Natural Alternatives to Induce Labor

During this morning’s class, one of the students proudly announced that today was her due date. She was anxiously awaiting the start of her labor and excited to meet her baby. (I think there was equal excitement about the idea of not being pregnant anymore!) She then went on to say that her doctor has set an induction date for 8 days after her due date. She expressed great concern that she would not go into labor naturally and end up with a medical induction, a situation which she was hoping to avoid. I explained that there are several “natural methods” to help start labor that are worth investigating if she was interested.

Coming from the standpoint of a certified Lamaze Childbirth Educator, I strongly believe that we should wait for labor to start on its own. The very first of the “6 Care Practices” is “Labor Begins on its Own.” It has been well documented that once medical intervention starts, a “cascade effect” is in motion which will often lead to the necessity of more and more medical procedures and intervention.

Of course, there are very valid reasons for which a medical induction is necessary. For example, if the mother has diabetes, high blood pressure, the mother or baby is in distress, the mother has reached 42 weeks, or the fluids have ruptured and labor has not begun after several hours. Note: Convenience is NOT on this list! Suspecting a large or very large baby is also not a medical reason for induction. In a November 2002 press release, ACOG reported that induction of labor for macrosomia (large baby) almost doubled the cesarean rate without improving perinatal outcomes (the health of the baby).

If your reason for induction is not a medical emergency, and you have time, here are a few methods that may help move things along. I strongly urge you not to dabble in the more aggressive methods unless you really are at risk for a medical induction and that you consult your care provider before proceeding. Also keep in mind that a lot of these methods will not work unless your body is ready.

Sex – It’s how you got into this situation, it’s how you get out! The release of semen onto the cervix can aid in softening it since it contains the hormone prostaglandin. Also, the body releases oxytocin during orgasm and nipple stimulation. This is the same hormone that contracts the uterus during labor. So, between the two, you have a good chance of moving things along!
(Please note- this is not a good option to try if your membranes have ruptured)

Acupuncture – There was a study done through the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Vienna, Austria to evaluate whether acupuncture at term can influence cervical ripening, induce labor and thus reduce the need for postdates induction. Conclusion: Acupuncture at points LI4 and SP 6 supports cervical ripening at term and can shorten the time interval between the EDC and the actual time of delivery.

As Francis Goodwin, LAC states, “Acupuncture inductions do not stress the fetus the way synthetic hormonal inductions can.” This is definitely an alternative I would recommend before submitting to a medical induction.

Evening Primrose Oil – If you are not feeling up for a little romp around the bedroom, evening primrose oil may have the same effect since it contains prostaglandin. After 36 weeks, it can be applied directly to the cervix to help it “ripen”. If you do not feel comfortable inserting anything directly into the body, you can take the evening primrose oil orally. If you are interested in taking this, the recommended dosage is 2,500mg capsules a day. *** DO NOT insert the oil if your membranes have ruptured!!!

Castor Oil
– The idea behind the use of castor oil is that it helps quickly empty the intestines. This can sometimes help trigger uterine contractions. I have successfully used this method with some clients. I recommend one tablespoon of castor oil mixed with orange juice and vodka.

If the idea of castor oil doesn’t sound appealing, try eating a lot of licorice, the real licorice candy, the black kind, especially Panda brand, which is definitely real licorice, or Bassett’s Allsorts, which might be tastier. Licorice contains the chemical, glycyrrhizin, which stimulates the production of prostaglandins. In addition, eating lots of licorice might cause a mild diarrhea, and intestinal contractions can cause sympathetic uterine contractions.

Stripping the Membranes – THIS PROCEDURE NEEDS TO BE PERFORMED BY A MIDWIFE OR DOCTOR!!!! This procedure is done by the doctor or midwife inserting two fingers inside the cervix and separating the amniotic sac from the cervix. This may stimulate the body’s natural production of prostaglandin. “In two studies, sweeping the membranes successfully induced labor in half the cases attempted.”¹

Uterine Stimulating Herbs – Black cohosh (Caulophyllum) and blue cohosh (Cimificugua). I am not an herbalist or homeopathic doctor, so my knowledge of these herbs is remedial. If you are interested in an herbal supplement to stimulate your labor, I would recommend contacting a specialist in this area. The reason I include this suggestion is to make you aware that this is an option, but I also stress that the use of these herbs should be supervised.

Relaxation – You can go ahead and try all the methods listed above, but if you are stressed and tense, chances are they will not produce the desired effect. Your body needs to be relaxed and calm for it to open. Maybe this is why so many women start labor in the middle of the night. Try taking a warm bath, catch a movie, stroll through the park or come to a prenatal yoga class! Anything that quiets the mind will be helpful.

I hope that you found this list of alternative methods helpful and that you have a beautiful labor!

¹ Gaskin, Ina May. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Pg 216.

This entry was posted in Natural Alternatives to Induce Labor by Deb. Bookmark the permalink.

