Towards the end of pregnancy, a woman is typically very excited to meet her baby, but also she is very uncomfortable because of pregnancy changes and her baby being a good size. She is usually very keen to go into labour sooner rather than later. As well most women are keen to go into spontaneous labour rather than having their labour induced.

Below are several popular approaches you can try to stimulate the onset of spontaneous labour. You can combine the approaches.

But please wait until you are very close to your due date, say past 38 and a half weeks gestation, before trying to stimulate the onset of labour. That is because the approach is more likely to work the closer you are to your EDC. As well, if you labour at an earlier gestation your baby may need ventilation support in the SCBU because of immature lungs and there is a greater likelihood of newborn feeding problems and newborn jaundice.


  • Membrane sweep and cervical stretch. If the cervix is ripe this can stimulate labour within days. But this does not always happen. It is usually an uncomfortable procedure. The obstetrician needs to insert a finger through the full length of your cervix canal and rotate the end of his/her finger inside the inner cervical os (inner opening of the cervix). He/she proceeds to strip the sac membranes from the uterine side of the cervical os margin and to stretch the cervical os (canal). A membrane sweep and cervical stretch is only possible if the full length of the cervical canal is open enough to admit a finger.  Sometimes the procedure results in spontaneous rupture of membranes without labour contractions. If so, often labour needs to be stimulated with a Syntocinon hormone infusion. Sometimes attempting the procedure and finding the cervix is closed can still result in spontaneous labour within a few days.
  • Massages, acupuncture, chiropractor, osteopath. These approaches, while usually harmless and may make you feel better, lack any credible proven evidence they can cause the onset of labour.
  • Change in diet. Eating hot spicy food has been a popular approach to try to bring on labour. Sadly, the evidence it works is lacking. As well, spicy curries can result in diarrhoea and are not good idea if you have heartburn or indigestion.
  • Increased physical activity. This may help. Physical activities such as long walks, jogging, mini-tramp, continuing gym attendance (but don’t start going to the gym if not already attending) are associated with gravity pushing the baby’s head towards the cervix. Physical activities are more likely to help if baby’s head is engaged in your pelvis. My wife Robyn went into labour with our third child after we went on a long walk. Swimming will not be of benefit in stimulating the onset of labour.
  • Sexual intercourse. This theoretically could help. But it can be uncomfortable in advanced pregnancy. There should be deeper penile penetration, so the tip of the penis is as close to the cervix as possible. As well prostaglandin hormones are in semen that might help ripen the cervix. Sexual orgasm can be more intense and painful. Orgasm is not harmful and may help as your body release the hormone oxytocin which is responsible for uterine contractions.
  • Nipple stimulation. Stimulating your nipples can cause your uterus to contract and so may bring on labour. That is because nipple stimulation can cause the release of the hormone oxytocin.
  • Castor oil. This is an old-fashioned approach. Drink about 30 – 60mls but no more as it is unpleasant and can cause diarrhoea. There is no convincing evidence it works to stimulate labour.
  • Eating dates. Some studies have suggested eating dates in the final weeks of pregnancy can bring on labour. However, there isn’t enough research to confirm this is true.
  • Drinking raspberry leaf tea. Raspberry leaf tea is a herbal tea that is high in vitamins, minerals and tannins. It is thought by some people to help make your uterus be more efficient in labour. Medical evidence of this and that it will stimulate labour is lacking.
  • Eating pineapple. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is thought to soften the cervix. This approach is unlikely to help unless you eat a lot of pineapples and unproven.

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