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Are you in your ninth month of pregnancy and nearing your estimated due date? You may be getting nervous, especially if your doctor has mentioned inducing you through medical means like Pitocin.

There are plenty of old wives' tales going around about how to start labor. Do any of them actually work, and can natural labor induction methods be dangerous?

Castor oil

Castor oil an oil that comes from the castor bean has been used to remedy all kinds of ailments for a long time. Castor oil can induce diarrhea and vomiting, and some women use it to treat their hair. Many women in the "natural childbirth world" say that castor oil is an extremely effective non-medical means of inducing labor. I personally know several women who have used castor oil and have gone into labor, either after one dose or after two doses. Here's how it works. You take one tablespoon full of castor oil, either by itself or mixed into orange juice, yogurt, or a smoothie. If it doesn't work, you may take another tablespoon 12 hours later. Natural birth advocates tend to say that castor oil only works if you are ready to go into labor anyway. Scientific studies have not proven that taking castor oil will start contractions within 24 hours. Doctors do warn that vomiting and diarrhea, its main side effects, can cause dehydration and be dangerous. Taking castor oil to induce labor is, in other words, something you do at your own risk. That doesn't mean that you can just drink that bottle, of course! We recommend having a chat with your doctor or midwife to discuss the risks and advantages before using castor oil.

Black and blue cohosh

Black and blue cohosh tinctures are another ancient herbal way to induce labor. Blue and black cohosh are actually two entirely different plants from different families. They work together to induce labor, and native Americans have used them for centuries. As with most of these natural remedies, studies haven't shown blue and black cohosh to be an effective means of inducing labor. Now, how do you use black and blue cohosh? You can obtain tinctures of blue cohosh and black cohosh separately, or get the combination. With the latter, you drink 20 drops of the tincture every five or six hours. Again, you're best off discussing the safety of this potentially potent mixture with a competent medical professional before experimenting with this.

Spicy foods

Spicy foods are said to induce labor, and they work in much the same was as castor oil by disturbing your digestive system, and perhaps bringing contractions on. If you have a vindaloo or an even hotter Indian curry, there's no guarantee that you will start labor. You will hurt, though!

Exercise

Does exercise really bring on labor? I'm afraid this is definitely an old wives' tale. Lots of women try this method for themselves, and take long walks around the shopping mall or even the maternity ward. Of course, if you are close to your due date, there is a good chance that you will go into labor during such a walk if you walk often and long enough. That's a matter of statistical chance, and not proof that this method works. The idea behind walking to induce labor is probably that the baby pressing on your uterus will induce contractions.

Sex

Have you thought about doing the exact same thing that got that baby in there to help it get out? There are several ways in which sex may help kickstart your labor and delivery. A man's semen contains chemicals called prostaglandins, and these chemicals help ripen the cervix. Women who have Intrauterine Insemination to get pregnant need to be inseminated with washed sperm, which has been stripped of prostaglandins, because introducing them directly to the uterus would cause very strong and painful contractions. Having an orgasm may also induce labor. Most women who have ever been pregnant have probably noticed that climaxing gives you Braxton Hicks contractions. In other words, get busy and be sure that trying to induce labor through sex is a lot more pleasant than Pitocin at the hospital! If your bag of waters has already broken, you're too late though nothing should go into the vagina at that point, or your chance of getting an infection are really big.

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