Are There Foods that Induce labor?

Women searching for foods that induce labor will turn to other mothers who swear it was that extra-spicy entree from their favorite Mexican restaurant that brought them face to face with their new baby. Unfortunately, the statistics are out on this one - there is simply not enough research to support that any foods are effective in inducing labor.

Anecdotally, women have sworn the following are foods that will induce labor:

  • Pineapple
  • Spicy Foods
  • Chinese Food
  • Eggplant Parmesan
  • Licorice

The most well-known of these is spicy foods, like hot peppers or any other spicy Mexican dish. However, the research is now showing these foods may be something to avoid prior to labor. Certain spicy foods release capsasins, which may be counterproductive in labor. When the baby descends down the birth path, the pressure exerted releases endorphins into the woman's body. These endorphins are nature's pain-killer. In effect, the capsasins counteract the endorphins and rob the mother of her natural ability to have a pain-free birth.

Eggplant parmesan was also in vogue for a time as a suspected labor inducer. While this dish may have been seen as contributing to labor, the seasonings in the dish were the most likely culprits. Both basil and oregano are herbs contraindicated in pregnancy due to their potential ability to stimulate uterine contractions.

Pineapple is not thought to induce labor, but rather is thought to act as a cervical ripening agent that stimulates prostaglandin production, although this has not been scientifically proven.

Real licorice candy, the black kind, is thought to also stimulate the production of prostaglandins. This is due to the chemical, glycyrrhizin. Eating excessive amounts of licorice might also result in mild diarrhea, which causes intestinal contractions that may lead to sympathetic uterine contractions. This type of licorice can also be found in tablet form. Again, no definitive research suggests that licorice can induce labor or that abnormally large amounts should be ingested.

As there is no definitive research to support foods that induce labor, only consume them if it is something you normally select. There's just not enough evidence to say they work for certain, and in which cases they may actually cause harm.


Harman & Kim. "Current Trends in Cervical Ripening and Labor Induction" American Family Physician 1999; 60:477-84.

Roberts, Tracy, Peat, 2000 Rates for obstetric intervention among private and public patients in Australia: population based descriptive study Christine L Roberts, Sally Tracy, Brian Peat, "British Medical Journal", v321:140 July 2000.

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