ orders, particularly if you have a high-risk pregnancy or a preexisting condition.
- DON’T take any medication without consulting your doctor first.
- DON’T attempt to self-induce labor before 40 weeks, as your baby hasn’t finished developing before then.
You are now equipped with the knowledge you need to induce an easy, comfortable labor at home!
Although the remedies included in this list are vouched for by many mothers, midwives, naturopaths, and alternative medicine practitioners, they should not replace your doctor’s advice.
Please consult your physician before attempting any of the self-inducement techniques written about here, and always take the advice of your OBGYN or midwife over any advice read online.
We wish you a safe and very happy delivery!