How to Induce Labor with Herbs

By Maria Magher
A pregnant woman sitting in bed holding her stomach.
A pregnant woman sitting in bed holding her stomach.

After your due date passes without a contraction, your doctor might start talking about inducing labor if it doesn't happen naturally by a certain date. Medical induction usually includes the use of pitocin, which can make contractions stronger and more painful. Some herbal remedies may help you induce labor and avoid this situation. However, never use herbs or any other natural remedy for induction without first consulting with your doctor.

Types of Herbs

Black cohosh, blue cohosh, cotton root bark, black haw, and red raspberry leaf are sometimes recommended to help induce labor. Some herb mixtures for inducing labor may also include pennyroyal herb, dong quai root, butcher's broom root, and blessed thistle. Herbal remedies for labor induction work by either softening and thinning the cervix or toning the uterus. For example, red raspberry leaf is supposed to tone the uterine muscles to make contractions more effective, according to physician Josie L. Tenore of Northwestern University Medical School.

How to Take Herbs

Herbs can be taken in capsule form, in a tincture or in a tea. Red raspberry leaf is commonly taken as a tea, and it has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. You can drink as much of it as you like throughout the third trimester to prepare for labor, according to the Austin, Texas OBGYN North clinic's website. In the final days of pregnancy, drinking the tea regularly can strengthen your uterus and help bring on labor. Black and blue cohosh root are generally taken as capsules, but they can be mixed with alcohol to make tincture, as well. OBGYN North says that they can be taken in the last five to six weeks of the pregnancy.

Safety and Efficiency

Little research has been conducted on either the safety or the efficiency of herbal remedies to induce labor. Much of the information about the use of herbs for this purpose is anecdotal, passed along by pregnant women, midwives and other pregnancy healthcare providers. Physician and midwife Aviva Romm recommends against the use of blue cohosh, as it has been linked to adverse affects in the baby. She notes that the correlation is not proven, but suggests using other herbs that are known to be safe. Before taking any herbal remedy, you should talk with your doctor. You should also be prepared for the possibility that the herb will not have its desired effect.

Other Natural Remedies

Other natural remedies for inducing labor include walking, eating spicy foods, relaxation, visualization, nipple stimulation and sex; all may be able to encourage contractions, obstetrician Laura Riley tells Parents Magazine. Castor oil and evening primose oil are also popular remedies. However, Riley cautions that if the baby is not ready to come, none of these remedies will be effective and instead, you may find yourself with a bad case of heartburn or diarrhea from using them.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.