How You Can — and Can’t — Induce Labor

Jill Duggar Dillard and her husband, Derrick, share a photo of Israel David. (Facebook)

After a reported 42 weeks of pregnancy, Jill Duggar Dillard and her husband Derrick finally welcomed Israel David Dillard into the world. In a video posted on Facebook, Duggar Dillard admits delivery “did not go as planned” – she’d been preparing for a home birth, but ended up in the hospital. Considering the 19 Kids and Counting star was a nail-biting 14 days past her due date, it seems likely that she had her labor induced.

STORY: Jill Duggar Dillard Welcomes Baby Israel David

Ob-gyns often opt to induce when a pregnancy goes a week or two past the typical 40-week time frame to prevent any potential complications, such as infection. But if the parents-to-be are iffy about taking meds to bring on contractions, they could try relying on natural methods that can supposedly get labor going. Duggar Dillard hinted that she may have tried one last weekend, in the caption of a pic of she and Derrick on their way to grab Mexican food for lunch.

STORY: Jill Duggar Dillard Stirs Debate With Photo

“[Maybe this] will make the baby come!” she wrote, referencing the long-held belief that a spicy meal can spur the urge to push.

Israel David Dillard was born on Monday, April 6 – two weeks after Jill Duggar Dillar’s due date. (Facebook)

Can a spicy dish or any other old-school home remedy for inducing labor really work—or are they just folklore-inspired myths with no scientific support? Below, ob-gyns reveal the truth behind seven natural tactics:

• Eating spicy food.
Was Duggar Dillard onto something by indulging in a Mexican meal? Not according to science. “The idea that eating hot food, like Chinese or Mexican, to help start labor has been around for a long time,” Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Parenting. “But no research shows that it’s effective.” There might actually be drawbacks. Spicy food can be dehydrating and cause indigestion, which doesn’t make you feel so great on top of the discomfort of sporting a huge bump.

• Having sex.
The same activity that starts pregnancy can also put it to an end. “Semen contains prostaglandins, the same hormone-like chemicals the female body produces to trigger contractions,” says Minkin. “It’s thought that the prostaglandins from semen also act on the uterus, leading to the start of labor.” There’s another thing sex has going for it too: the stimulation of the cervix can set off contractions, she adds.

STORY: Jill Duggar Dillard’s Vacation Stirs Controversy

• Undergoing acupuncture.
“A small study showed that acupuncture may help a woman go into labor a little earlier, but it’s still up for debate as to whether it really works,” Alyssa Dweck, M.D., ob-gyn in Westchester, New York and coauthor of V Is for Vagina, tells Yahoo Parenting. If you’ve never undergone this form of Chinese medicine that involves needles, your 40th week of pregnancy may not be the best time to start.

• Drinking castor oil.
“Castor oil activates the digestive system, so the thinking here is that by stimulating the gut, you stimulate the uterus as well,” says Minkin. Like spicy food, this one falls under the probably-can’t-hurt category, she says…unless you drink too much and get stomach-sick.

• Stimulating your nipples.
You know how breastfeeding prompts the release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone? Oxytocin is also one of the body chemicals responsible for labor. If a pregnant woman (or her partner) touches and plays with her nipples, oxytocin production can get cranked up, and contractions may get going. A word of caution: “While this can induce labor, I don’t recommend it because it may also lead to too many contractions coming too fast, and that can cause stress on the mom and the baby,” says Minkin.

• Taking a brisk walk.
Exercise has incredible benefits, but bringing on contractions doesn’t appear to be one of them, despite what you may have heard. “Moving around will relieve stress and discomfort, but there’s no proof it can actually get you into labor,” says Dweck.

• Getting a belly massage.
A relaxing rubdown can help ease contractions once they start, but there’s no evidence that it causes them to happen in the first place. “But a good massage can help an anxious or restless mom-to-be relax and not worry too much about when labor will happen,” says Minkin.

Please follow @YahooParenting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Have an interesting story to share about your family? E-mail us at YParenting (at)