About Deb

Debra is a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music with a degree in Musical Theater. She has spent most of her life performing and was introduced to yoga through a choreographer in 1997. After several years as a yoga student, she decided to continue her education and became certified as a Bikram Yoga instructor. In 2001 Debra headed out to Seattle to study with renowned prenatal yoga teacher Colette Crawford, R.N., at the Seattle Holistic Center. Debra has received a certificate for Vinyasa Yoga from Shiva Rea, with whom she continues to study. Debra has also been certified in the Maternal Fitness Method with Julie Tupler. In 2004, Debra completed the OM Yoga advanced teacher training with Cyndi Lee. Debra currently studies with Cyndi Lee, Genevieve Kapular, and Susan "Lip" Orem. After being witness to several "typical" hospital births, Debra felt it was important to move beyond the yoga room and be present in the birthing room. In 2003, Debra attended her first birth as a DONA certified labor support doula. In that short period of time, Debra has attended about 40 births. She is continuously in awe of the beauty and brilliance of birth. Most recently, Debra received her certification as a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. Drawing on her experience as a prenatal yoga teacher, labor support doula and childbirth educator, Debra looks to establish a safe and effective class for pregnancy and beyond.

13 thoughts on “Natural Alternatives to Induce Labor

  1. I have tried plain castor oil(threw it up) mixed it with cherry limeade) just made things worse. Stripped my membreanes at my last appt, nothing has happened and done the nipple stimulation nothing and now I will try the vodka and orange juice wish me luck. Hope everyone else has better luck

  2. I took a three-step approach with great success: accupuncture and sex one evening, followed by a walk home from Fairway with two heavy bags of groceries. I went into labor that night.

  3. Last year i tried eating real black austrian licorice and i was 39 weeks pregnant. It work for me! The real kind is very nasty. It made me go to the bathroom and made my contractions closer. I went to the hospital and they induce me because my contraction was so close. I had my baby 4 days early. She came out 9.5 and healthy. I believe real austrian black licorice works and can work if ur at lease 37 to 40 weeks or over. Im trying it again. Im 37 weeks pregnant right now And the doctor told me my baby been trying to come but she sitting to low and i been ripen since 35 weeks. They said it will be better if i went into labor on my own. Hopefully it works again because my baby is pressing on my pelvic bone causing my legs to spread.

  4. Sex just made my plug came out hours later. But i believe i keep doing it. That i would of went into labor. I tried real pinnapple and i was mad. I ate the whole pinnapple because another girl comment and it made me almost threw up. It didnt work for me. Waste of time.

  5. I induced with castor oil at 41 weeks after trying everything else – one tablespoon as you mentioned (although other online sources say take up to half a cup!). Despite warnings about danger to baby my little girl was born drug free after four hours and with almost perfect apgars. I’d use castor oil again!

  6. Pingback: Yoga to start labour – Start yoga | Yoga Blog » Blog Archive

  7. Pingback: Yoga to start labor – Start yoga | Yoga Blog » Blog Archive

  8. I used a tablespoon of castor oil with my daughter, 8 hours after taking it my mucus plug came out and my water broke, mind you I wasn’t even dialated at all. I’m due with my second tomorrow, if I haven’t made any progress I’m defiantly doing the castor oil again. :)

  9. I dnt knw how much your supposed to eat but I have just eatin a half lb of black licorice so hopefully it wrks I’m exactly 40 weeks and a day!

  10. Oh boy, have I tried so many. I am now 40 weeks and 1 day (according to how I count, which I know is accurate as I was keeping track even before the positive sign) to my md I am 39 and 3 days though. I have tried almost everything to go on my own, I’m 3cm and fully effaced according to my last appointment (which was on weds. It’s now monday) I have another appointment tomorrow and my doctor is going to schedule an induction (she said she would if I didn’t have him by my next appointment which is tomorrow) and I am rather nervous due to all the induction horror stories I was told. Her reason was a few weeks ago, had high bp and was monitored before being sent home after 24 hours fine. Here is a list of what I did and am doing:
    EPO (still doing it also)
    Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
    Balsamic Vinegar and the “induction salad”
    Galloping like a horse
    Nipple Stimulation
    Tried some accupressure although am not sure if I’m doing it right.
    Candy licorice (didn’t know it had to be a special kind)
    And almost anything else. I won’t do castor oil as my mom did it and she said NO to me trying it as it was torture for her.
    I also started with squatting. I do believe I have lost my muccus plug as well, and daily have contractions. The other night had pretty bad ones for about 3 hours or so, and then they suddenly stopped.
    I have no idea what else I can do, and am actually feeling like he shouldve been here by now and am getting pretty frustrated (mainly due to the induction fear.) I really hope a miracle happens and he comes before induction day. But also, does anyone have other suggestions or advice I may find helpful? Ps. I’m asking for a membrane sweep tomorrow in hopes that works!
    Wish me luck, as I need it!
    Also, baby is properly postioned and moved down ready to come, and is a good healthy 7lbs some oz!

  11. Hi Mariah

    If you are hesitant about the induction, you can always ask your provider, if mom is ok, and baby is ok, can you have more time.

    i would also recommend acupuncture by a professional. only a licensed acupuncturist is going to know the specific points to hit.

    The sweeping of the membranes may also be very helpful, especially considering how ready your cervix is.

    Keep resting an enjoying the quiet time before baby comes!

    I wish you a wonderful birth!


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