Chances are, your doctor has given you a laundry list of foods to avoid during your pregnancy. But as you approach the home stretch of your third trimester and prepare to welcome your newest family member, you might wonder what foods you can safely consume — more specifically, what you can eat to induce labor.
Keep in mind that if you are not yet full-term — less than 39 weeks pregnant — it’s not safe to try inducing labor yet. A premature birth can pose health complications to your baby, so it’s important to wait until you’re 39 weeks along to induce labor.
If you’re looking for natural ways to induce labor, this guide covers various foods and other techniques to try.
6 Foods to Induce Labor
Pregnancy is a beautiful journey, but after months of swollen ankles, nausea, and mood swings, you may be anxious to get to the delivery stage. Are there any ways to induce labor and potentially speed up the process?
Our bodies respond differently to certain foods, so what may induce labor for one pregnant woman may have no effect on another. Ultimately, the best method is to try different foods and see if any work for you. Here are six potentially labor-inducing foods to consider.
1. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Whether you sip it ice-cold or steaming hot, a cup of red raspberry leaf tea may help encourage labor. This refreshing beverage is known to boost blood flow to the uterus, which may trigger contractions.
However, there is minimal evidence to back up its labor-inducing effects, and the topic warrants further research. Consult your health care provider before trying raspberry leaf tea to induce labor. Additionally, remember that it has a natural laxative effect, so drink it responsibly to avoid upsetting your digestive system.
The recommended serving of red raspberry leaf tea is 1-3 cups per day.
Pineapple is rich, wonderfully tangy, and bursting with vitamin C, and a fresh wedge of pineapple may be your ticket to setting labor in motion. This vibrant tropical fruit contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is believed to ripen the cervix and stimulate contractions.
Another perk is that there are many ways to enjoy pineapple. Whether you mix it into a smoothie, enjoy it in a yogurt parfait, or savor it on its own, pineapple is certainly worth a shot if you’re looking to induce labor.
The recommended serving of pineapple is 1 cup per day.
Many believe that dates can induce labor due to the fatty acids that produce prostaglandins. These hormone-like substances can impact numerous bodily functions, including pain, inflammation, and uterine contractions. Prostaglandins can help ripen the cervix, stimulate contractions, induce labor, and accelerate delivery. As a bonus, dates are a fantastic source of fiber and antioxidants!
The recommended serving of dates is six dates per day.
4. Spicy Food
Adding some kick to your dish could be just the labor jumpstart you need. Spicy foods can boost prostaglandin production, which can help contract the muscles and prepare the body for labor. Others believe spicy dishes can induce contractions by stimulating the digestive system.
Try to go easy on the cumin, hot sauce, and chili peppers, though — consuming excessive spice can cause abdominal pain or gastrointestinal issues. Consider speaking with your doctor before ordering that ultra-spicy Italian, Indian, or Mexican meal, and ask them how much is safe to consume during pregnancy.
5. Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil has an omega-6 fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which can trigger prostaglandin production. Consuming evening primrose oil may help thin out and soften the cervix.
There isn’t a standard dosage for evening primrose oil, but 500 to 2,000 milligrams daily is recommended. Evening primrose oil is safe for most pregnant women to consume, but you should still talk to your medical provider beforehand.
Depending on your medical history, they may provide specific guidelines for consumption. If you opt to use evening primrose oil with your doctor’s approval, always begin with very low doses.
6. Castor Oil
One study suggests that consuming castor oil can help ripen the cervix and induce labor. It’s known to stimulate the bowels and kickstart uterine contractions. However, your doctor may not be quick to recommend it due to its high laxative properties.
Aside from its notoriously unpleasant smell and taste, castor oil can cause dehydration, nausea, cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. It must be taken with extreme care.
The recommended one-time dosage for castor oil is 60 milliliters — or about 4 tablespoons — when you are 40 or 41 weeks pregnant. It’s best to consume it on an empty stomach. You can also try mixing it with juice to mask the taste. Remember to talk it over with your health care provider before trying castor oil.
Alternative Strategies to Induce Labor
Aside from food, other methods may help launch contractions and labor. Below are some alternative labor-inducing strategies.
Physical activity is beneficial during any stage of pregnancy, and it’s a common labor induction method, as well. Even just sitting on a birthing ball can prepare the body for labor by opening the pelvis, stimulating blood flow, and encouraging cervical dilation.
You can also try gentle bouncing, rocking, and doing circular hip rotations on a birthing ball. Some other low-impact pregnancy exercises include swimming, walking, and yoga.
Prostaglandins are also present in sperm, which is why sex is considered a natural labor induction method.
3. Acupuncture or Acupressure
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice of inserting thin needles into specific pressure points in the body. Conversely, acupressure uses physical pressure from the hands, elbows, or wrists to target these points. These methods may help influence hormonal responses, boost blood flow to the uterus, and trigger contractions.
Acupressure and acupuncture can be natural ways to stimulate labor without turning to drugs or medicines. Just be sure to get your doctor’s approval before receiving either of these treatments. Make sure you find a licensed specialist who can locate the correct pressure points safely and accurately.
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A healthy lifestyle for you, your baby, and the rest of your family is important during birth and long after. By choosing to pursue stem cell storage, your loved ones can access them for medical and therapeutic use, should they need them.
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