After 40 long weeks, you’re more than ready to have your baby. Your due date is in sight, and your hospital bag is packed.

You can feel your baby’s kicks and wiggles, but you haven’t had a single contraction yet. You might be wondering what you can you do to speed things up and whether there’s any way to naturally jump-start your labor contractions.

While it’s usually best to wait for your baby to decide when it’s time to make their big debut, there are plenty of things you can try to move things along.

Here are a few safe ways to try to start labor contractions.

With little to no scientific evidence backing up their effectiveness, these methods fall into the realm of folklore. Before trying them, speak to a healthcare professional or birthworker (like a midwife) to get the green light.

Get moving

Movement may help start labor. You don’t have to take a kickboxing class — even a walk around the neighborhood or going up and down a few flights of stairs could do the trick.

The idea is that gravity may help your baby drop farther into the birth canal. This increased pressure may help your cervix dilate.

Even if it doesn’t work, exercise is useful for relieving stress and strengthening your muscles. Just don’t overdo it — you’ll need lots of energy when labor really does begin.

Have sex

Sex is often recommended for getting labor started. It’s safe to try as long as your water hasn’t yet broken.

It may be effective for a few reasons, including the fact that semen is high in prostaglandins. This is a hormone that can cause contractions in uterine muscles.

So, if you’re hoping sex will get things started, your partner should ejaculate inside your vagina.

An orgasm can also stimulate the uterus, and sex in general can release the hormone oxytocin, which causes contractions. For people who begin nursing after baby is born, this same hormone is responsible for shrinking the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size.

Nipple stimulation is another method you might try. Gentle rubbing or rolling the nipple stimulates the breasts and also releases oxytocin.

Try to relax

If you took a childbirth class, you’ve likely learned at least one method of relaxation and may already know which works best for you.

You can also try getting comfortable and visualizing your labor beginning. This is a good way to relieve tension, even if you find it doesn’t do much to start contractions.

Eat something spicy

Hot peppers and spicy meals are foods said to help induce labor. This may be because some spicy foods can trigger the release of prostaglandins as you digest them.

It’s not just spicy foods that some pregnant people swear by to start labor. Everything from pineapple to licorice to Chinese food has been credited with getting the ball rolling.

But remember, unless you’re used to eating these foods, it’s probably not the best idea to introduce something new into your diet just to try starting labor.

Schedule an acupuncture session

Acupuncture is another method of releasing oxytocin in your body. There isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to show how successful acupuncture is in starting labor, but it is a good tension reliever.

Ask your doctor to strip your membranes

At your next prenatal appointment, ask your doctor or birthworker about having your membranes stripped. With a gloved finger, your doctor will separate the amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus.

Doing this can release prostaglandins, which could help move things along.

It’s not uncommon to experience mild cramping or spotting after having your membranes stripped. If the bleeding becomes heavy, however, call your doctor immediately.

Even if none of these methods work to start contractions, remember that the end is near. You won’t be pregnant forever. Soon, you’ll be holding your new baby in your arms.

If nothing seems to be working, just try to get some rest. It’s probably the best thing you can do. Once baby is here, you’re going to need the energy.

Q:

Is it safe to try inducing labor at home?

Anonymous patient

A:

If you’re now full term at 40 weeks, you may be feeling very ready to deliver and meet your baby. If you’ve had an uncomplicated pregnancy with regular prenatal care, you could consider trying at-home methods to kick-start labor. These methods generally tend to be safe, but may not be very effective. Always check with your doctor before trying to induce labor on your own.


University of Illinois – Chicago, College of Medicine
Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.