"Encouraging" Labor to Begin?

My wife is now in her 38th week of pregnancy. In a week or so we would like to encourage her labor to begin. The following ideas have been suggested: castor oil, enemas, spicy food, sex, and blue/black cohosh. What do you think of these methods?


Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

As a midwife, I question why one would want to induce labor. Any method can have side effects. Blue and black cohosh can act as a strong uterine stimulant and should not be used unless you are very familiar with the herb, dosages and its use in labor.

Anything that stimulates the uterus to contract may cause hyperstimulation and resulting utero-placental insufficiency (hypoxia or lack of oxygen flow to baby) as a complication. Even castor oil can cause intense uterine contractions or rupture of the membranes with the rare possibility of cord prolapse.

Before attempting an induction at home, I would recommend that you consult with your provider. Remember that unless the cervix is "ready" -- soft, effaced and even a bit dilated -- nothing is likely to work. Perhaps five minutes of gentle nipple stimulation would help to stimulate contractions, by releasing the body's natural oxytocin, but even this could lead to hyperstimulation. Nipple stimulation, to bring on labor, is usually done in the hospital with fetal monitoring.

In coming to a decision, it is important to weigh the benefits against the risks.

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