Ways to Induce Labor According to the Old Wives

There comes a point in every mama’s pregnancy that–no matter how terrified of labor– the mama decides that she wants to and NEEDS to get that baby out.  And FAST.

I’m at that point.

And, suddenly, I’m feeling the urge to google things like “Do jumping jacks make your water break?” and (worse) I’ve even considered (considered) doing insane things like going for a long walk or attempting to have sex.  There’s desperation for you.

Since I’ve thoroughly researched the topic, both recently and for my book, I thought I’d share some of my “expertise” with you.  (DISCLAIMER:  I actually wrote this section for my book and in the end, the lawyers took it out because “Old Wive’s Tales aren’t always medically accurate” so please take everything I say here with an ENORMOUS grain of salt.)

Ways to Induce Labor According to the Old Wives

Somewhere between 34 and 41 weeks of pregnancy, you might decide to take matters into your own hands and try to induce labor at home. I fully support this. Not because I think it will work—it probably won’t—but because the diversion of trying to induce labor at home will probably keep you from destroying the still-dirty baseboards in your nursery or wasting more gas on another trip to the hospital. Here are the old wives’ best labor-inducing tricks:

1.    Eating spicy food. The story goes that eating a spicy burrito will get your whole digestive track moving and doing the Macarena, and your cervix will want to join the fun. The only effect I ever felt from eating spicy food was heartburn, but it’s worth a try. A little Thai curry never hurt anybody.

2.    Walking. I tried this—a lot—at the end of my first pregnancy. I’d get home from work, grab a snack, lace up my tennies and start roaming the neighborhood. I didn’t want to roam too far from home in case I actually went into labor, so I spent most of the time pacing in front of my house and looking psycho in front of my neighbors. It never did jump-start contractions, but it did soothe my nerves to be outside and get some fresh air.

3.    Sex. The gist of this method—which I’m sure was “discovered” by a man—is that sperm on the cervix can help spur it into dilating. Sounds a bit fishy to me, but my husband thought this sounded like a great idea, so I agreed to give it a try. It did not work out as well as my hubby or I had hoped. Not only did I not go into labor, but it was a bit tricky navigating around a really, really huge pregnant belly. But, you can rest assured, the same “professionals” who suggest this method, also assure you that it will in no way hurt your baby, so if you’re wanting to give it a try, feel free.

4.    Castor oil. Castor oil makes your bowels move. The theory here is that —aside from giving you a really bad case of diarrhea— your moving bowels will somehow trigger a chain-reaction and the rest of your body will start moving as well. I have yet to know anyone that got anything other than diarrhea and some abdominal cramping from taking castor oil, but if you’re a glutton for punishment—and ready to spend the day in the bathroom—then drink up.

5.    Nipple stimulation. I want to go on record as telling you not to try this one at home. I have a girlfriend whose doctor assisted her with nipple stimulation using a breast pump in the doctor’s office with access to medical help, but most doctors don’t recommend this method at all. Why? Because it actually works. Something about how nipple stimulation mimics a baby’s suckling and causes your body to start contracting. The problem is that the contractions are often superclose together and superunproductive, so it can pose a danger to you and your baby. So, if you absolutely must try this, I suggest that you talk to your doctor or midwife very candidly about it first and stay close to the hospital (say, in the parking lot) when you actually do it.

6.   Acupressure. Tell your hubby you want a foot rub—he groans and moans. Tell your hubby you need him to perform some acupressure to induce labor and suddenly he puts on his superhero glasses and gets focused on the task at hand. The general idea here is that by putting pressure on certain pressure points around your body, you can stimulate your uterus into contracting. Look up the pressure points online and ask your doctor if you’re at all nervous. At the very least, you’ll get a nice foot rub.

7.    Raspberry leaf tea. Raspberry leaf is on the pregnancy no-no list because it has a tendency to produce contractions. But if producing contractions is your aim, raspberry leaf tea can move off of the ix-nay list and onto the A-OK list. My doctor said it was safe after thirty-eight weeks, but before you go making yourself a big pitcher of raspberry iced tea, you might want to call your doctor just to be uber-certain that it’s okay. It’s always better safe than sorry.

8.    Begging and pleading with God for mercy. I guarantee that God will eventually hear your pleas and put you out of your misery.
QUESTION: What did you (or WOULD you) do to induce labor?


  1. these are great– I did the walking thing– I’m not sure “it” caused labor (though labor happened) but it certainly made me feel like I was “doing” something.

  2. All 3 of my babies had to be induced because they did not want to come out. All 3 of my babies were extremely large because they did not want to come out…and I tried everything! I refused the whole nipple stimulation thing though…it slightly grossed me out at the time. My babies thoroughly enjoyed the home I provided them as well as the mass amounts of food they absorbed while being in my body. Here is what I did try with absolutely no success:

    1.) Raspberry Leaf Tea-Nothing!

    2.) Castor Oil- Cramping and poop…no contractions! That was pointless.

    3.)Walking-did this with baby #1 in the 100+ degree heat for 5 weeks-No cervix budging at all!

    4.) Sex-hubby was happy but once again, it did nothing!

    5.) INDUCTION: THIS WORKED!!! :) Yay for Inductions! :)

  3. With my 1st my mid-wife recommended evening primrose oil. I started it at 36 1/2 weeks and she was here a couple of days later (I know you will hate me, but I never knew I was in labor and arrived at the hospital 9 1/2 cm. She was here exactly 49 min after we pulled into the ER. I thought I was having braxton hicks). I was induced with my 2nd at 38 weeks b/c of PIH. They started the drip at 2 and she was here at 5:26. I did not get an epidural with either delivery…

  4. We did the whole take long walks and doing jumping jacks approach. It didn’t make me start labor but it was a nice distraction. You’re almost there Erin! Please, please don’t resort to castor oil!

  5. I did squats and deep-knee bends…but they did nothing other than make me look like Jane Fonda…with 40 extra pounds on me.

    Good luck!!!

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  7. I’ve done evening prim rose capsules since 32 weeks and I have done the tea and my final resort was castor oil and all I have gotten is cramping :( I just want this little man to come Im 36 weeks now and soo scared to get another induction!! :( ughh I just wanna pop. lol

  8. Well I’ve tried Castro oil nothing but poo raspberry tea nothing it relaxed me jumping Jacks dancing nothing long walks nothing ruff intercourse nothin im just ready to give up on these remedies

  9. It could just be a coincidence but I’ve been taking the evening primrose oil for about 4 days, and since my last checkup a week ago I went from 1cm dilated to 2cm. I’m almost 37 weeks and desperate for baby to come on time or a little early because my doc thinks baby could be close to 10-11 pounds by 40 weeks.