Natural Ways to Induce Labor: I Have The Answers!

Last Updated: June 17, 2024
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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Let’s talk about natural ways to induce labor! Are you looking for natural labor induction methods, or how to go into labor TONIGHT? For almost ALL pregnant women, the last few weeks leading up to delivery can be agonizing.

You can’t sleep, you’ve got a baby kicking you in the ribs, your feet are swollen, and you’re just ready to be done. Girl, I hear you.

I have patients come into triage ALL THE TIME begging to be induced so they can get this over with and meet their baby.

But the reality is, letting your body go into labor spontaneously is so important and has so many benefits! The good news is, there’s a lot you can do ahead of time at home to help make spontaneous labor happen.

Let’s talk about the benefits of spontaneous labor, how you can prep your body to make it happen, and look at some actionable things you can do to help get things going!

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The benefits of spontaneous labor

The reality is, letting your body go into labor spontaneously versus electively being induced is associated with fewer maternal complications. 

While neonatal outcomes were shown to be unaffected, C-section rates, rate of labor interventions (epidurals, labor augmentation, use of forceps), and lengths of hospital stay for mom were all significantly higher during elective inductions (source).

What’s more, is that the medication that’s used to induce labor, Pitocin, can be really intense and painful! It can often result in a more difficult and exhausting labor. And really, we don’t want to do it unless it’s deemed medically safer for you and baby!

But please don’t misunderstand me. I am 100% in support of planned inductions when they’ve been deemed medically safer for mama and/or baby! I just want you to understand that spontaneous labor (when possible) is definitely preferred!

My experience with natural ways to induce labor

Let me just start by saying, I have been exactly where you are – twice! With both of my pregnancies, I went a few days past my due date, and I was so ready to be done. I had been trying for a good two weeks to get myself to go into labor with no luck.

But, both times around, I was incorporating movements and methods to prep my body for labor throughout my entire third trimester. And then, in the final weeks, really started to ramp up various research-backed methods to induce labor, and I think that really helped me avoid going WAY past due or winding up with a medical induction!

I touch on this a little bit in each of my birth stories:

The role of prepping your body for labor to help naturally induce labor

Okay, so now that you understand exactly WHY we want labor to start naturally if at all possible (and safe for you and baby!), I want you to understand what I mean when I say “prepping” your body.

So, when we talk about inducing labor naturally, what we’re actually doing is using methods and strategies that can help our bodies to be READY for labor.

And by bodies, I’m mostly talking about your cervix and baby’s position.

Your cervix’s readiness for labor (aka your Bishop Score)

So, before labor starts, your body’s main way of preparing (and the thing we can encourage with the right methods!) is with changes to your cervix.

dilation and effacement infographic, labor readiness infographic, bishop score inforgraphic

As labor gets closer your cervix will:

  • Ripen: This means it gets softer in preparation for birth
  • Efface: This means it gets thinner in preparation for birth
  • Dilate: This means it starts opening up (this is the one most mamas know about!)

And we actually have a way of measuring your readiness with something called a Bishop Score. Basically, you are assigned a score from 0-13 that rates how ready your cervix is for labor when those three factors are considered.

Baby’s position and its role in spontaneous labor

Ideally, we want baby to be in a head down position, looking at your back. And there’s actually a ton of research that shows a correlation between this optimal positioning and spontaneous labor.

When baby is head down, and by doing things that help them engage even deeper into your pelvis, the pressure from their head can help encourage the ripening, effacement, and dilation that we just talked about above. It’s actually pretty cool how it’s all related when you think about it!

Related Reading: The Sunny Side Up Position

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6 Natural ways to induce labor at home

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So, there are a TON of evidence-based (and anecdotal) ways to naturally induce labor out there. But you have to remember that unless your body is physically ready, it just won’t happen.

In fact, doctors don’t know exactly what triggers a woman to go into labor, which is kind of crazy if you think about it! There have been countless studies on the subject, and many theories circulating, but it hasn’t been figured out definitively yet.

However, something about baby’s position, your cervix’s “readiness”, and certain hormones all seem to be key players in naturally inducing labor. So, without further ado, here’s an overview of 6 things you can try to induce labor at home!

1. Drink red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy

Red Raspberry Tea is a great way to start prepping your body for labor starting early in the third trimester. It’s a practice that dates back centuries, and its effectiveness is actually backed by quite a bit of research!

It works by helping to tone the uterus and is associated with shorter push times and decreases the risk of an unplanned C-section!

So, while it’s not a method that will make you go into labor tonight, if you drink a few cups of red raspberry leaf tea every day for the last 2 months of your pregnancy, you may be much more likely to go into labor spontaneously without medical induction methods.

Start with one cup per day, and as long you don’t experience cramping increase to 2-3 cups per day over the course of a few weeks.

2. Eat dates to induce labor

Sounds crazy, but it’s true! Research shows that mamas that eat 6 Medjool dates a day, once they hit 37 weeks, have:

  • Shorter labors
  • Avoid Pitocin
  • Have intact membranes upon admission to the hospital
  • Have a higher likelihood of going into spontaneous labor

If you don’t like eating straight dates, you can blend them into smoothies, or eat a Lara Bar – which are totally date-based (estimated that one bar has ~2 dates in it).

