How To Induce Labor When You're Past Your Due Date

Learn what can work to kickstart labor and what does not to avoid trying something potentially dangerous.

You are past your due date—and still pregnant. You're uncomfortable, achy, and waiting for any sign of labor to begin. You're ready to do whatever it takes to get labor going safely.

Luckily, there are a few ways to induce labor, depending on how far past your due date you are and what you (and a healthcare provider) are willing to try.

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What Is Inducing Labor?

Put simply, labor induction means to start the process of labor through means such as medication, movement, or eating certain foods, to name a few. An obstetrician might suggest a medical induction: They give you medicine and use devices to induce labor.

There are also natural ways that research and anecdotal evidence have shown might do the trick—some you may have heard before and others that will surprise you. Here, Health explains some natural ways pregnant people can try to induce labor and what is safe and unsafe.

How To Induce Labor

Remember, "none of these is a magic 'on' button to labor," Andrea Campaigne, MD, an ob-gyn at St. David's North Austin Medical Center, told Health. Here's what could move the needle—and some options that definitely won't (and may even be harmful).

Getting Your "Membranes Stripped"

Having your "membranes stripped" increases the odds that your body will go into labor on its own. During this procedure, a healthcare provider will manually sweep their finger between the membranes that connect the amniotic sac to the uterus wall. In response to your healthcare provider's finger motions, your body will release prostaglandins, chemicals that soften the cervix and can lead to contractions.

"For women who have an already-soft cervix that's partially dilated, she's more likely to go into labor in 12 hours [after having her membranes stripped] as opposed to a woman who has a firm cervix," Melissa R. Peskin-Stolze, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and women's health at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, told Health.

"If your cervix is firm after the procedure, you're more likely to be still pregnant at next week's checkup," added Dr. Peskin-Stolze.

Membrane sweeping doesn't take long, but Dr. Peskin-Stolze said it could be painful. It also comes with potential risks, including:

  • Severe pain following the procedure
  • Heavy, bright red bleeding
  • Cramping afterward that can make it hard to sleep

Snacking on Dates

You might want to start eating more dates during your third trimester. One study showed eating dates didn't necessarily induce labor, but it lessened the risk for "augmentation of labor," when a healthcare provider will step in with medication after labor stalls.

Dates are safe to eat throughout pregnancy, said Dr. Campaigne. Keep in mind that a 100-gram serving of dates, which is about four dates, is nearly 300 calories and contains eight grams of fiber, which is a third of the recommended daily serving.

Nipple Stimulation

Nipple stimulation, rubbing or rolling your nipples, may be an effective way to get those contractions going.

A study of pregnant females between 36 and 38 weeks showed that one-half of them stimulated their nipples three times daily for 15 to 20 minutes until they reached 39 weeks, while participants in the other group didn't stimulate their nipples at all. Researchers found that, as a whole, the group that stimulated their nipples went into labor earlier and had softer cervixes than the non-nipple stimulating group.

Stimulating the nipple triggers the release of oxytocin, which can trigger labor. It seems like a labor induction method that's worth a try, right? According to Dr. Peskin-Stolze, it can sometimes work too well and hyperstimulate the uterus, resulting in more prolonged and severe contractions that could lead to fetal distress. "I tell women not to do this unless it's in a controlled environment in labor and delivery," said Dr. Peskin-Stolze.


In one study, one group of pregnant women walked for 40 minutes four times a week from week 34 until delivery, while another group of participants did not walk. The walkers were more likely to have a cervix that was more "prepared" for delivery and to go into labor naturally than the non-walkers.

While this is promising, this was the first study examining the subject. According to Dr. Campaigne, there could be a downside to walking when you're very late in pregnancy. "I believe in energy conservation at the end of pregnancy. The work of labor and bringing baby home is so big that I find there's a kind of sweetness and stillness in waiting that's important," explained Dr. Campaigne.

This doesn't mean parking yourself on the couch all day and night—it just means knowing your limits. "If you take a five-mile walk on the day you go into labor, you'll have exhausted your muscles, and we need that energy for later," said Dr. Campaigne.

Having Sex

Unless a healthcare provider has advised you otherwise, sex is generally safe throughout pregnancy—including at the very end.

"The thought is that the prostaglandins in semen may soften the cervix," said Dr. Peskin-Stolze. There's also the belief that having an orgasm can trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone that can induce labor and is the natural version of Pitocin, a medication that stimulates contractions.

Despite this, there's no solid evidence that having sex brings on labor. But if you're in the mood, go for it. You'll likely have to take four to six weeks off sex after delivery anyway.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

Acupuncture is a technique that involves inserting tiny needles into the skin to treat ailments, and it has long been used to get labor going. However, although one study found evidence it may soften the cervix, more studies are needed to examine this link and whether acupuncture, in general, helps induce labor.

A similar therapy, acupressure, involves pressing on specific pressure points throughout the body. You may have heard that getting a pedicure or foot massage can stimulate labor—something that could be related to an acupressure point on the foot. "The theory is that there's an energy current there that, if triggered, may help labor emerge," said Dr. Campaigne.

However, the same study also noted insufficient research on acupressure as a method for inducing labor.

At the very least, this method has no unwanted side effects, and a pedicure might be your last shot to get in some self-care before your life becomes all about your newborn.

Sipping Wine

Some people swear by this, but there's no evidence it works. Interestingly, Dr. Peskin-Stolze said alcohol was formerly used to halt labor.

"While it may not be helpful to get labor going," continued Dr. Peskin-Stolze, "it may help you relax and sleep if you're having false labor." Still, Dr. Peskin-Stolze doesn't recommend drinking alcohol during pregnancy, even when you're at term.

Consuming Herbs

Among pregnant individuals who have tried herbal medicine for inducing labor, a popular method is drinking castor oil, a vegetable oil pressed from castor plant seeds.

The method may have some promise: In one study, a group of pregnant women between 40 and 42 weeks drank two ounces of castor oil, and, as a control, another group at the same stage of pregnancy drank two ounces of sunflower oil. The participants who drank castor oil and previously had a baby went into labor quicker than the participants who drank sunflower oil.

However, the study was small, and more research is needed to examine the link between castor oil consumption and labor induction. There's also a downside to castor oil, according to Dr. Peskin-Stolze: "This oil is a laxative, and it causes nausea and GI upset. While it won't reliably result in labor, it will result in diarrhea and dehydration."

Another herbal formula some pregnant people try is black cohosh, but it's a definite no-no. "The herb black cohosh is one of the more concerning methods, as it can have catastrophic fetal effects," said Dr. Peskin-Stolz. Dr. Peskin-Stolz also advised against taking (orally or vaginally) evening primrose oil, another common herbal remedy.

Remember, the US Federal Drug Administration doesn't regulate these herbal supplements, and there's limited research assessing their safety.

Why Induce Labor?

The main reason your healthcare provider may want to induce labor is if your health or the baby's health is at risk. Some additional reasons may include:

  • You are more than two weeks past your due date.
  • The baby has stopped growing.
  • You have a chronic health problem like diabetes, high blood pressure, or problems with your heart.
  • You have a health problem that developed during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.
  • There is a problem with the placenta.
  • There is not enough amniotic fluid.
  • You have an infection of the uterus.
  • You have premature rupture of the membranes (when your water breaks before you go into labor).

A Quick Review

Your healthcare provider may recommend inducing labor if there's a concern for your or the baby's health. If you search for natural ways to get labor going, you'll probably find many real and anecdotal methods to induce labor. Some methods may not be effective—they may even be unsafe. Discuss labor-inducing methods with your healthcare provider before trying any to keep you and your baby safe.

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