In My Expert Opinion, Trying To Jumpstart Labor Is Total BS

pregI’m done having all the babies, but it seems like many of my friends are just getting started. And as the countdown to the due date begins on Facebook, I start to see the same well-meaning comments from the peanut gallery again and again to get that expectant mom to pop out her baby as soon as possible.

Go on a power walk for at least an hour, and you’ll go into labor. I promise!

Just do the dirty deed that got you into this situation in the first place, and that baby will come right out. ;)

Try doing a load of laundry. That’s what worked for me the day I had my daughter!

All this advice is nice and harmless, and people love sharing their birth stories. I get it. Some advice to jumpstart labor even has a bit of medical backing. For example, my midwife recommended as I approached the due date for both of my kids that I go on a power walk, have sex, and also start taking Evening Primrose Oil to soften the cervix. She emphasized that none of these methods were guaranteed to work, but they couldn’t hurt.

At that point in my pregnancies, I just wanted to punch her in the face for giving me such random advice that I probably wasn’t going to use. With my first son, who was eight days late, I was jogging a week past my due date. So maybe I’m kind of bitter that my baby didn’t fall right out of me when I took a lap around the block, as everyone promised he would. Nope, he took his sweet time, and no amount of jogging or horizontal polka would coax him out.

When my midwife told me to go on a power walk (up a hill!) and have sex to speed up my second son’s labor, I had to stop myself from laughing in her face. How about YOU power walk up a hill in the Texas heat with an 8 pound baby strapped to your stomach, and then tell me how horny you feel? I didn’t think so.

If you tell friends and family—especially on social media—that your due date is approaching, you better get ready for some unsolicited advice. While it may be fun and even distracting to have sex, eat pineapple, and stimulate your nipples at 40 weeks pregnant (all suggested methods for inducing labor), I wouldn’t count on your baby coming before he’s good and ready.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
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    • EX

      Perfect timing for this post. I am 38 weeks 2 days (but who’s counting) and am sooo ready for this to be done. I haven’t been pestering people on Facebook about it, though. Just my poor husband who is probably as sick of me complaining as I am of being pregnant. I wish it was as easy as eating some spicy pineapple while having sex during a power walk.

      • Kay_Sue

        That image…that image is amazingly hilarious.

      • EX

        After I wrote it I was thinking “well, actually, that WOULD be pretty challenging!”

      • Bethany Ramos

        IT WILL NEVER END. But lmk if anything works for you!

      • EX

        Also, please tell me how you’re supposed to take an hour long power walk when you’re 9 months pregnant. I’d be stopping to pee on every fire hydrant like a damn dog.

      • Jallun-Keatres

        I had to walk an hour in the hospital and my legs were shaking because I’d never walked that long (I have a sitting job!) and were about to give out. My feet stung so bad from the weight that I was walking on the sides of my ankles. They let me spend the second hour on a birthing ball. F power walks.

      • Rachel Sea

        But it’s a great excuse to order pineapple and jalapeno pizza.

    • Kay_Sue

      Nipple stimulation? I’ve never heard that one, actually.

      • Bethany Ramos

        Yes! I have also seen eating eggplant, riding in a bumpy car, and bouncing on a birthing ball, which I did religiously. Nope.

      • Kay_Sue

        But did you do them all at the same time?

      • Bethany Ramos

        There’s my mistake!

      • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

        My midwives encouraged my wife to do that while I was in labour as it can (apparently) actually make contractions stronger (which I needed at that point). So that happened. In front of my mother and mother-in-law. Oh and yeah my mother-in-law was videotaping at this point. Oy.

      • Kay_Sue

        Dang. I would probably have socked my husband if he’d tried it, to be honest. “OH NO YOU DO NOT! THAT IS PART OF WHAT GOT US INTO THIS MESS TO START WITH!”

        I was not a very kind birther. I was a very cranky birther…

      • EX

        Ha! I don’t like to be touched to begin with when I am in pain or discomfort. I too would have punched my husband if he came anywhere near my nipples during labor!

      • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

        At that point, I felt so removed from my body I barely noticed.

      • http://carrie-murphy.com/ Carrie Murphy

        You can also use a breast pump for nipple stimulation, if your partner isn’t up to it or you don’t want people seeing your partner stimulate your nipples.

