Being pregnant is magically, but soon the magic fades and you’re ready to get that baby out. I bet you’re miserable as you go through these final weeks, so this article is going to talk about some natural ways to induce labor tonight.
First off, hello! I’m Hilary — many people know me as The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind this website Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I have talked to THOUSANDS of patients (and friends) about how to go into labor fast and I have seen the consequences of some of their choices, so I’m a good one to have this chat with you.
The information in this article is only informational and not medical advice. Please talk with your provider about any induction method you’re planning on, be it natural or in the hospital. You should not try any induction method prior to 39 weeks.
Natural Ways to Go Into Labor Tonight:
We’re going to talk about a few ways in this article, but just in case you want to jump ahead to your preferred method we’re going to talk about:
- Exercise and movement
- Breast or Nipple Stimulation
- Eating (includes castor oil)
- Acupuncture or Accpuressure
I’m just going to give brief overviews of all that, but if you want more comprehensive information on this subject, check out my Going into Labor Made Easy Guide.
What triggers labor to start?
What tells your body to get going into labor? Well, it’s pretty complicated (and frankly, not entirely known — but they have some pretty good guesses).
Labor needs three things to start (although if one is overpowering it may start labor on it’s own):
- Your Uterus — As your uterus stretches and expands it may wave a white flag saying it is DONE and it’s ready to evacuate it’s current occupant. It will release hormones into your blood stream that says it’s time to have a baby.
- The baby — as your baby grows and develops, studies have shown to releases hormones when parts (like lungs) are mature enough to live in a world outside the womb. Other things, like baby being stressed in the womb may also initiate labor beyond just them growing.
- Your brain — yes, your brain needs to be on board with this as well. WHICH is why if you have a lot of fear surrounding birth you may be preventing yourself going into labor. Which is why I recommend taking a class so you can get your brain on the labor bus.
Somehow between those three things, your body decides it’s time and puts you into labor.
I also have a whole post about if more people go into labor at night.
So, how can you sort of push these things and your body into labor? Well, let’s talk about it.
Is it safe to naturally induce labor?
The first question before we dive into ANY of this is how far along are you? If you are prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy, you shouldn’t even consider any of these methods. Your baby is still growing and needs all the time in your womb that it can get (unless your doctor finds otherwise and suggests a medical induction). So, I would recommend NOT trying any of the methods until you’re past that point.
Ok, but beyond how far you in your pregnancy…. The decision to use a natural induction method to induce labor is a personal one that should be discussed with a healthcare provider or midwife. While there are various natural induction methods to consider, such as sex, nipple stimulation, and acupuncture, it is important to remember that not all of them have scientific evidence to support their effectiveness (don’t worry, I’m spilling the tea on the studies).
While naturally inducing labor can be a tempting option for those who want to avoid medical intervention, it is important to understand that the labor process can be unpredictable and that medical intervention may become necessary. It is always best to discuss all options with a healthcare provider or midwife to make an informed decision.
Pro tip: Many people want to “hide” that they are trying to go into labor at home from their provider, but there is no reason to do that. You are paying for their opinion, so you should get it on all things pregnancy, including things you’re doing “under the table” as it were.
Natural or Medical Induction: Which is best for for your labor induction?
The two main options most people think about for inducing labor are medical induction, which involves the use of medication to stimulate uterine contractions, and natural methods, which involves using natural methods such as acupuncture or walking to encourage labor to begin.
It is important to note that of anything I mention in this article, only the medical ones have really been studied (or proven, some of the other methods have been studied and DIS-proven). So, when a baby actually needs to come out (medically-speaking) it is best to use the medical methods are they are proven and we know how to do it safely.
On the other hand, you may not want all the medical-ness of the medical inductions and you may just want to try some things at home to start labor on your own, which is also fine. I’ve done that myself! However, natural induction methods may take longer to work and may not be suitable for all women (there are risks to many of these methods).
Ultimately, the best option for inducing labor depends on each individual woman’s medical and personal circumstances. It is important to discuss options with a doctor or midwife to make an informed decision about how best to stimulate the uterus and induce labor naturally or medically.
Guaranteed ways to induce labor (do they really exist?)
In reality, no. Sometimes even the proven induction methods we try at the hospital don’t work. Your body is just NOT ready to have a baby and ignores whatever medicine or things we throw at it.
