The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Midwives most commonly suggest evening primrose oil and blue cohosh to hasten labor. Though each herb has a plausible mechanism for working, they also come with potential downsides.
Evening primrose oil, which is prescribed in capsule form to be taken three times a day or rubbed directly on the cervix, is believed to help soften the cervix and ready it for labor. However, the few published studies that have looked at its effectiveness failed to find that its use caused labor to begin any earlier. But one study suggests it may actually prolong the active phase of labor and boost the incidence of certain labor complications (such as arrested descent of the fetus in the birth canal).
Both blue (Caulophyllum) and black cohosh (Cimicifuga) have been used to treat menstrual ailments for centuries. However, some studies have suggested that blue cohosh can have some dangerous side effects in pregnancy, so it should be avoided.
Meanwhile, raspberry tea is often recommended in the weeks before a due date to tone the uterus but hasn’t proved to have any effect on labor. And numerous studies have suggested that acupuncture may help induce labor in women who are full term.
Forty-three percent of the respondents in Schaffir’s study said they exercised more in the final days of pregnancy in hopes of bringing on labor. But although good for you, exercise hasn’t proved to speed labor, Schaffir says.
His best advice to past-due women longing for that first contraction? Skip the home remedies, eat right, rest and enjoy those last few days of pregnancy as much as possible. “The safest and healthiest labor is one that starts spontaneously,” Schaffir says.