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Pregnancy

5 Rumors About Starting Labor

Jennifer Lincoln, MD, IBCLC, Board Certified OB/GYN
January 3, 2019 . 15 min read

1. Scientifically unproven methods

As your due date approaches, there are a variety of factors that might make you wish you could just get the process started. Maybe your discomfort has become more than a small annoyance, maybe you are excited to finally meet baby, or maybe you are feeling both of these anxieties. With these factors on your mind, it is tempting to try different “tricks” to start labor; however, you may not want to try just any method your friends or the internet tell you about. Many methods only have rumors to back them up — not scientific proof.

2. Side effects of castor oil and enemas

Older women, who remember the days of castor oil and enemas, may recommend these methods to you. But beware: these methods are not sure ways to kick-start labor. One small review tried to determine if these methods really worked and didn’t find any effect, though it was too small to be conclusive. It did find, however, that all of the women involved experienced unpleasant side effects, like nausea or diarrhea. Why put yourself through more discomfort than you need to?

3. Sex may not work

Sex should theoretically start contractions because orgasm causes your body to release oxytocin, and semen contains prostaglandins. However, there aren’t enough scientific studies to know if it does or doesn’t work. Since you can’t be sure that it will start labor, don’t force yourself to have sex, unless you want to.

4. Walking can help

Some women think that they can walk their way into labor. Although taking a walk can better position your baby in your pelvis and being upright is a good idea during labor, there is no need to over-exert yourself. It is more important to stay hydrated and comfortable, because the real marathon is still ahead.

5. The jury is out on acupuncture

Acupuncture is yet another method with inconclusive scientific results. One review with 2,220 women was inconclusive in determining whether it helped induce labor. If you enjoy the experience or want relief from back pain, you can try it, but don’t expect that it will do the trick for labor.

6. Risky homeopathic herbs or teas

Be sure to speak with a doctor or midwife before using herbs or teas, which are mostly unregulated and may even be dangerous to use during pregnancy. A review of only 133 women failed to draw clear conclusions about how effective commonly used herbs, like caulophyllum, were in inducing labor, so this method may not be worth the risk.

Sources:

  • Smith CA, Crowther CA, Grant SJ
  • Acupuncture for induction of labour
  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 8
  • Art
  • No.: CD002962
  • DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002962.pub3.
    Kelly AJ, Kavanagh J, Thomas J
  • Castor oil, bath and/or enema for cervical priming and induction of labour
  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 7
  • Art
  • No.: CD003099
  • DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003099.pub2.
    Smith CA
  • Homoeopathy for induction of labour
  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003, Issue 4
  • Art
  • No.: CD003399
  • DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003399.
    Kavanagh J, Kelly AJ, Thomas J
  • Sexual intercourse for cervical ripening and induction of labour
  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2001, Issue 2
  • Art
  • No.: CD003093
  • DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003093.

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