I love hearing the old wives’ tales about pregnancy and birth.
Sure, some are a little silly. For example, you shouldn’t lift your arms over your head or you’ll strangle the baby with the umbilical cord. Or another favorite is, if you take a bath your baby will drown in your belly! Those are quaint, amusing, and completely untrue.
But for every very silly old wives’ tale, you can find one with a grain of truth. Old wives’ have been making and having babies for thousands of years. It stands to reason that they’d have some pretty decent ideas.
For fun, I thought I’d come up a list of old wives’ tales for inducing labor. No, I’m not trying to induce labor. I’m doing my best to remain lovingly patient and let my baby choose her own birthday just like the Hypnobabies program coaches me to do. But it sure is fun to look at this stuff, isn’t it? As an added incentive to avoid trying these, we tried just about every natural method we could to get the Grasshopper to come out, and she stubbornly stayed in there until she was darn well ready to come out. Two weeks after her due date! So again, this is just for fun.
So here are some natural, old wives’ tales for ways to induce labor:
- Walking – This is actually really good for you and can help the baby move into position and begin to descend. Just don’t wear yourself out walking. Take it from me, if the baby’s not ready, no amount of walking will make her come out, and if you overdo it your body will punish you for it later.
- Walking up and down stairs – same as walking!
- Driving over a bumpy road – I had zero luck with this with the Grasshopper despite my mom driving me up and down a cobblestone road. This gets a big nope from me.
- Eating eggplant parmigiana – Something about the oregano? Eggplant does not agree with my stomach. I skipped this one.
- Eating this special salad from a place in LA – I am so trying this! Apparently, the salad is actually really yummy, so I plan to try to sweet-talk my sister-in-law into driving us down for lunch next week. A friend of mine tried it with no luck, but still. Just for fun, eh?
- Sex – Okay, now this one is something that my OB with the Grasshopper recommended and something that my midwives are recommending as well. Apparently semen contains proglastins which help trigger the cervix to begin soften. Additionally, the female orgasm can trigger uterine contractions. More info here.
- Bouncing on a birth ball – Kind of like walking. The birth ball can also help open the pelvis to allow the baby to settle comfortably in position. Birth balls rock. Maybe not so much for inducing labor, but for getting comfy and getting the baby positioned correctly.
- Castor Oil – This is a huge one that a lot of people try. Here’s why I think it’s a terrible idea: think horrifying diarrhea and nausea and puking and stomach cramps and just generally feeling awful. Is this really how you want to start your birthing time? No thanks! I’ve had enough of that with the hyperemesis gravidarum! Plus, you’ve got the very real risks of dehydration from the diarrhea and vomiting and fetal distress! Just say no! That’s my opinion on this one!
- Nipple Stimulation – Nipple stimulation causes a release of oxytocin which, in turn, causes uterine contractions. I tried this a bit with the Grasshopper, and yes, it did cause some contractions, but they weren’t terribly productive. My OB at the time actually recommended against this tactic cautioning that in his experience it will cause contractions but those contractions not very productive.
- Herbal supplements – This is something to approach with caution. Herbs can carry some very real risks. Just because something is natural does not mean it is safe. I am currently taking an herbal supplement that contains several of these “inducing” herbs (black cohosh, red raspberry leaf, etc), but I am doing so under the guidance of experienced midwives and taking them in very specific and careful amounts designed to tone the uterus, not bring on labor. I’m not just glugging cohosh tea or pills. So if you are interested in some of the herbal remedies, do your research and only take them under experienced medical guidance. It’s really not worth the risk otherwise.
- Evening Primrose Oil – Evening primrose oil (EPO), is not going to induce labor. It will, however, soften and ripen the cervix. Again, like any kind of supplement, talk to your healthcare professional about this. EPO is pretty benign, but only you and your doctor know your medical history.