These 9 foods may help induce labor

If you’re like a lot of women, at 39(ish) weeks, you’ll do just about anything to have your baby. Maybe you’ve experimented with all the things that are supposed to induce labor. Exercise? Check. Acupuncture? Check. Sex? Check, check.

But what about labor-inducing foods? Are they just an old-wives’ tale?

Truth is, there isn’t much scientific basis for eating them or not eating them, but if you’re full term and anxious to get things moving, it’s worth trying these 9 popular foods that may help induce labor naturally. 


Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which you can’t find really in any other foods. It helps to soften your cervix and stimulate the smooth muscles, which can speed up labor. So, why not give it a try? And forget the canned pineapple – fresh is best (and a lot yummier).

Black licorice

Because black licorice contains the chemical glycyrrhizin, it can stimulate the production of prostaglandins. Consuming a lot causes a chain reaction of mild diarrhea, followed by minor contractions in the intestines and then the uterus, thus beginning labor.

Spicy foods

Spicy foods make the list because they are known to stimulate the digestive system. But ladies, be careful. The end goal is a natural and pain-free birth. As a baby comes down the birth canal, endorphins are released which counteract pain. Certain spicy foods contain capsaicin and that can block those endorphins.



One of the most popular foods for inducing labor (and killing romance) is garlic. This food helps to empty out your bowels, which in turn can help speed up the time between now and delivery day.

Red raspberry leaf tea

Don’t ask us how, but red raspberry leaf tea can tone and strengthen your uterus. And you know what they say about a strong uterus…it’s ready for contractions! Drinking from week 32 on can also reduce your risk of going beyond your due date. We’ll drink to that!

Castor oil

Yes, this really is as disgusting as it sounds. But oddly enough, women have consumed castor oil to induce labor for YEARS – like way back to ancient Egypt. When extracted straight from the bean of the plant, many believe it can jump start labor quickly, in as little as 24 hours.

Green papaya

The enzyme papin is abundant in raw green papayas, and the leaves contain latex. When you combine the two, they act as prostaglandins and oxytocin. Which, you guessed it, can bring on contractions. The trick is to find green papayas because as the fruit ripens, papin is lost.

Cumin tea

Cumin is a natural and common way to regulate your digestive tract. It’s also known to have healing effects with bloating and menstruation. Popular as a “down there” stimulant, cumin tea is also believed to induce natural labor.

Black cohosh

Black cohosh is a medicinal herb that has been found to produce similar effects as oestrogen, which is naturally produced in the body. It is often used to treat women’s health issues related to menstruation and menopause and for speeding up the labor process.


One caveat before you try anything…

Hey, we get it. As you approach or pass your due date, you get more and more desperate to get things going naturally and safely. But as with anything that involves the health and safety of your baby, you’ll want to check with your primary care doctor or OB/GYN before consuming any of these foods. If your doctor gives you the green light, why not give them a shot? You have nothing to lose, and a sweet, healthy, angelic little baby to gain.

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What food induces labor?

There are no labor-inducing foods that are consistently backed by research. Among the rumored foods that can induce labor are dates, spicy food, pineapple, castor oil and evening primrose, but some can produce side effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort like cramping.

How can I induce labor naturally?

The strategies for naturally inducing labor range in success, and most have generally no research support. Due to the unique features of each pregnancy, it is important to refer to a professional prior to implementing natural labor inducers. That said, among the potential natural techniques are:  
• Acupuncture
• Acupressure
• Evening primrose oil
• Exercise
• Sex
• Nipple stimulation
• Red raspberry leaf tea
• Massage
• Castor oil
• Membrane stripping

What triggers the start of labor?

Professionals are still learning what triggers the start of labor, but with the idea of biological communication from baby to mother signaling that labor needs to occur. New research points to the role of telomeres—part of the DNA—that enter the amniotic fluid as part of a signal to start labor. Other professionals point to the role of hormones as a trigger to initiate labor. The exact reason for why labor begins is not always known.

Does pineapple induce labor?

Although the belief that an enzyme found in pineapple—bromelain—can initiate labor by softening the cervix, no research supports the claim.