Hurry Up Royal Baby: Myths Vs. Facts for Naturally Inducing Labor

Traditional homemade methods include spicy food, castor oil and sex.

July 15, 2013, 11:23 AM

July 15, 2013 — -- As the world waits for the royal baby due any time now, we wonder if Kate Middleton might be anxious to welcome the royal heir and considering any age-old ideas for inducing -- or at least speeding up -- the onset of labor.

Homemade remedies including eating spicy food, having sex and taking castor oil have long been on the list of methods thought to naturally induce labor. Experts have differing views on to what degree these are myths versus reality.

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Eating spicy food or drinking castor oil

Drinking castor oil is a method frequently favored by midwives and some obstetricians, according to ABC News Senior Medical Contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a board certified OB/GYN who has delivered over 1,000 babies.

Castor oil can "absolutely cause diarrhea," Ashton said, which can stimulate the intestines and colon that are right behind the uterus.

"It's kind of touching the uterus and then some of the same stimulation can kind of have direct contact with the uterus," she said. "There's at least some physiology that makes the mechanism somewhat plausible."

Ashton said the same theory is likely behind eating spicy food, which can similarly stimulate the intestines.

Dr. Kim Gecsi, an OB/GYN at UH Case Medical Center, said the side effects of castor oil might not be worth the attempt.

"Castor oil is one of those old-school remedies but that really is just going to make you sick and really uncomfortable," Gecsi said. "I highly recommend not doing castor oil."


In a popular episode of "Friends," when Rachel is at her wits end with her and Ross' overdue baby, they turn to sex as a last resort and she goes into labor before they get too far. Fact or fiction?

"Sex is a great one because sex definitely has plausible physiology, which is that there's a component in semen called prostaglandin and prostaglandin are known to stimulate uterine contractions and soften the cervix," Ashton said. "And then it's also the direct contact. Via sex, the direct contact to the cervix can trigger labor."

Gecsi agreed that sex might be on the more reliable end of the home remedies spectrum for the same reasons.

"There is some data to support something like nipple stimulation might get labor going, but in most women if their cervix isn't ready for labor, it's not really going to make much of a difference anyways," Gecsi said.


It's not uncommon to hear a non-doctor prescribe a long walk to a frustrated pregnant woman, but how well does that work other than for getting her out of the house?

"The theory behind walking or exercising at the end of pregnancy is actually that there's a little bit of dehydration involved and dehydration causes uterine contraction," Ashton said.

"Going for a long walk and those sorts of things will certainly get you contracting but it's more likely to get you just uncomfortable than actually to put you into labor," Gecsi said.


Both doctors agree that there's not a lot of proven science behind using acupuncture as labor-inducing method, but Ashton said it "has as much chance of working as anything else."

"It's definitely something that can be effective in other things so there's no reason to think it couldn't be effective as well," she said.

How Kate's Delivery Will Differ From the U.S. ExperienceOverall, and unfortunately for restless moms-to-be, none of the home remedies are sure-fire ways to induce labor, but they do give women something to try.

"There are a whole bunch of things that have to come into play perfectly for a woman to go into labor and we don't totally understand all of them right now," Ashton said. "I think they're definitely worth a shot and there are definitely times when obstetricians or midwives will recommend these things to patients."

Mind over matter may be a contributing factor, according to Gecsi.

"I had a patient once whose husband was a long-distance truck driver and [when I saw her] cervix, I thought, 'For sure this woman is going to go into labor,'" Gecsi said. "And she was like, 'No, I can't deliver until he's back.' And by golly, the day after he came back she went into labor."

"Sometimes it's just a matter of being relaxed and being calm, being ready, making sure everything is all together and that you've prepared because there's a lot of mind over body stuff that I personally think makes a little bit of difference."

As far as Kate Middleton goes, Prince William's out-of-town charity polo match has been played and a nursery somewhere is surely ready, but maybe an outing to Brick Lane for some Indian food wouldn't hurt.

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