But aside from the impracticalities (who has time to do this for hours on end?), this method comes with serious risks: “We know it works,” says Suzy Myers, C.P.M., a certified professional midwife and chairwoman of the department of midwifery at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash. “But you have to be very careful that you are not overstimulating the uterus and making the contractions too strong or too close together. you also have to make sure the baby is tolerating it well by having your health care provider monitor his or her heartbeat.”
Although research results are mixed, anecdotes abound about late babies making an entrance soon after a love-making session. Semen contains cervix-softening fats called prostaglandins (also used in medical induction) and a woman’s orgasm can lead to strong uterine contractions.
One 2006 study of 200 healthy women found that those who had sex after 36 weeks pregnant were significantly less likely to go past their due date or require labor induction. But another study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found no difference between sexually active and abstinent moms when it came to length of gestation.
“If a woman has a low risk for premature labor and no placenta previa, it won’t hurt,” says Schaffir.
Castor oil and spicy food
Midwives have long recommended inducing labor by drinking castor oil (2 ounces in a glass of orange juice or mixed with ice cream) with the idea that it can stimulate the smooth muscle of the bowels, promote the release of prostaglandin and nudge the nearby uterus into action. Research results are varied, but two recent trials showed that full-term women who were given castor oil were more likely to go into labor within 24 hours. But the side effects—including nausea, explosive diarrhea and dehydration— can be grueling, Myers says.
A safer bet for those past 39 weeks? Load up on spicy food, says Hill- Karbowski, which could have similar results without the nasty side effects.