Natural ways to induce labor

If you're hugely pregnant, uncomfortable, and at (or past) your due date, you may be wondering how to induce labor. Find out which natural methods could be worth a try – and which can be unpleasant and even unsafe. 

pregnant woman and partner rubbing her belly
Photo credit: Nathan Haniger

Are there natural ways to induce labor?

There are many labor-inducing tricks you may have heard of – including nipple stimulation, sex, spicy food, castor oil, riding along a bumpy road, acupuncture, and even eating pineapple. Unfortunately, none of these methods has been proven effective, and some may not be safe.

There's no harm in walking or having sex to try and jump start your labor – it could help, and even if it doesn't, you may enjoy it! (First make sure that sex is safe for you now.) But other methods – like drinking castor oil or eating spicy foods – could upset your stomach and cause nausea and diarrhea. And some methods, including nipple stimulation and taking various herbs, could overstimulate your uterus and pose a risk to your baby. Before trying any natural ways to induce labor, make sure to talk to your caregiver.

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Here's the scoop on some of the techniques you may have heard about:

Sexual intercourse:

Semen contains prostaglandins, and having an orgasm may stimulate contractions. A few studies have shown that having sex when you're full-term may reduce the need for labor induction, but others have found no effect on promoting labor.

Nipple stimulation:

Stimulating your nipples releases oxytocin and may help start labor. While it's a time-honored approach, more research is needed to determine how effective it is. And because there's a possibility of overstimulating your uterus (and stressing your baby), it's probably safer to try this in the hospital while being monitored.

Castor oil:

Castor oil is a strong laxative. Although stimulating your bowels may cause contractions, there's not a lot of definitive research showing that it helps induce labor – and you're likely to find the effect very unpleasant. It can also lead to diarrhea and dehydration, so it's important that you stay hydrated if using castor oil.


A self-administered enema works similarly to castor oil in that it stimulates the bowels, which releases prostaglandins (compounds that prepare the cervix for labor) into the body. Again, there's not much recent scientific evidence for an enema to bring on labor, but anecdotally, it seems to work in select cases. Like with castor oil, an enema can lead to diarrhea and leave you dehydrated.

Evening primrose oil, red raspberry leaf tea, and other herbal remedies:

A variety of herbs, including red raspberry leaf tea and evening primrose oil, are said to be useful for labor induction. But right now there isn't enough evidence to prove that any of them are safe or effective at getting labor started. And some can overstimulate your uterus or pose other risks.


Walking and other forms of moderate exercise are safe during pregnancy and recommended for most women. Sadly, there's no evidence that exercise can bring on labor. However, once you are in labor, spending time upright could help shorten the process.

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Bumpy car ride:

Taking a drive on a gravel road or hitting a few speed bumps won't help start labor. (It also won't hurt your baby, since he or she is well protected from life's minor bumps by the uterus and surrounding fluid.) Always err on the side of safety, however, and wear a seat belt, even in the back seat.

Spicy food:

Despite the stories about babies born quickly after their moms ate spicy pizza or a certain eggplant Parmesan, no spice or food has been scientifically proven to get labor started. Some people theorize that spicy food causes contractions by stimulating the digestive system. Others suggest that spicy food increases production of prostaglandins, which can also help move labor along. But while an upset stomach or diarrhea could release prostaglandins into the body and stimulate mild uterine cramping, that's unlikely to be enough to cause labor.


This tasty fruit contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is rumored to stimulate labor. However, there are no studies to prove this is the case. There's no harm in eating pineapple to try and start labor (you'll get a healthy dose of vitamin C) but don't overdo it because too much pineapple can irritate the stomach.

Acupuncture and acupressure:

Acupuncture involves inserting tiny needles through the skin in strategic locations throughout the body. Acupressure is similar, but uses pressure from touch instead of needles. Some people swear these techniques can be used to get labor started, or to shorten labor. A few small studies support this, but there needs to be more rigorous research of these techniques. Acupuncture has also been found in several studies to ease the pain of labor.

If you're desperate for labor to start, talk to your doctor or midwife about ways to speed the process along. And if labor doesn't start on its own by a week or two after your due date, your caregiver will induce labor using medication and other techniques.

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Cleveland Clinic. 2018. Truth or Tale? 8 Ways to (Maybe) Move Labor Along Naturally. a new window [Accessed March 2021]

Cleveland Clinic. 2020. What Natural Ways to Induce Labor Actually Work? a new window [Accessed March 2021]

Duryea, E. 2017. The truth about "natural" ways to induce labor. a new window [Accessed March 2021]

Kelly, A. et. al. 2013. Castor oil, bath and/or enema for cervical priming and induction of labour. Cochrane Library. a new window [Accessed March 2021]

Siregar, E. et. al. 2020. The Effect of Acupressure and Acupunture as Natural Induction Methods for Spontaneous Labor: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Nursing and Health Services. a new window [Accessed March 2021]

UpToDate. 2021. Induction of labor with oxytocin. a new window [Accessed March 2021]

Claudia Boyd-Barrett
Claudia Boyd-Barrett is a longtime journalist based in Southern California and a proud, continually adapting mom of a teenager.