3. Curb walking to induce labor

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A post shared by Liesel Teen BSN, RN | Pregnancy + Birth (@mommy.labornurse)

Curb walking is a technique that you can use once you’re full term to try to engage your baby a little more deeply into your pelvis, which can encourage your cervix to dilate.

“Curb walking” is pretty much exactly what it sounds like! It’s when you walk with one foot up on the curb, and the other on the road/sidewalk.This forces you to have somewhat of an uneven gait, and you’ll notice a larger shift in your body weight as you take each step.

You might even notice that one side is a little more uncomfortable to walk on than the other, and that’s ok! You’ll want to continue to switch sides, and obviously stop to take breaks, or if labor begins!

As your body weight and your baby moves side to side, this can help open up a little more space in your pelvis to create room for baby to turn slightly and move down onto your cervix – which is exactly what you want!

Curb walking works similarly to deep lunges, squats, and doing figure 8s on your yoga ball! Anything to shift baby around can help to engage baby further down!

4. Miles Circuit

This circuit is a series of positions that is meant to get baby in an LOA (Left Occiput Anterior) position – it can be used before labor begins, or during labor if it starts to stall. The whole process takes 90 minutes to do (each position should be done for at least 30 minutes, if possible).

And let me just tell you, I had a ton of success with this before my second birth. You guys, it worked!

Here’s how you do it:

  • Before beginning: Empty your bladder and get a big cup of water so you stay hydrated throughout!
  • Open – Knee Chest – Start in this position, get that booty up in the air and drop your chest down to the floor. Your knees should be far apart. You can use pillows to prop yourself up if you can’t hold it
  • Exaggerated Left Side Lying – Next, roll onto your left side and get that right leg nice and high – position lots of pillows around you, you wanna get nice and comfy here, and it’s totally ok if you fall asleep
  • Moving & Lunges – Finally, you’ll want to do exercises that open that pelvis up in an asymmetrical way. This means putting your foot up on a block, doing some curb-walking, or climbing stairs two at a time facing sideways⁠

I actually have an entire article detailing The Miles Circuit for you to learn more!

5. Sex to induce labor

Have you heard the old saying that what gets baby in can help get baby out, hah! Well, there’s actually some real reasoning behind that. You see, sexual intercourse is thought to induce labor in a few different ways. First off, sex (with or without orgasm) increases uterine activity, which can help trigger contractions.

Second, semen is a natural source of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances responsible for helping to change your cervix during labor – okay that’s actually pretty cool when you think about it! It’s like nature planned this or something ?

And lastly, nipple stimulation releases oxytocin, the chemical responsible for causing uterine contractions during labor, so if you incorporate that you can hit two bird with one stone here…

Hey! I say it’s worth a try, and even the opportunity to bond with your partner and relax prior to birth makes it totally worth it.

Related Reading: Sex During Pregnancy: Questions Answered

6. Midwives’ Brew

The Midwives’ Brew is a method I always mention with a disclaimer. Anecdotally, this is a highly effective way to induce labor if you’ve reached your due date. Like, 85% success rate effective!

But it is definitely a debated method because it utilizes castor oil, which, on its own, is NOT advised as a natural induction method (please don’t do it).

In short, the Midwives’ Brew is a blend of apricot juice, lemon verbena tea, almond butter, and castor oil that’s said to put you into labor within 24 hours.

Read my full article with more details about The Midwives’ Brew to see if it’s right for you!

Sleeping positions to induce labor

Sadly, there isn’t a magical sleeping position that will all of a sudden jumpstart your labor – though that would be kinda nice, right?! There are, however, certain positions that create more space in your pelvis, encouraging baby into a more optimal position for birth.

1. Exaggerated left side lying

An exaggerated left side lying position (remember we talked about this earlier with the Miles Circuit) can help encourage baby into a left occiput anterior (LOA) position, which is ideal for a vaginal birth.

In this position, baby has more space to tuck their chin and curve their back, making the descent out of the pelvis easier and more natural.

We touched on it above but to get into this position, I first want you to collect lots of pillows. Next, roll onto your left side and bring your top (right) leg up into a 90 degree angle. You will then straighten your bottom (left) leg and roll forward even more. Use all those pillows to support you and your stomach so that you aren’t putting all your weight on your belly.

I know it sounds like a lot of work to get into this position but it’s actually pretty comfy – speaking from experience here!

2. Sitting or semi-sitting position

Key concept here is gravity! Any position that utilizes gravity to allow baby’s head to put additional pressure on your cervix might increase your chances of labor.

I know it’s not super natural to sleep in a sitting position but feel free to try a semi-sitting or partially reclined position if that is more comfortable.

3. Open-knee chest

The open-knee chest position isn’t the most natural for sleeping, but is great for relaxing or a quick nap. Also part of the Miles Circuit, this position involves getting on all fours, dropping your body weight down onto your elbows, and getting that booty way up in the air.

This allows your baby extra space to wiggle and rotate their head into an optimal position to encourage spontaneous labor!

And while there’s no guarantee that any of these positions will get labor going, there’s also no harm in giving them a try either!

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Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

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