“Is there anything I can eat to quicken my labour?”
By week 39 or 40, you’d probably be wondering why your baby is still so quiet and hasn’t shown any signs of coming out to the world. While your doctor doesn’t seem troubled by it, you just feel like you have to do something to fasten up the process so your baby isn’t overdue. So many mums turn to focus on foods they can eat to induce labour in a non-medical way. If you’re curious too, don’t forget to read on below!
Can labour really be induced by foods?
While there are a lot of folktales and anecdotes of mums claiming that “some foods worked on them”, there is currently still no medical evidence that certain foods will directly induce labour. But why do so many mums claim that some foods are so effective in inducing labour for them?
The fact is, a lot of foods that are known for inducing labour have a more direct impact on the gastrointestinal system - some leading to stomach or intestinal upset and diarrhea which can indirectly trigger cramping and uterine contractions. Indeed, the contractions and cramping caused by gastrointestinal distress can accelerate the onset of labour, but mums can also suffer from the side effects and discomfort from this.
7 Common foods you hear that can induce birth
Pineapple: Pineapple is no doubt the food that is most heard of with ability to induce birth. In theory, the enzyme bromelain in pineapples are helpful for softening the cervix and triggering contractions. However, the very few researches that showed supporting evidence of this theory were conducted directly on tissue samples and not when the pineapple was digested through the GI tract.
Spicy Foods: You’ve probably had some experience of the spiciness burning through your GI tract after eating spicy food. It is true that spicy food stimulates the digestive system which can indirectly quicken the onset of your contractions. Some speculate that it’s actually Prostaglandin, the hormone produced when you consume spicy food, that stimulates the process. Finally, some researchers suggest that eating spicy foods releases Capsaicin that can reduce your labour pains if applied days before the delivery. While it’s okay to go easy on spicy foods, don’t forget that eating too much can irritate your stomach and give you heartburns that can make you uncomfortable.
Dates: A recent study compared 77 women who ate dates late in their pregnancy and 77 who don’t. The results have suggested that the women who eat dates every day have less need for medical intervention to induce labour than those who haven’t. However, there is still little information on how much you should eat and in what frequency - opinions vary.
Eggplant: Why is eggplant on this list? It is actually from a story of a mother who ate Scalini (an eggplant dish sold in restaurants), she then found herself delivering her baby in 2 days after doing so. There are some theories why this could work, but same as other foods listed, there is still a lack of solid evidence on how the science side of things works here.
Balsamic Vinegar: Similar to eggplants, balsamic vinegar got its reputation on this list from a famous restaurant dish, the “Maternity Salad” at Caioti Pizza Cafe in California. The salad comes with a homemade balsamic vinegar dressing that is regarded as the “secret sauce” by mums-to-be. But is there any medical evidence to back this up? Currently no. So it’s advised that you take the vinegar theory with a grain of salt.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea: Red raspberry leaf tea has been used to strengthen the uterus, accelerate labour and postpartum recovery in traditional remedies. It is assumed that raspberry tea leaf tea can boost the blood flow to the uterus and strengthen the uterine muscle fibers. Thus indirectly inducing contractions. However, there is still no medical evidence on the effects. It is also important to keep in mind that the regulations on herbal tea are still loose, so even if you buy them over the counter in a drug store, it is hard to say if it’s entirely safe for pregnancy use. If it does “strengthen your uterus”, taking red raspberry leaf tea at early stages of pregnancy may also increase the risk of miscarriages. So always consult your doctor first before you try!
Castor Oil: “The famous and notorious” castor oil still remains a popular remedy for inducing birth since it’s been used back in the Egyptians era. Castor oil consists mainly of ricinoleic acid, a fatty acid that gives castor oil a thick consistency and a strong smell. While it is thought to have therapeutic properties for constipation, skin infections, inflammations, or immune problems, its side effects can bring much discomfort and even be dangerous. Castor oil is best known as a laxative that acts as a strong stimulant on your bowels. It can cause spasms in the intestines which can then affect the uterus and induce contractions. Despite being used for hundreds of years as folk remedy, there is no supporting evidence that suggest castor oil’s effect in inducing births. On the contrary, they can cause irregular and painful abdominal cramps that can exhaust the mum and child. Your baby may also pass meconium (their first stool) before birth, which can become an issue too. Takeaway: Always consult your doctor before you use castor oils! You may have physiological complications that put you and your baby at a riskier spot for harmful side effects if you use castor oil. Safety first!