‘Natural’ Ways to Induce Labour: What’s a Myth and What’s a Fact

There are many natural ways which women are told can induce labour. But how many of these are doctor approved?

Her Health
4 min read
Which natural ways to induce labour actually work?

Our ancestors have always had the most unique ways of treating and solving health problems. And generations on generations have sworn by it. While superstitions tend to slip into these remedies, some also have a fair amount of effectiveness behind them.

When it comes to pregnancy, it’s a barrage of advice – what to do, what not to do. There are many “natural ways” which women are told can induce labour when needed. But how many of these are old wives’ tales?

Here are the ones which are doc-approved and the ones which are plain myths you should stop wasting your time on.


I’m sure many of you have heard (some may have even tried) this one. When you’re beyond your due date or nearing it, have sex. It will help induce labour.

‘Natural’ Ways to Induce Labour: What’s a Myth and What’s a Fact
(Photo: iStock)

Theoretically, maybe yes. As science goes, prostaglandins are hormones that help in inducing labour. And how do you naturally stimulate these hormones? You guessed it – sex. It’s actually semen, to be precise, that contains prostaglandins. Some doctors do suggest you try it if your date is nearing. But others don’t agree.

If you’re having sex at that time for pleasure, that’s okay. It’s not going to hurt. But it’s not going to help with inducing labour either, there’s no evidence. These are probably just explainable in theory.
Dr Ranjana Sharma, Gynaecologist, Apollo Hospital

Having an orgasm also releases oxytocin, which can further trigger contractions of the uterus during childbirth. Though the tricky part is that not everyone may be comfortable to try it out considering the logistics involved with having a huge belly and a fair amount of apprehension to not mess anything up.


Walking around a lot, exercising, doing yoga – some consider these sure shot ways of convincing the baby to come out when you’re near term. Well, they’re not going to help with this particular goal.

‘Natural’ Ways to Induce Labour: What’s a Myth and What’s a Fact
(Photo: FIT)

Sure, it’s not hurting anyone, will even comfort the pregnant woman and is better than sitting around. But there’s no scientific evidence to say that it’ll help induce labour, says Dr Sharma.

On a separate note, exercising and being physically active during pregnancy, as much as you can take, is a good thing both for the mother and the baby.

Castor Oil

Possibly one of the most widely believed trick to induce labour. Here’s the catch. It may, in fact, get things started if the cervix is already “ripe”, but doctors warn against it.

The root of this popular belief is that castor oil is a kind of laxative which causes diarrhoea. This irritation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can then be transferred to the uterus and cause contractions. But that’s because your digestive system is acting up, not labour. And more often than not, it’s not helping you eject a baby.

‘Natural’ Ways to Induce Labour: What’s a Myth and What’s a Fact
(Photo: iStock)
It’s a very bad way of inducing labour, it’s obsolete. It can give you contractions, but it can also give you a lot of bowel cramps. So never try it.
Dr Ranjana Sharma, Gynaecologist, Apollo Hospital

Practically, doctors say women who have tried it, may or may not get results. Studies believe the latter.

However, what is a given is that it’s going to cause a whole lot of discomfort and irritability, which you can really do without.

Spicy Food, Papaya, Pineapple et al

Let’s get this out of the way. No food you eat will help you get to labour. Stop trying! Spicy food, papaya, pineapple, herbs, herbal teas – nothing.

The reason some people think that things like spicy food can help is because of the gastro reflex it can cause. But experts say the GI tract does not have a direct connection with the uterus to induce labour like this.

Breast Stimulation

‘Natural’ Ways to Induce Labour: What’s a Myth and What’s a Fact
(Photo: iStock)

Nipple stimulation causes oxytocin release, which as we read above, causes uterine contractions. But again, it may or may cause onset of labour.

It can be done, but it’s not a very good method of inducing because failure rate is very high. 
Dr Ranjana Sharma, Gynaecologist, Apollo Hospitals

So is there any other genuine way in which one can naturally give the baby that extra push?

“When you’re nearing term, almost there or one week before the date, we can sweep and stretch the cervix, the mouth of the uterus – you can fiddle with it. This is a recommended, evidence-based method and then leave it for a week, lots of women will go into labour on their own,” says Dr Sharma.

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