I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy (YAY!) and have been hearing all kinds of advice on how to induce labor (or at least avoid going too far past my due date). Lots of foods in particular have been purported to either induce labor, help a pregnant woman dilate, or even make labor faster/easier. My poor mom tried the ol’ castor oil trick to induce labor with me and I’ve heard nothing but bad news with that one! It’ll clean your system out alright… by making you ill! But are there other things you can eat or drink that really will aid in the birthing process? I sure as heck believe so! Not that I’m a medical professional but foods have been used as medicine since the dawn of man and there must surely be some that can contribute to a more successful labor.
After doing some research, here’s what I’ve discovered.
Pineapple. I heard a rumor during my first trimester that I should avoid pineapple because it was known to induce labor. Skeptical, I asked my doctor about it and he gave me the green light to continue enjoying the sweet fruit. According to the Natural Pregnancy Midwife website, Pineapple contains an enzyme called Bromelain which, in large quantities, may help “ripen” (or soften and thin) the cervix. Pineapple is known as a digestive aid as well so it doesn’t hurt to enjoy it as your due date approaches!
Dates. A 2008 study conducted at the Jordan University of Science and Technology found some very interesting results when it came to the consumption of dates in late pregnancy. The findings claim that eating 6 dates a day versus no dates increased the likelihood of a woman going into labor spontaneously rather than being induced, the date eating woman were further dilated upon entry to the hospital, and their first stages of labor were shorter. While the study wasn’t large it does sound rather promising! Dates are absolutely delicious so I don’t mind eating a few each day. They are full of vitamins and fiber but also high in sugar so that is something to consider.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea. While “The Pregnant Scientist” concluded on her website that Red Raspberry Leaf tea does not necessarily “tone” the uterus as commonly purported, this tea is one of the most widely celebrated labor aids on the internet and in the midwifery world today. I bought some on Amazon and the reviews were glowing–from women claiming that it helped their menstrual cramps significantly to others saying they didn’t have to push the baby out at all but rather the uterus did all the work! My doctor says its okay, so I’m drinking it daily during my third trimester in hopes that it really will help make labor easier. Plus, it tastes pretty good iced!
Evening Primrose Oil. There is lots of talk about evening primrose oil on my What To Expect pregnancy forum. Women are popping these supplements both orally and vaginally in hopes that it’ll help ripen and dilate the cervix. However, there have been studies (see here) that actually indicate that evening primrose oil can be harmful during pregnancy. While there are lots of anecdotal reports on the effectiveness of using EPO to ripen the cervix, there is not enough scientific evidence out there for me to risk taking the supplement myself.
Spicy Foods. According to BabyCenter.com, there is absolutely no evidence that spicy foods induce labor. Some believe that the spicy foods stimulate the digestive system and in turn cause contractions. This seems to be one of those “it doesn’t hurt to try” types of old wives’ tales so if you love spicy food, go for it. I for one am a total baby with spice and therefore won’t be giving this one a go!
Cake?! There is a fun rumor going around on the internet that a certain type of cake can induce labor! In particular, a boxed devil’s food cake is supposed to have some magical powers that will help you go into labor. Some say its the caffeine in the chocolate that does the trick, others say the naturally occurring Phenylethylamine in chocolate can influence certain hormones. While there is absolutely NO evidence to support this, who doesn’t love an excuse to eat chocolate cake?!
Plenty of other foods have been discounted by scientists as doing anything in the way of inducing labor, from eggplant parmesan to licorice. It seems all in all, maintaining a healthy diet and waiting for baby to come when she’s ready is the best plan of action! Still, I won’t be avoiding pineapple or dates! 😉
NOTE: You should ask your health care professional before adding any new supplements to or changing your diet. Please consult with your doctor before following any advice found on the internet!
***UPDATE*** 11/17/15 – NO JOKE! I ate chocolate cake the day before I went into labor! Coincidence??? I don’t know or care, I’m vouching for all prego ladies (at term) to eat chocolate cake!