Labor-Inducing Foods: Do They Work?

Could inducing labor be as easy as dining out?

Let’s take a look at some foods that have a reputation for kick-starting labor and find out what works and what doesn’t — and what to avoid.

When you’ve been pregnant for a million months (OK, it’s just 9 months — but it feels like a million), you may be feeling a little desperate to get labor going.

So, if there’s a food or dish that might expedite the process, you might be game.

Some restaurants claim to have The Dish that will get your labor started, but as you might expect, there aren’t exactly any randomized clinical trials to prove their claims. While there might not be empirical evidence for some of them, you might still be interested to see what worked for other moms.

Here’s a list of some foods that are purported to get labor going:

Pineapple

There’s nothing quite as sweet as fresh pineapple. And if you enjoy the taste and the nutritional benefits, have at it. It’s super high in vitamin C and high in other nutrients like manganese.

Just don’t expect it to necessarily hasten your labor, as there’s a shortage of evidence to back up these claims. (The idea is that an enzyme in pineapple, called bromelain, will soften your cervix and lead to labor starting, but it hasn’t been proven.)

Dates

The fruit of the date palm tree, dates are very nutritious. Among other qualities, they’re high in fiber and antioxidants. Research suggests that they might just help induce or speed up labor, too.

Although it wasn’t a randomized clinical trial, a 2011 prospective studyTrusted Source did find that women who ate dates in the last 4 weeks before labor were less likely to need to be induced.

Other research, including a 2013 randomized clinical trialTrusted Source and another one published in 2017Trusted Source, suggests that eating dates might also reduce the amount of time that you spend in labor or reduce the need for augmentation, such as the use of oxytocin to speed up delivery.

Spicy food

A spicy fragrant Indian dish, Italian meal, or Thai food with a kick might be just the ticket to jump-starting labor, if you listen to a lot of people.

Surveys in a 2011 studyTrusted Source indicated that many people believe spicy food will bring on labor. For everyone who swears that a delicious curry dish sent them into labor, you’ll find someone who believes a dish laden with peppers worked for them.

But research from 2014Trusted Source suggests that you might want to consider talking it over with your doctor before ordering a super-spicy dish with this goal in mind.

Prego pizza

Skipolini’s Pizza, a pizza chain in California, claims to have the “pizza that gives hope to pregnant mothers.” It’s called the Prego pizza.

Hope your appetite is as big as your belly, though: This pizza contains a whopping 13 toppings, including extra garlic, extra onions, and 6 (!) different kinds of meat.

Does it work? Anecdotally, it seems to. In fact, it’s been featured in magazines, newspapers, and TV news programs and heralded by countless grateful mothers on Skipolini’s website.

But of course, this kind of solution is word of mouth — literally.

Maternity salad

The Caioti Pizza Café in Studio City, California, has gotten a lot of press, including accolades from some celebrity moms who ate the mysterious Maternity Salad and subsequently gave birth.

Was it the romaine lettuce? The watercress? The walnuts or the cheese? Maybe the salad dressing?

No one knows for sure, but people have been showing up there to order the salad for decades.

The “Inducer” pizza

What is it with pizza? Some fans claim it’s the medium-hot Buffalo sauce on the Buffalo wing pizza, also known as the Inducer, at Hawthorne’s NY Pizza & Bar in Charlotte, North Carolina.

If it doesn’t induce labor, it will at least wake up your taste buds.

Eggplant

Does eggplant seem like an unlikely candidate to get labor going? Not according to the dozens of pregnant people who ate eggplant Parmesan at a restaurant in Georgia called Scalini’s.

Again, no official research but lots of photos of adorable “eggplant babies.” And others swear that eggplant Parmesan dishes in general have sent them into labor.

Cupcakes

A few years ago, a bakery in Charlottesville, Virginia, called Cappellino’s Crazy Cakes began claiming that its lemon drop cupcakes had successfully triggered labor for countless people.

