Natural Induction Methods

Thank you to Joy In Birthing for this excellent article by Giuditta Tornetta.

There is no doubt that the induction rate is rising. Here are some natural and non-medical ways to induce labor:

1. Relaxation techniques
, to get you relaxed then use some visual imagery of labor beginning. I have a friend who swears by a good cry - she gets a tearjerker form the video store and has a good bawl to relieve tension. She has had 3 children and went at least 1 week overdue with each of them. The most important thing to do is to find a way to relieve tension. Tension works against labor. Relieve it, let everything go, and you may be surprised to find yourself in labor.

2. Visualization. Get quiet and relaxed, and imagine your uterus contracting as well as the process of labor. Hypnosis or self-hypnosis has been known to really do wonders with this one.

3. Sex has long been a method of inducing labor, making use of the Prostaglandin in semen and orgasm as a stimulating contraction. It is often more relaxing than using Pitocin and is done at home rather than a hospital. I know some of my clients simply do not feel like having sex in the last month of their pregnancy, but it sure beats having a cesarean or medical induction.  It will not harm the baby, and if you can find a comfortable position female orgasm can open the cervix of 2cm. WOW .  If you really are not in the mood try using his sperm by inserting it in your vagina as close to the cervix as you can.

4. Nipple stimulation can be done successfully and uterine hyper stimulation may be avoided by following this protocol from Maternity Nursing: Family, Newborn, and Women's Health Care by Reeder, Martin and Koniak-Griffin:
       *increase rolling to 3 minutes and decrease resting to 2 minutes for 20 minutes if inadequate contractions occur after initial 20 mins.

5. Enemas - this causes the bowels to contract and could cause the uterus to contract, which will open and efface the cervix. Use with caution.

6. Exercise - Walking, swinging in a swing and general exercise contracts the uterus.  Squatting for short periods.  Hula dancing, or belly dancing.

7. A bumpy car ride may sound like an old wives tail, but if the baby is not in a good position, your sitting and relaxing while being moved by the car through bumps has worked.

8. Pineapple. I just found out about this one, and I love pineapple. If it doesn't give you heartburn, eating lots of pineapple is reputed to begin labor and ripen the cervix.  I assume it has to do with the enzyme found in Pineapple

9. Cumin Tea. This is used by midwives in Latino cultures. Traditionally, a raw cube of potato is added to the tea, it absorbs the bitterness of the cumin.  You can add sugar to this one or honey.
1 T. cumin seed to one cup of boiling water, allow to steep for 5 minutes, then drink. No more than 1 cup an hour per day.

10. For labor, several herbs are used by midwives to induce labor or to stimulate contractions. Care should be taken NOT to take any of these herbs without first conferring with a midwife, physician, and a herbalist. These labor-enhancing herbs are:

11. Castor Oil
If you do decide to go ahead and use castor oil, I personally think that four ounces sounds a bit much. Three teaspoons is about right – try mixing it with some juice or pour it over a salad (tuna salad is a good alternative).  A word of caution, castor oil can give you cramps and diarrhea if you know how you react to laxatives (strong ones) then you know if you want to use this method during labor and delivery.

12.  For long labors and tired moms, Ginger root (should not be given within an hour of birth) and Ginseng can increase a mom's energy level during a long, difficult labor. For pain, some midwives suggest meditations along with Motherwort or Skullcap (take the edge off the pain). St. John's Wort has been known to help with back and uterine pain and may be used in conjunction with Skullcap for a complete effect.

13.  While no official evidence exists regarding acupressure and inducing/stimulating labor, many perinatal specialists (midwives, physicians, childbirth educators and doulas) confirm the relationship between acupressure points and increased uterine contractions. When applying finger acupressure, instruct the client to press against the desired point on the skin. Massage in a small circular motion. Continue for 1-5 minutes.

Three points are commonly used to stimulate labor and the first two are also linked to relief of migraine headaches.