BUT, if you want a guaranteed (or the highest success rate) induction, you really want to go with the medical route. The “natural” ones just aren’t as much of a sure thing.
How do doctors or midwives induce labor?
Before we get started, I think it’s important to know how the medical community induces labor.
Doctors and midwives induce labor using various methods to stimulate the uterine muscles and cervix. One way is by using prostaglandin, a hormone that helps to ripen and dilate the cervix. The hormone can be given as a tablet, gel, or vaginal suppository.
Another method is to use a synthetic hormone called oxytocin, which can be administered intravenously to stimulate contractions and cause labor to start. Before inducing labor, the doctor or midwife will usually monitor the baby’s status and the mother’s health to ensure that it is safe to do so.
Additionally, the doctor may also use a special tool to break the water bag or release prostaglandins to help start labor. Inducing labor can be necessary for various reasons, including medical conditions or the baby being overdue. However, it is essential to follow medical advice to ensure a healthy delivery for both the mother and baby.
Doctors may also try to strip your membranes, although the studies for that don’t really show that it helps, but anecdotally they do think it can “bump” you into labor if your body is almost there on its own. This Cochrane analysis shows a lot of conflicting data (and I’d agree from what I’ve seen in my practice as well).
Are there natural ways to induce labor at home?
This is the million dollar question, and really what brought you here in the first place.
There are various natural ways to induce labor, although they may not necessarily work for everyone. We’re going to talk about a few of the most common methods, but there are a lot out there that people seem to think will help. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before attempting any natural way to induce labor. Can I say that enough?
Natural Ways to Induce Labor
Walking, jumping jacks, jumping on the trampoline…. I would put all of these in this category of “exercise”.
One thing that is REALLY important to remember is that pain is different than labor.
Just because you’re hurting (which will happen if you do a lot of jumping jacks, stairs, or jumping on the trampoline) doesn’t mean that you are in labor.
And there really isn’t a reason to just HURT, because you’ll be even more miserable than you are now.
Personally, I think that doing exercises that help to open your pelvis is a bit more beneficial.
I am a fan of trying out the Miles Circuit, and then using the exercises in there that feel the best to you to make a routine that may open your pelvis or shift your hips to help baby find their way into your pelvis better.
But, if you’re not loving the whole circuit idea, you could just try some lunges. You can also use a Yoga ball to rotate your hips (I love using a figure 8 on a yoga ball) in a less exercise-y way. I don’t recommend bouncing on the labor ball all that much because it just makes your round ligaments unhappy.
Remember that there is a difference between HURTING and LABOR (and I swear a lot of these “natural induction methods” really forget about that.
At the very least I recommend not just laying in one spot on the couch or on your bed. Try to change positions frequently. Use a yoga ball or a stack of pillows to change how your hips are and see if baby can’t find their best spot while you also relax and watch some Netflix.
Will the way you got the baby in there, get the baby out?
There are a few studies that show it can speed up labor…. but this one seemed to show that it doesn’t really do much.
This one showed that repeated sexual intercourse at 41 weeks can cause an earlier onset of labor. Empahsis there on repeated though, so it’s not TONIGHT, it’s after a few nights in a row.
But, what both studies show is that it can’t really hurt (unless your doctor has specifically said that isn’t recommended — which is true for some people). If you and your partner want to give it a try you sure can. It often is a great way to move your hips, and remember there will be six weeks where nothing should be going in your vagina (called pelvic rest), so that’s something to keep in mind as well.
Breast or Nipple-Stimulation
This one does cause contractions. In fact, we have a test at the hospital called a CST (contraction stress test) where we either inject you with a bit of oxytocin or we ask you to rub your nipples for a few minutes to cause contractions to see how baby tolerates them.
So, yes it will make you contract, BUT contractions are different then labor.
Contractions are just the muscle tightening, but you need coordinated movements that are making your cervix dilate to be considered in “labor” — so, can nipple stim do that? Let’s see what the studies show:
This study showed that while it might not put you into labor, it can soften your cervix and get you more prepared for labor once it starts.
This study did show that oxytocin levels rose in women who practiced breast stimulation.
This study compared Pitocin to nipple stimulation, and showed that oxytocin worked quicker, but they said that there were less interventions with those who used nipple stimulation. However, if the nipple stimulation did not work they switched them to Pitocin (so, it would make sense that those people would have more problematic deliveries in general).