The bakery has since closed, so you can’t try it out for yourself. But you can search online for labor-inducing lemon drop cupcakes to make at home, if you want to give it a try.

And while there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that you’ll go into labor, at least you’ll get to enjoy a tasty treat.

Cream cheese

This is perhaps another unlikely candidate — but the owner of a Worcester, Massachusetts, café claimed to have the secret to a labor-inducing cream cheese. Eric’s La Patisserie even announced the claim on a local radio show, and the website claims “this secret recipe actually works.”

It might work for you. It might not. But you’re only out 4 bucks if you want to give it a try.

Raspberry leaf tea

Sipping on a cup of raspberry leaf tea sounds like a nice way to get labor started. However, there’s just not enough evidence to suggest that raspberry leaf tea — or raspberry leaf tablets — really work.

One 2009 animal study even questioned whether it’s really safe to use raspberry leaf during pregnancy. More research is needed, so you might want to talk with your doctor before brewing.

Licorice root

Licorice root, which has a long history as an herbal remedy for many conditions, is sometimes mentioned as a labor kickstarter — but it’s one that you should definitely avoid.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative MedicineTrusted Source warns that heavy consumption may lead to premature labor and potential health problems for your baby. So it’s best to steer clear.

Black cohosh

Black cohosh, an herbal supplement, has been used as an herbal remedy among Native American populations for many years.

And while technically black cohosh is a dietary supplement — not a food — it’s still a substance you probably don’t want to consume while you’re pregnant.

In fact, it may not be safe if you’re pregnant, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary SupplementsTrusted Source.

Your best culinary bets for inducing labor on your own are probably dates, based on the research available.

Research on dates has shown the benefits of eating these high-fiber fruits when it comes to accelerating delivery or reducing the need for augmentation of labor to get things clipping along.

The other foods are mostly supported by anecdotal evidence (and some great stories).

So, your next question might be, “Will it hurt to eat these foods if I’m full-term?” Probably not, in many cases.

In fact, the 2017 studyTrusted Source mentioned above concluded that it seems to be safe for both you and baby to eat dates in late pregnancy. But if you’re concerned, definitely talk with your doctor or your midwife.

You may not be convinced that eating your way into labor is the way to go.

Or, like many, you may be suffering from heartburn or acid reflux that makes the idea of eating spicy food or rich food sound pretty unappetizing — and maybe even uncomfortable or downright painful.

Maybe you’re shaking your head and swearing that you’re so full of baby you can’t eat or drink much of anything, even if it does induce labor.

Good news: You have other options. Talk with any group of parents and ask them how to get labor started, and you’ll likely encounter some very enthusiastic recommendations. These might include:

  • exercise
  • sex
  • nipple stimulation
  • acupuncture or acupressure
  • castor oil

Of course, watching, waiting, and seeing your doctor is best.

You may be ready to welcome your new baby, so you may be eager to try anything to get the show on the road. But your medical team might urge a little more caution, depending on how many weeks pregnant you are.

Medical experts generally stress the importance of not intervening before a baby is full term unless there’s a medical reason to do so. In fact, guidelines typically recommend skipping any inductions that aren’t medically necessary before 39 weeks of gestation.

At 39 weeks, your body should be making some progress on its own. Your cervix should be ripening and softening, preparing for labor.

Your doctor will likely remind you to keep an eye out for four major signs that labor is on the horizon:

  • diarrhea
  • loss of mucus plug
  • cervical effacement
  • water breaking

And of course you’ll want to pay attention to contractions.

But your body might not be ready to deliver your baby at 39 weeks. It might need another week or so.

However, if you get to the point where your doctor doesn’t feel your body is making the progress it needs to, you’ll have a conversation about how to proceed.

Ask about whether it’s a good idea to munch on some dates or consider other strategies.

The bottom line: No one stays pregnant forever. But it’s normal to reach a point where you’re ready to go ahead and have your baby.

If your doctor agrees that it’s OK to eat certain foods when you reach full term just to see if it speeds things up a bit, go for it.

JPeei Clinic