Hoku (Large intestine 6): located deep in the webbing between either hand's thumb and forefinger; in between the 1st and 2nd metacarpal bones. Stimulation of this point has been know to begin labor, enhance contractions during labor and in non-pregnant females, bring on menstruation several days early. Also may relieve pain from migraine.

Chih-yin (Bladder 67): located approximately 1/10" behind the lateral corner of the smallest toe's nail of either foot. Stimulation of this point has been known to relieve labor pains and migraine discomfort.


San-yin-chiao (Spleen 6): placing your left hand on your right leg with your pinkie finger just above the interior ankle bone, the lateral tibia is located just under where your index finger lies. You may utilize both points simultaneously by placing a thumb on each point as shown.


14.  After 42 weeks, ask your midwife about the Placement of Balloon Dilators. Your care provider will place a balloon inside your cervix and fill it with water.  [The pressure from the balloon will imitate the pressure of the baby's head and hopefully your cervix will respond by ripening and dilating. Balloon devices provide mechanical pressure directly on the cervix as the balloon is filled.] A Foley catheter (26 Fr) or specifically designed balloon devices can be used. The main advantages of using hygroscopic dilators include outpatient placement and no FHR-monitoring requirements*

Just as care providers need to share information regarding the administration of medication to either eliminate pain in labor or to induce or augment contractions during labor, so should the client inform the care provider when she decides to use any of the above methods to induce or augment labor.


  1. Bobak, I., Jensen, M. Maternity & Gynecologic Care: The Nurse and the Family. (1989) St. Louis: Mosby Publishers.
  2. Nichols, F., Humenick, S. Childbirth Education: Practice, Research & Theory (2000) Saunders & Co.
  3. Whitely, N. A Manual of Clinical Obstetrics (1985) Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company.

Reeder, S., Martin, L., and Koniak-Griffin, D. Maternity Nursing: Family, Newborn, and Women's Health Care. (1997) Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company.

* taken verbatim from

Thank you to Joy In Birthing for this excellent article by Giuditta Tornetta.


More Contributions:

Spicy food has been suggested, and if she isn't prone to heartburn why not give it a try? However, avoid causing heartburn during labor. Indian, Mexican and Cajun are good choices.

Chinese food pig out - has worked for a few people that I know.  (Maybe it is the MSG???)

More on Castor Oil: (Consider only once cervix is opening) I used castor oil to stimulate my two last labours.  My mother's encouragement, she used it too.
Ingest between 3 tablespoons to 4 oz of castor oil mixed w/ chocolate ice-cream, soda or other options (below). Always start with the smallest amount and go up from there.
Ideas for Caster Oil Cocktails:
1. one large glass of orange juice mixed with three teaspoons of castor oil and one teaspoon of baking soda. This gets foamy and goes down easier.
2. Castor oil scrambled in 3 or more eggs
3. Drink oil straight followed immediately by hot apple juice
4. Put 2 oz of Castor Oil in 4-3 oz. Of root beer, place palm over top of the glass and shake vigorously, drink immediately
5. Castor Oil, orange juice and ice cream blended
6. 2 oz of castor oil in a Chocolate Slim Fast shake

It works by stimulating the bowels, which in turn stimulates the uterus. Metamucil works this way also.

Castor Oil can be combined with anything that makes it easier to take. It is usually recommended that the mom take 1 dose, then take a hot shower and then the second dose two hours after the first, and another hot shower if she feel like doing so. This has the relaxation effect needed to help start labor. Some midwives recommend vodka (alcohol is sometimes used to slow down or stop labour!), but a hot shower seems to do the trick.
One of the usual side effects of using castor oil or an enema is the mom gets severe diarrhea and cramping, leading to dehydration.  Also, remember that it is a strong laxative and you will be on the toilet a lot more than usual - but at least you will be all cleaned out by the time you deliver the baby!

If you have any more ideas and experience I would love to hear about them and I will add it to this list for the benefit of all. - Sandra

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