top of page

Induction - Part 2

Myth Buster

Will pineapple get me into labour?

In a word, no. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that is thought to soften and thin the cervix. Studies on rat tissue have shown that pineapple juice caused strong contractions but this effect wasn’t replicated when rats ingested the juice (Nwankudu et al, 2015). According to some you need to eat about 8 pineapples a day to get you into labour and others suggest you have to eat the core as that’s where there are higher levels of bromelain! There isn’t any evidence for it though. If you like pineapple, crack on but it’s unlikely to have an affect on when labour starts!

Ok fine. No pineapples. How about spicy food instead?

Nope again. The thinking behind spicy food is that the spice irritates your stomach which then might irritate your uterus and cause contractions. Think about the millions of people that eat spicy food daily as their normal diet…doesn’t seem to affect lengths of pregnancies for those who are living in countries where spice is often used! No harm in having a curry though. Unless you suffer from heartburn and then it might just make your symptoms even worse.

And I heard something about castor oil?

Castor oil, a vegetable from pressed castor beans, is known for its laxative properties. There are reports of castor oil being used to stimulate the labours of women in ancient Egypt! The use of castor oil for bringing on labour is an interesting topic. Most midwives are probably unfamiliar with the use of castor oil and as such, wouldn’t recommend its use. That said, there are a number of research studies that suggest it could be effective and one study that was published only last year which suggested that ‘oral adminstration of castor oil is effective for cervical ripening and labour induction’ (Moradi et al, 2022). Another study showed that compared to taking sunflower oil (a placebo), the odds of beginning active labour within 12 hours were three times higher with castor oil (Gilad et al, 2018). As a laxative, the use of castor oil could potentially mean you spend a lot of time on the toilet whilst you are in labour. Not exactly fun and could potentially cause dehydration too. We still don’t really recommend the use of castor oil in the UK as we don’t really know enough about it. In particular, we really don’t know how it might affect you if there are other aspects happening in your pregnancy such as raised blood pressure or you’ve had a previous caesarean section. Worth a chat with your midwife before you consider it for sure.

Let’s Talk Sweeps

A cervical sweep might be offered around your due date and let’s be very clear, sweeps aren’t a ‘natural’ method of bringing on labour. They are very much part of the induction process. A cervical sweep is undertaken by an obstetrician or your midwife and you wouldn’t need to go into hospital for this. It’s a vaginal examination where a midwife ‘sweeps’ around the opening of the cervix to gently separate the bag of waters that surrounds the baby from the lower part of the uterus. This could release prostaglandins, hormones, that could then bring on labour. It’s a very common procedure and some women may have multiple sweeps. A research review in 2020 showed that those who had had a sweep were more likely to have labour start on its own (7 in 10 women compared to 6 in 10 without a sweep, so not a huge difference!) and therefore it could make it less likely you would need a 'formal' induction (228 per 1000 women had their labours induced after a sweep compared to 313 in 1000). Worth noting that eight women need to have a sweep to avoid one formal induction of labour (Boulvain et al, 2020). Risks of a membrane sweep include having your waters broken inadvertently and people to do report some pain and discomfort during the procedure. Sweeps can also cause irregular, period cramps that don’t necessarily lead to labour starting but can affect your ability to rest prior to the big event itself. Overall sweeps are quite a personal thing and I would encourage you to do a bit of reading about them before deciding what you think. Or why not come to our antenatal classes where we chat everything through in person?

So what else can I do?

As for my previous blog post, you will not be pregnant forever. You don't necessarily need to 'do' anything, it's ok to just wait. And trust your body. We are so used to being able to plan everything and schedule all that we do but birth isn’t like that. It’s an exciting, amazing time and for many quite frustrating too. Look at the extra days as bonus days; enjoy time with your family, go out for dinner, do things you wont be able to do once baby is here. Anything that releases oxytocin is great for getting labour going. Relax as much as you can (easier said than done I realise). Watch funny films. Drink raspberry leaf tea if you want. Go for walks. Have sex if you’re up for it. There is some good evidence that eating six dates a day from term might decrease your chances of going overdue, so that’s worth a shot too. Unless your diabetic and then it’s probs not a good idea. If you are feeling totally fed up and ready to have a baby then read about inductions - what it means, how it happens and see if it’s the right decision for you. I recommend this book. And if you decide it's right for you, then go for it. Speak with your midwife. Ask questions. Remember ‘You are not a machine'!*

If you are worried about going over your due date and want to find out more about induction of labour then why not join us for one of our Gather weekends. We spend a good amount of time talking about what induction means and giving you loads of information so you can make the best choice for you. Get in touch!

* I am going to do some book reviews at some point but if I could recommend just one, Ina May Gaskin's 'Guide to Childbirth' would probs be it.

13 views0 comments


bottom of page