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The truth about inducing labor

Much to the disappointment of expectant moms, some babies like to be fashionably late and arrive on a birth date of their choosing. While you are waiting for your baby to make his or her grand entrance, you will undoubtedly hear an excess of tips on how to get labor started. 

Here's the truth about some common myths and a couple of options that actually work. 

Spicy food 
A very popular myth is that spicy food will put women into labor, but don't expect spicy food to deliver more than possible heartburn! If you are worried about going to labor early, rest assured that you can safely eat spicy food. 

Pineapple and cinnamon 
Pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme that is thought to soften the cervix and start contractions. However, eating pineapples has not been proven to start labor. Similarly, boiling cinnamon sticks into a tea is not a proven labor-starter, but it may have a calming effect and help with relaxation.    

Castor oil
Should you say bottoms up to castor oil? Similar to spicy food, there is no proof that castor oil helps start labor. My advice is to spare yourself the unpleasant experience of drinking castor oil — which can cause diarrhea and dehydration — as there is not a medically sound reason to drink it.

Body movement 
Unless advised against it by your doctor, walking and exercise are good for you and it should be a regular part of your day, but don't expect it to induce labor. Likewise, bumpy car rides are more likely to cause damage to your tires than start your labor.   

Sex is also fine to do as long as you haven't been told not to by your doctor. But again, sex will not cause your water to break nor directly cause you to go into labor. However, semen contains high levels of prostaglandins, which can ripen or soften the cervix.  

There's a lack of proof whether acupuncture does indeed help start labor. Acupuncture can reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue and relieve muscle and joint pain, which can make you more comfortable and relaxed during the end of your pregnancy.

Full moons
I have to admit that it does seem like we see increased medical activity around full moons. The moon does pull the ocean tides, but there is no evidence of full moons having any pull in labor.  

Breast and nipple stimulation
This is one activity that is proven to cause contractions and can get labor started. Please be sure to discuss this with your doctor before doing it at home. Breast and nipple stimulation can cause a lot of contractions in a row, which can be alarming if you aren't expecting it and could potentially cause problems for your baby. But don't worry, nipple stimulation during sex is not enough to cause significant contractions. 

Membrane sweeping
Another proven way to shorten the onset of labor is a membrane sweep. This involves a provider sweeping a gloved finger around the cervix. The goal of this is to separate the membranes of the amniotic sac from your cervix. The separation should release hormones that can initiate labor. Do not attempt to do at home. This should be done by a medical professional to prevent infection.   

While it's not easy to wait, finding any way to relax, rest and take care of yourself before your baby arrives is very important as is keeping in close contact with your pregnancy care provider during the final days of pregnancy.  


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