      • Aimee Beff

        The childbirth class I went to actually told us specifically to AVOID doing that – apparently sometimes when women try messing around with their nipples pre-baby to toughen them up for breastfeeding they can go into early labor! D:

      • Erin Murphy

        My labor was prodromal (sp?) for a day and a half. I finally caved and hooked myself up to my breast pump and shit.got.real. I could only tolerate about 3 minutes until I had to lie down.because contractions were CRAZY. Baby was here 18 hours later.

    • Nica

      Meh, I think these things can help precipitate things IF your baby is ready to make his way into the world. If he’s still warm n snug inside, no natural methods are going to bring him out…
      For my first, I was shopping all day, went swimming for 2 hours that night and had sex before I went to bed. My water broke 2 hours later and I was holding that babe in my arms 11 hours after that. I was convinced I brought my labor on. He was born before his due date.
      With my 2nd, I did all the same things, but ended up at the doctor begging for a membrane sweep since my due date had come and gone. My cervix was so high up and closed, she couldn’t even do it. I left the office in tears, thinking I was going to be pregnant forever! Well, at 4am those contractions kicked in, 2 minutes apart from the get-go. I got to the hospital at 7am. My doc arrived at 7:30, came to see me in triage, smiled and said “You are the LAST person I expected to see here this morning! You’re having a baby today!” She was right – I was holding my 2nd baby in my arms at 1pm that afternoon!
      Babies come when they’re ready to come!!!!

      • LadyClodia

        Except when they don’t, which is why I’m thankful for inductions. :)

      • G.E. Phillips

        Face was never coming out. I was induced at 4 days overdue, had Cervadil, Pitocin, labored for over a day. Dilated to one. With every contraction, Face was all like, “Bitch, you think I can’t handle that? BRING IT ON!” I’m convinced he had a little chin-up bar in there that he was hanging on to for dear life. But I had the last laugh with my C-section! Mwah-hah-hah!!

      • LadyClodia

        Wow. That sounds so rough.
        I was lucky, once they started me on the Pitocin my boys got the hint and got the hell out. After induction our older son was born 6 hours later and with our younger son it was 4 hours.

    • Givemeabreak

      I was just under 2 weeks late with my first son and was sick of not being able to leave town and nothing getting him moving so we took our 1980 Chevy pick-cross county on gravel roads and then ate at a cream can (spicy jalepeno sausages and cabbage) followed by my best friends Dad kindly bellying up to my belly and informing my unborn baby it was time to pack his stuff and get OUT! Next morning, boom, baby LOL!

    • Meg

      I am pretty skeptical about these oddly random ways to help induce labor. It seems to me if someone is far enough in the pregnancy that they are looking for ways to induce labor, they are about to pop anytime as is. So who is to say the powerwalk or pineapple worked, or it was just time for baby to come?

      • Kheldarson

        You don’t know. It’s causality (?). Basically I did X and Y event happened. So we make the association that if I do X again, I should be able to get Y. This can help us sometimes (that’s how we as a species learned what was and was not safe to eat: Eat X, I get sick, no eat X), but a lot of the times it just makes silly conjectures (like thunder sours milk).

      • Jallun-Keatres

        OMFG I just realized I ate a pineapple the day I went into labor!! I only had it because I was craving it. Maybe… maybe!

        Probably not.

    • Kheldarson

      Funny story with nipple stimulation: that was something my mom suggested. But in the most awkward way possible.

      So I’m in the hospital, having gone in to be induced since my BP was getting higher every couple of days, and the doc wasn’t sure if it was because of my pregnancy or the fact I was coming in to my appointments right after working my night shift. I’d basically been in pre-labor for about 2 weeks at that point, dilated to 2-3 cm, but no consistent contractions. So we’re gonna get this thing done!

      Yeah…no. I got the pill put in me that’s supposed to efface the cervix and waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing. Eventually they tell me I’m good to walk around. Great.

      I should note at this point that with me was my husband and a close family friend who was more or less a stand-in for my mom.

      So Friend gets off the phone with my mom right before my mom calls me. We chat a bit, she encourages me to walk more to help speed up the process, and says that Friend has something else to share with me. In this very slow hesitant voice that just screams “I’m embarrassed.” I ask her what it is. I mean, she’s my mom: she can just tell me, right? Nope. “Oh no, Friend can share it. Your Aunt mentioned it to me.”

