Women turn to sex and spice in attempt to induce labour


It sounds like a doctor’s recommendation from an episode of Friends, but in fact there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest a number of activities can help bring on the start of labour.

Of around 200 women who responded to a survey undertaken by a US Midwestern hospital, over half took it upon themselves to speed up labour’s onset by their own means.

The top activities self-prescribed were walking, having sex, eating spicy food, stimulating their nipples, use of laxatives and herbal supplements, acupuncture, and masturbation.

There’s no medical evidence to suggest that these techniques work, though the exact trigger for the start of labour remains unknown. It’s likely caused by certain hormones produced by the foetus, and though it’s not impossible that external factors might have some influence, it’s still generally outside of mum’s control.

Jonathan Schaffir, associate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Ohio State University and lead author of the study noted, “despite all of these women trying to go into labor and end their pregnancies, it winds up mostly being something moms have no control over.”

He suggested that, although many of these techniques would cause no harm, “Obstetricians and midwives may want to offer some additional reassurance to make patients feel like they don’t need to pursue these other techniques.”



The Friends reference may not be so far from the mark, in fact. Most women reported that the advice came from family and friends rather than medical professionals.

When I talked with a male friend about this, he suggested that only a man would have dreamt up the notion of eating spicy food and having sex. Who knows? It’s not exactly clear where these stories came from, but they do seem to be fairly widely used.

At the end of the day, though, it seems Mother Nature knows best and, however uncomfortable it may be, labour begins exactly when She chooses.

We’d love to hear your pregnancy stories. Did you try to speed up labour? What method worked for you? Are these myths and old wives’ tales? Share in the comments below.