By Kristen Bagwell

I am thrilled to have had a healthy pregnancy, but I’ll be just as thrilled when it’s over. Not to complain, but this kid is taking up some space, and the nausea, headaches, and lack of sleep are starting to take a toll both on me and those nearby. (Sorry, friends and family!)

Knowing how much time I spend online, it’s no surprise that I’ve both Googled and asked around about the top ways to jump-start labor. None of these is a huge surprise, but maybe there’s something you haven’t heard of on this list. PS – please leave a comment and let me know what worked for you because I am ready to get this show on the road!

Most popular:  Walking
Walking is supposed to do a few beneficial things: first, it’s supposed to help engage the baby lower into the birth canal. Second, it’s supposed to help release hormones and chemicals to help you relax, and third, it will help keep you in shape for the actual delivery. (Not sure the in-shape part will apply if I only do it the last 5 days, but still…) The pressure of the baby’s head once it’s down low *should* help jump-start labor. I do have a girlfriend who swears this is why she started labor a few days before her due date…but she’s the same one who was doing spin classes at 8 months. Still, I’m going to give it a shot.

Most commonly suggested:  Sex
One of my co-workers told me last week, “DON’T FALL FOR THIS ONE! It’s totally an old wives tale to keep the husbands happy.” Naturally, I did the research, and she’s partly right. There is some science behind this though, and it’s all related to hormones and body chemicals released during the “fun” that will help start contractions and soften the cervix. If nothing else, it will provide some entertainment as you try to figure out how to even get started at 39+ weeks pregnant!

Easiest: Spicy food
I have never bought into this theory, but a different co-worker told me she ate eye-watering spicy Thai food one evening and was in labor 4 hours later. I don’t like spicy food and am a wuss in general, so I probably won’t try it. People do swear by it, though. There’s also some discussion about certain salad dressings (balsamic in particular) and fresh pineapple (which contains an enzyme that is supposed to help prep the body and start things moving). I will admit to eating an entire pineapple late last week and, well…here I sit writing this post.

Most logical: Massage and/or acupuncture
There are certain pressure points on the body that when stimulated, prompt uterine contractions. (This is why you should always tell your massage therapist, pedicurist, and anyone else who is working on your body that you’re expecting.) There are cases documented that show proven results, but the problem is, stimulating these pressure points can be somewhat painful. These methods are also unlikely to produce results unless you are very near or past your due date. (If you want to give it a whirl, the two most popular acupressure points are in the webbing between your thumb and index finger, and on the inside of your lower leg about 4 finger-widths up from the protruding bone in your inner ankle. Watch out for that ankle one though – it hurts like a *beep beeeeep.*)

Scariest: Castor oil
If you’ve not heard of it, castor oil is a vegetable oil that was very popular in the 50s and 60s for all kinds of things, most notably, laxative properties and punishment. (Remember Spanky and Alfalfa?) Why is it scary? A shot of castor oil will cause spasms in your intestines (it is a STIMULANT laxative), which in turn may prompt your uterus to begin contracting. Note the use of the word “may” in that sentence; it doesn’t always work, and then you end up with just the side effects. (In other words, plan to stay close to the porcelain throne if you try this one.)

Castor oil is generally frowned upon by general practitioners, but it’s sometimes used depending on the situation. I know at least 3 people who swear by this method, although one of them said that after using castor oil with her second pregnancy, her son’s delivery could have been measured in MPH. Yikes.

Summary: Talk to your health care professional before trying this one on your own.

Most uncertain: Herbs
Evening primrose oil and red raspberry leaf are the two most popular herbal choices to start contractions, and both are intended to thin the cervix and prepare it for labor. However, women with certain conditions should steer clear of these herbs for their own and their baby’s safety, so talk to a health care professional before taking these herbs.

After all the research and discussion, it turns out that I am too much of a weenie to do anything except maybe some extra walking, and definitely some extra whining (mainly inside my head…I hope). What tips and tricks worked for you? Are there any ideas that you would NOT recommend?

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*Photo credit – Heather McGinnis Photography