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Foods to provoke labor – an unscientific study


I was 39 weeks pregnant, uncomfortable, and hungry. I headed to Caioti Pizza Café in the valley to perform an experiment: will “THE salad” (yes, that’s the way it appears on the menu) really help induce my labor?

caioti pizza menu caioti pizza

I walk (waddle?) in, sit down with my husband. Our waitress brings us 2 waters. She sets a journal next to me on the table without saying a word. I open it to find hundreds of entries, from different women, on the same mission as me.

Caioti Pizza maternity journal

I made my entry, ate the salad (and pizza, which was oh so good) and later that night I was in the hospital in labor. Was it THE salad? Or just coincidence?

There are many foods that are believed to help provoke labor – spicy foods are usually on top of that list. I can include anecdotal evidence that Piri Piri Sauce may work. A pregnant friend of mine slathered it on top of ribs and 2 days later went into labor.

I headed to the literature – is using food to provoke labor an old wives’ tale or is there scientific evidence to support this notion?

The only study I could find in any database that studied if food could provoke labor was a Chinese study that used “nutrition food inductive drug” to induce labor in pregnant women. The article was in Chinese with no interpretation available. I can’t tell you what these nutrition foods are, let alone if they worked for women in the study.

One study, the “Listening to Mothers” survey, cited about 30% of women used some sort of non medical intervention to try to induce their own labor. These methods included nipple stimulation, sexual intercourse, ingesting castor oil, herbal treatments, and walking / exercise. Two percent used some “other” form of trying to self induce labor, but the “other” was not specified. Perhaps eating special foods?

I couldn’t find any other studies. My self conducted experiment seemed promising. Overall though, I say more scientific study is needed.

And as far as what I tell my patients: To optimize baby’s outcome, elective induction of labor is not recommended before 39 weeks. So save your trip to Caioti Pizza until then.

Study: Kozhimannil KB et al Use of nonmedical methods of labor induction and pain management among U.S. women. Birth. 2013 Dec;40(4):227-36



Jan 30, 2015

Original post published: 

* Content reviewed annually for accuracy 

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