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This Is What You Need To Know About Trying To Induce Labor At Home

What works, what doesn't, and what to avoid.

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When you near your due date — or blow past it — there's a good chance that you're more than ready for it all to be over.

Heather Spohr / Via Flickr: plasticcandy

The general discomfort, back pain, exhaustion, and desire to MEET. THAT. BABY. can be overwhelming.

Because of this, Pinterest is full of all kinds of tips, tricks, and recipes to help you induce labor. But do they work? And are they safe for you and your baby?

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IMPORTANT NOTE: You should never try to induce labor before 39 weeks, and only after speaking to your doctor.

To separate the facts from fiction, BuzzFeed Parents spoke to Certified Nurse Midwife Julie Lamppa about the most popular inducement techniques:

Exercise/walking

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According to Lamppa, walking and other forms of exercise — like doing the "Thriller" dance — have not been proven to induce or even speed up labor. And while getting exercise is good and can be a comfort at the end of pregnancy, it's important not to exhaust yourself.

"When someone who might be in early labor says, 'I’m going to go walking the malls or on a long walk,' I really caution them against it," Lamppa says. "We don’t want them to go on a walk for three miles, and then have their body decide to kick into labor a few hours later when their body is still exhausted from the walking."

Does it work? No.

Are there potential risks? Yes.

Sex

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"There are some research studies that support intercourse helps induce labor, and then there are some that say it doesn’t," Lamppa says. Those who believe intercourse helps say it's because of the hormone prostaglandins, which is found in high amounts in semen and can help prepare the cervix for labor.

"I tell my patients without any limitations to have intercourse because there is research to support that it could possibly help," Lamppa says. "And if a woman has an orgasm that can help make contractions too."


Does it work?
Possibly.

Are there potential risks? Unlikely for those without limitations, but talk to your doctor first!

Acupuncture/pressure points

Flickr: ggvic / Via Creative Commons

"Like intercourse, some research has shown it can be helpful, but some has refuted that." Lamppa says. "It certainly can’t be harmful, though, and can be tried safely for someone getting toward the end."

Does it work? Possibly.

Are there potential risks? Unlikely, but talk to your doctor first!

Drinking castor oil

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"There is no research that indicates drinking castor will induce labor, but what it can do is cause a lot of maternal discomfort," Lamppa says.

"Castor oil is probably going to cause profuse diarrhea and nausea, which, I think, is how the myth started. Gastrointestinal issues while pregnant are going to lead to irritation of the uterus which will cause contractions — but not contractions that are going to kick you into labor. So you’re going to have a long period of time when you’re miserable for absolutely no reason.”

Does it work? No.

Are there potential risks? Yes.

Eating spicy food

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Spicy foods — much like castor oil — can cause gastrointestinal issues. But they won't cause you to go into labor.

Does it work? No.

Are there potential risks? Yes, gastrointestinal issues.

Restaurant dishes that claim to induce labor

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You've probably heard about restaurant dishes — like the eggplant parmesan in Georgia, salad in California, or lemon drop cupcake in Virginia — that are said to induce labor, but don't believe it.

"That's all about making money," says Lamppa. "Sure, there will be people who eat something and then go into labor afterward, but the likelihood is that if you are at 41 weeks you're going to go into labor soon whether you eat it or not. It’s just ridiculous these people who make all these claims. It’s all very coincidental."

Does it work? No.

Are there potential risks? No.

Red raspberry leaf tea

Flickr: londonlooks / Via Creative Commons

"Drinking red raspberry leaf tea isn't harmful, but there’s no evidence to support that it works," says Lamppa. "There are, however, potentially harmful herbs out there I absolutely would not recommend like black cohosh."

Does it work? No.

Are there potential risks? No.

Yoga positions/stretches

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"These will not induce labor or cause early labor to go quicker," Lamppa says. "However, trying various positions toward the end of pregnancy is good in terms of comfort and helping the baby to get into a good position to settle into the pelvis. Those are good things, but they’re not going to cause labor to ensue."

Does it work? Not for inducing labor, but there are other benefits.

Are there potential risks? Unlikely, but talk to your doctor first!

Breast/nipple stimulation

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"Breast or nipple stimulation can be kind of dangerous," says Lamppa. "If it’s done very intentionally to induce labor it can cause powerful contractions that can be harmful to the baby."

Lamppa says that on occasion at the hospital she will assist women who really want to try breast/nipple stimulation, but not without putting her on the monitor first. "We don’t recommend people doing it at home."

Does it work? Probably not.

Are there potentially risks? Yes.

So what DOES work? In the end, it's all about waiting.

"It's normal to feel impatient toward the end of a pregnancy, but it's a very complex hormonal/chemical reaction that causes women to go into labor, and we need to learn to be patient and allow it to happen," Lamppa says.

"If you're thinking about induction you're at the end of the line — on the twenty-fifth mile of the marathon. You've waited a long time for this baby and waiting another week or so is not the end of the world."

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