Non-Medical Ways to Induce Labor


While inducing labor with drugs is the most common method used in hospitals, there are some situations in which a woman might feel it would be beneficial to try to get labor started on her own.  For instance, if a woman does not want a medical induction but her caregiver is insisting on it, a non-medical method of starting labor could be an alternative.

However, the woman should be low-risk, the baby should be at least 39 weeks gestation, and mom must get permission from her caregiver that is is safe to attempt a non-medical method of stimulating labor that isn’t likely to pose any known risks to either mom or baby.  Remember that inducing labor, with or without drugs, is still calling a baby into the world before he or she may be ready. Women should understand all of the potential risks before following any method of labor induction.

Five Non-Medical Ways to Induce Labor

1.  Sexual Intercourse:

Semen contains prostaglandins which can help to soften or ripen the cervix to help prepare it for labor. Also, having an orgasm produces oxytocin which is the hormone that makes the uterus contract. There are no statistics on how effective intercourse is, but it could be a nice way to spend time with your partner while waiting for labor to begin. Only try this if your water is still intact.

2.  Herbs:

There are several herbs that have been known to start labor, but some herbs can be harmful in pregnancy so be sure to check with a credible source before choosing an herb to induce labor. Always check with your caregiver first.

3.  Acupressure:

Several acupressure points on the body can help to stimulate labor.  Dr. Debra Betts, a New Zealand accupuncturist, offers pregnant and laboring moms great hands-on tools for labor, shown in detailed videos.

4.  Amniotomy:

This is the deliberate breaking of the amniotic sac by an obstetrician or midwife in an attempt to start labor. A Cochrane Review of Studies conclusively states that breaking the bag of waters is not proven to either start labor or help it to progress. There are two known risks to breaking the water: uterine infection is one, and the risk that labor won’t start within a prescribed time (usually 12 to 24 hours) is the other.  If a mom isn’t dilated to a certain point after her water has been broken, it might result in her being given pitocin to induce labor.

5.  Sweeping the Membranes:

This refers to a procedure where a physician or midwife inserts several fingers into the cervical opening and sweeps the fingers between the amniotic sac and the uterus to help stimulate the hormones that ripen and dilate the cervix. It can be quite uncomfortable for the mom, and can sometimes cause the bag of waters to break.  Research shows that it is not an effective way of inducing labor when compared with other induction methods.

These are the most common non-medical ways to start labor.  Some work for one woman but not another.  Every woman should know the risks and benefits of any kind of labor induction method before they try it and get the okay from their caregiver.  Women should also ask their caregivers what their Bishop Score is so they can determine the approximate risk of inducing labor and whether it will increase their chances of a Cesarean birth.

Click here to understand more about the medical reasons to induce labor.

The Risks of Inducing

Is Your Body Ready for Labor?

Why Not Induce Before 39 Weeks?

Drugs to Induce Labor