      Then Friend has to pull me aside from my husband because Mom insisted that I be told in private and says that Mom suggests going into the bathroom and trying nipple stimulation. Or Friend step away and maybe Husband can help…?

      I just started laughing at that point.

      End result: We didn’t try nipple stimulation, I ended up in labor pains so bad I cried until they put the epidural in, fell asleep at that point, and woke up about 7 hours later fully dilated and ready to push. And then they had to turn the epidural off so I could actually help since I couldn’t feel a thing.

      Good times. >.<

    • LadyClodia

      I tried almost everything to jump start labor with our second son. The only thing that I think it accomplished was to give him a preference for spicy food since I was eating a lot of that the week before he was born. I don’t know why I thought it would work either because besides my water breaking with my first son I never had any natural labor. I had taken a long walk the night before our first son was born, so maybe I was optimistic that that was what had caused my water to break.

    • Aimee Beff

      I was so worried about the twins being preemies that I used lists like these as the opposite of to-do lists. HONEY, DON’T PUT YOUR HANDS WITHIN THREE FEET OF MY NIPPLES. DRIVE SLOWER, THIS ROAD IS TOO BUMPY. PINEAPPLE UPSIDE CAKE, ARE YOU TRYING TO POISON ME!

      • Bethany Ramos

        LOL!

      • Megan Zander

        Did it work? I spent 8 weeks on bedrest, even laying done for meals and mine were still preemies. I should have just sat up!

      • Aimee Beff

        We did make it to my scheduled c-section at 37 and 3, luckily! Not sure how much of it was thanks to my plopping my ass on the couch for 3 months and how much was due to luck/genetics/the twins being di/di, though. I can’t imagine 8 weeks in bed!! How did you survive without getting total cabin fever? How early were the kiddos – hopefully they’re doing well now?

      • Megan Zander

        The boys were 33 and 2. one spent 6 days in NICU, the other 13. I went into labor first at 27 weeks, but held it off and they got steriod shots for their lungs, so we were lucky and they are completely perfect now. I watched a lot of movies and slept a ton. My biggest regret is not going to more fancy restaurants early on, once I was in bed I was never hungry, and I feel like I missed out on the opportunity to stuff myself.37 and 3 is awesome, that’s the record for anyone I know with multiples!

    • Bailey

      I totally agree about most old wives tales for jumpstarting labor. They don’t work and they generally cause some level of discomfort (as does everything when you are 38+ weeks pregnant).

      BUT I do think acupuncture worked for me. I have very fast deliveries once my labor is induced but with my first two pregnancies, my labor never got going on its own, despite trying all of the typical suggestions. So I had a scheduled induction with my 3rd but I wanted to see if I could get my labor going. I had been seeing an acupuncturist throughout my pregnancy for nausea and she mentioned she could do some things to help my body prepare for labor. I had one session a week before my induction and nothing happened (though it did relieve my back pain). Then I had two sessions within 72 hours of each other and I went into labor 4 hours later. I went from having no contractions to having regular, timeable, painful contractions. My daughter was born 9 hours after my acupuncture appointment at 38 weeks, 6 days! Maybe a coincidence but if I decide to have another kid, I’ll definitely be doing acupuncture!

    • G.E. Phillips

      We have a local pizza place that makes this amazing hot oil pizza with “stingers” (hot peppers.) I was convinced that if I went into labor after eating one of their pizzas, I could convince them to give me free pizza for life. It didn’t work, but I had fun trying.

    • Nica

      Oh yeah, forgot about the infamous spicy eggplant parm recipe (google it). SO tried this with my 2nd baby and it is DELICIOUS, but did absolutely nothing to start labor. When the ladies at my OB’s office found out my husband made it from scratch (including homemade sauce), they asked me to bring some in because it’s so tasty (other patients brought it in, mostly because it did “induce labor” for them, they had their babies and there were still leftovers!) but I ate ALL OF IT in a failed attempt to get things going…

      • Bethany Ramos

        I read about that eggplant!!

      • SA

        Tried that one too. Still went a week past due.

    • 502 Bad Gateway

      I was really really really hoping that sex induces labor :(

      • SA

        Sperm can help thin the cervix, so keep trying!!

      • CrazyLogic

        An excuse for funtime is an excuse for funtime if you ask me (and half my family)

    • kay

      I read all the ways to supposedly start it, then looked for actual scientific literature on it and found zero… Then 5 days before I was due my husband and I went on a long walk before bed, had sex, and at midnight I woke up in labor. I know it’s not what caused it, but I was amused.