Keep in mind almost all of those studies are really small, and I feel like women get pretty tired of nipple stimulation (either manually or with a breast pump) and maybe drop out pretty fast.
Also, some of those studies have been promoted by breast pump device companies, which seems like a conflict of interest, but I digress….
Food has long been touted as a way to go into labor. Eggplant parm has been a favorite.
Honestly, it turns out that if you have a LOT of women who are DUE to have a baby eat a specific food, a good number of them will go into labor, because that is what happens at your due date, but none of them have been shown to increase your chances of going into labor vs not eating the item.
Many people tout spicy foods, but I want to again remind you that pain is different than labor. Just because you have MASSIVE heartburn or idigestion, doesn’t mean, you’re in labor. It more means your body thinks you were dumb for trying that.
I’ve heard lots about raspberry leaf tea or dates to induce labor, but studies show that it happens when you take it for a few weeks vs just happening tonight (and also that it mostly softens the cervix and decreases your need for an induction vs “putting you into labor” — or effectively does nothing).
While we’re in the realm of food, we should probably talk about castor oil.
Before we get into it Castor Oil is known to really mess with your digestive system, and I’ve seen patients with HUGE amounts of diarrhea and very painful stomach cramps from taking it. I have also seen babies seemingly stressed by the maternal condition as well, often with meconium stained amniotic fluid. However, that is just my experience, let’s talk about what the studies show.
Diarrhea can actually be a sign of labor, but not in this way.
This study shows no significant difference between those who take castor oil vs those who don’t as far as when the birth occurs (I felt like this had a good number of births in it). It also didn’t show any negative effects.
But this meta analysis (that includes that study) does show that there is cervical ripening that happens after taking castor oil, and that those patients were less likely to be induced. FYI that study was more for midwives to try to prevent a cesarean vs inducing labor “naturally” at home.
This study did show that it was effective in women who’d already had a baby and were past their due date to cause labor in 24-48 hours.
Two thoughts on Castor Oil:
If you are planning to take castor oil please talk with your provider about it in advance so they can give you the risks and the benefits for YOU and your needs.
I have heard that midwives brew decreases some of the digestive issues associated with it, so if you get the AOK from your doctor, you may want to ask them about that. I will say that the patients I’ve had take it are so miserable, they really wish they hadn’t done it. They would’ve rather stayed pregnant a few days longer than be in the stomach misery they were experiencing (and I don’t know if Midwives brew helps that or not).
Acupuncture and acupressure
Acupuncture and acupressure are practices that involve the stimulation of specific points on the body to alleviate pain and improve overall health. Many women turn to acupuncture and acupressure during pregnancy, as they can help alleviate common discomforts such as back pain, nausea, and fatigue.
Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the release of oxytocin, a hormone that can help induce labor and shorten delivery times, making it a popular choice for women towards the end of their pregnancy. Acupressure, on the other hand, involves applying pressure to specific points using the fingers or specialized tools, and can be used to reduce pain during labor and promote relaxation.
Overall, acupuncture and acupressure are safe and effective complementary therapies for pregnant women, providing natural ways to manage discomfort and promote a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.
This study doesn’t show any evidence for or against acupuncture or acupressure. Personally, I’ve never had a patient come in after using it.
Thoughts on Spontaneous Labor
My question is always why people don’t want to have a medical labor induction (or, maybe your hospital can’t get you in, so that’s a different story) but do want an “at home” method. Some of these (especially you, castor oil) do come with sizeable risks, honestly some of them more than using misoprostol at the hospital. But, in the hospital we mitigate those risks in labor and delivery with trained professionals watching you knowing what’s OK and what’s not OK.
The good news is that you will meet your baby soon, and patience is a great thing to have when you are a parent. Going full term has lots of benefits as well, but keep the conversation open with your provider what best the best choice is for you in the coming days.
The other good news is that I have a prenatal class that can be done in JUST a few hours. AND if you purchase it with the Bump to Bassinet Bundle you not only will get the entire class, but also get my Going into Labor Made Easy guide too. And I bet in just a few days you’ll only have memories of being miserable and pregnant.
Or, if you’re not quite ready for the full class, check out my free prenatal class — It’s your first step towards being your own birth boss.