Here at The Prenatal Nutritionist if there is one thing we know for sure, it’s that food and nutrition play a super important role throughout pregnancy and in preparation for labor. Consuming a variety of whole food choices helps to nourish baby and mother during pregnancy. There are also certain foods that may be best to avoid or reduce to manage unpleasant symptoms, such as swelling or an upset stomach.
But, did you know that there are also long lists of foods that many women have said helped them induce labor naturally? It’s true! With a quick search, you’ll see many different pregnant people across different cultures swear by certain foods to help naturally induce labor. As a due date comes and passes, many women choose to turn to food to bring on labor more quickly. Today, we’ll be talking about some of these foods that are suspected of inducing labor naturally.
It should be known that there isn’t much scientific proof to back up any miracle food to induce labor naturally. There are certain components, vitamins, and nutrients in various foods and herbs that many think induce labor, but most are old wives’ tales with little or no evidence to support the claims. And while some things out there may seem safe to try or may have worked for a friend, some do have side effects we should be cautious about. Let’s take a look at what works, what doesn’t, and what to avoid!
12 Foods That May Help Induce Labor Naturally
Unlike many other foods for inducing labor, there have been studies done on castor oil. Research does suggest that castor oil is effective. However, this is something to be cautious with. I do not recommend using castor oil without the supervision of your OB or midwife.
Castor oil can cause extreme nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms could lead to dehydration. One of castor oil’s most common uses is as a laxative. It’s these “laxative qualities” that are the reason it can work for inducing labor too. It can cause little spasms of the uterine muscles, which could lead to contractions and labor. When castor oil is part of a drink called “the midwives brew” in conjunction with other ingredients it may be less likely to cause digestive symptoms.
Yuummm….pineapple! Eating pineapple to bring on labor is probably one of the most common folk remedies you will hear while pregnant. Pineapple is thought to induce labor because it contains the enzyme bromelain. However, when it comes to inducing labor naturally unfortunately research does not support this.
And, yes, pineapple is a safe food to consume throughout pregnancy. Either way, pineapple is a super healthy snack during pregnancy. It contains essential nutrients like folate, magnesium, and vitamins C and B6! So, feel free to grab a bowl of pineapple and start snacking if you want to give this a try anyway. Best paired with something like yogurt, especially if you have gestational diabetes to better manage your blood sugar.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
A nice cup of tea at the end of the day can be sooo relaxing. Red raspberry leaf tea not only smells delicious, but it tastes delicious too! Red raspberry leaf has also been found to have high levels of antioxidants. Overall, research suggests that women who consume red raspberry leaf tea may have a shorter delivery and it appears to be a low-risk herb to consume during pregnancy.
If you want to give it a shot, start drinking 1-2 cups per day of this tea during the last month or two of pregnancy as you begin to approach your delivery date. While red raspberry leaf tea can be a safe tea option for later stages of pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to know what not to drink while pregnant too.
Who doesn’t love a good eggplant parm? Mmmm…I can smell it now. Another super common dish you will certainly hear about for naturally inducing labor is eggplant parmesan. This one is said to be popular because of a restaurant called Scalini’s in Georgia. They have over 300 pictures of babies decorating the walls in their restaurant from mothers who went into labor within 48 hours of eating their famous Eggplant Parmigiana. Of course, there’s not a scientific study on this one, but it could be a delicious meal to try! The restaurant even has the recipe posted on their website if you’d like to give it a shot!
Dates are sweet, sticky, and safe to eat during pregnancy. Over time, they have been used for medicinal purposes and are a natural source of antioxidants. Research tells us they just might help induce labor or shorten labor time. If not, they will give a boost of fiber and antioxidants! The recommendation is to start adding dates to your diet 1-2 months before your due date. They are delicious when stuffed with nut butter or goat cheese!
Both black licorice and licorice root actually have a long history of being old wives’ tales to bring on labor. It’s thought that glycyrrhizin, an ingredient in black licorice, ramps up your levels of the hormone, prostaglandin, which may then help to induce labor. There has been concern raised about the consumption both of licorice root and black licorice during pregnancy and potential negative outcomes though. Overall, this one has some safety question marks and is one old remedy I’d recommend skipping.
If you’re a spicy food lover, then you’re probably more than willing to give this method a try! Spicy foods that are said to induce labor include hot sauce, Mexican and Indian-inspired dishes, jalapeños, and more.
You will find many mamas who have tried and believe a spicy meal kick-started their labor. There are many theories out there, but these different types of spicy foods are thought to induce labor because they could irritate the digestive system, lead to cramps, and then lead to uterine contractions. But, there’s no evidence to support this. While spicy foods are safe to eat during pregnancy, unfortunately, for many pregnant people they are a heartburn trigger.
Who doesn’t just love garlic? Garlic is one of those foods that can take any lunch or dinner plate to the next level. It’s also a good source of antioxidants, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and selenium. So, why does this one get added to many labor food lists? It’s thought that it can stimulate the digestive system and in turn lead to contractions’.
While garlic is safe to consume in cooking and normal amounts found in dishes during pregnancy there’s no research to back this one up as a labor-inducing food. It’s not clear if garlic in high doses like a supplement is safe for pregnancy. Although it’s not unlikely to induce labor, feel free to add garlic to your pregnancy recipes. If you’re looking for awesome ideas that include this delicious ingredient, check out our healthy pregnancy lunch ideas for work that include garlic and/or garlic powder.
Unripe Green Papaya
Papayas are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants with documented health benefits. Ripe papayas are safe to consume in moderation throughout pregnancy. However, a semi-ripe or unripe papaya contains a substance called latex, which has been reported in small studies and animal studies to trigger uterine contractions. It is actually recommended to avoid unripe green papaya during pregnancy for this reason and others. I’d skip this one due to safety concerns!
It has been suggested that the consumption of cumin and cumin tea could cause uterine contractions. This theory has made cumin tea has become a common method for trying to naturally induce labor. There are actually no human studies on the safety of consuming cumin tea during pregnancy at all. If you haven’t noticed a trend yet, this is another old wives’ tale for inducing labor that just doesn’t have the research to back up the claims.
Balsamic vinegar is another one on the list that seems to have gotten popular from a restaurant menu item famously called the “maternity salad” at Caioti Pizza Cafe in California. Pregnant people have been going into the restaurant to order the salad for decades and there are lots of anecdotes that it works!
There’s again no research on this claim. However, balsamic vinegar is another food or dressing that is safe to consume in moderation during pregnancy. So, if you enjoy it, then it doesn’t hurt to add it to your pregnancy diet. We are fans of a Caprese salad with balsamic vinegar dressing, yum!
Black cohosh has a long history of being suggested as an herb to stimulate contractions and induce labor. While it may be effective there may also be side effects and the safety during pregnancy is not clear. Research suggests that more studies need to be done to determine safety. Definitely consult with your OB or midwife before considering this one.
Hang in there mama, baby is coming!
As you approach your due date, it can be tempting to try to speed up the process and induce labor on your own. While some foods and methods are safe to try, others may lead to unpleasant side effects or not be recommended. Always talk with your OB or midwife before trying things like castor oil or primrose oil.
Your doctor may also be able to provide some other safe non-food tips and strategies for you, like sex or curb walking. If you have additional questions about nutrition for labor preparation, be sure to check out The Prenatal Nutrition Library; the library includes a quick guide on how to prepare for labor through food. You can also download The Prenatal Nutrition Library app (for free) to get a sneak peek!