    • SA

      Pitocin and cohosh are the only two things that really can START labor. Sex (sperm basically) can help thin the cervix and nipple stimulation can help move things along. Everything else is pretty bogus (ie eating pineapple – after preparing for a couple of weeks I realized that I’d have to be eating like 5 whole pineapples a day for even a shot at it thinning my cervix).

      I know several women that used the cohosh and ended up with really long labors. Sometimes I think that you can jumpstart something that just isn’t ready and the process will get drug out. Obviously there are certain points where induction becomes necessary though!

      But do what you can to stay sane. I was 7 days past due and loosing my mind!!

      • Bethany Ramos

        Does the castor oil have medical backing? It’s also supposed to give you wicked diarrhea…

      • Jallun-Keatres

        It’s supposed to cramp you up which may irritate your ute into cramping/contractions. And yes, its main power is a laxative.

    • MaebykittyRN

      I tried EVERYTHING and little man still hung in there until 42 weeks. Everyone who told me “well, it can’t last forever” was risking being mauled to death by a very angry pregnant lady.

    • ted3553

      My doctor offered at 38 or so weeks that she could do the cervix scrape which in her defense, she said will wither work within 24 hrs or won’t work. It didn’t work for me and I wouldn’t recommend it to others because I’m pretty sure she stuck her whole hand, arm and head in and was actually tickling my tonsils through my uterus.

      • Bethany Ramos

        Yes, I went for the membrane sweep where I totally got fisted by my midwife. I didn’t really count that as a labor inducing method because it wasn’t something you could Google and try at home, or at least I hope not. Anyway, I was so eager to be done being pregnant that I told her to do whatever it takes, and you described it pretty accurately! I went into labor within two hours. Win.

      • ted3553

        Membrane sweep-yes, that’s it. I couldn’t remember the term but I sure can remember her fist in my ladybits. I walked out of there like a cowboy.

    • MerlePerle

      I think I nagged my son out of me. I was so pissed at him for letting the due date pass and at my husband for putting me in this situation that my water broke at 11pm…so I guess anger worked for me!

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      I tell this to everyone, but I went 43 damn weeks, tried EVERYTHING and gave birth via C section to a 9 lb 13 oz baby, who was clearly overdue. He looked nearly a month old. Sometimes they don’t come when they’re ready. Sometimes they come before they’re ready. Usually they come when they’re done, but nature ain’t perfect. It sometimes likes to fuck with you.

    • Jallun-Keatres

      Haha I was 4 days overdue and NOTHING. I finally decided to chug castor oil to see if it would do anything. 6 hours later, perfect 5 minute apart contractions. Did it work? Maybe. Would I tell anyone it works? Nope.

      Castor oil smells and tastes like real silk. Basically, it tasted like Macy’s or Dillard’s. It’s really thick too.

      • Bethany Ramos

        See, castor oil was the one that I heard legit worked – like my midwife was telling me to use that if I was wayyyy overdue and also wanted diarrhea. ;)

      • Jallun-Keatres

        It didn’t even give me the runs because my GI system was almost at a standstill for the past few months. As a result, I committed that one big fear act while pushing. ;D

      • Bethany Ramos

        AHHHHH! I told my husband never to speak of that.

      • Jallun-Keatres

        Haha yeah, we’re in the postpartum room and out of nowhere he’s like “hey, you pooped *a lot* while pushing!”

        My reply? “Well duh, castor oil is a laxative. It’s about time it worked!”

    • JussyLee

      I gave birth at 41 weeks and 3 days. My mom was overdue with me and my siblings, so I had been geared up all along for a dragged-out pregnancy. My baby and I were pretty comfortable the whole time. I really only felt impatient towards everyone breathing down my neck once my due date came and went.

    • Maria Guido

      I was two weeks overdue. We went to the chiro, on brisk walks, tried acupressure, herbal teas, had lots of sex – nothing. Nothing. I’m with you – it’s a load of bs.

    • CrazyLogic

      When a friend of the family was pregnant and ready to pop, someone had this to say in the midst of all the advice on facebook.

      “Ignore what everyone is saying it doesn’t really work. Unless they are telling you to get busy in bed. Not that it works, but I say take any excuse to do that.”

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