Natural Ways to Promote Labour

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this webspage are for general information purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your midwife or primary health care provider before starting natural attempts to promote labour.

Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

In the third trimester (28 weeks and beyond), drink 1-2 cups of red raspberry leaf tea daily. If you don’t like the flavour of the tea on it’s own, try mixing it with spearmint and rosehips.

If you’re not a tea-drinker, you can take 1.5-5 g daily in capsule or tablet form.

Research shows that red raspberry leaf:

  • Shortens labour without risk to mom or baby (1)
  • Decreased likelihood of preterm labor (1)
  • Decreased likelihood of going too far past your due date (1)
  • Less likely to have their waters artificially ruptured (1)
  • Lower overall rates of caesarean section, forceps delivery, and vacuum extraction (1)

How it works:

  • It contains fragarine, which strengthens, stimulates and tones the uterus to help with contractions and preventing heavy bleeding after birth (2)
  • It is high in vitamins and minerals that help smooth muscle contract and relax (2)



1. Parsons M, Simpson M, Ponton T. Raspberry leaf and its effect on labour: safety and efficacy. Australian College of Midwives Incorporated Journal. 1999 Sep 1;12(3):20-5.

2.  Romm A. Botanical medicine for Women’s health E-book. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2017 Jan 25.

Eat Dates

At 36 weeks, eat 6-8 deglet noor dates or 3-4 Medjool dates a day. Dates are rich in carbohydrates (simple sugars), so talk to your midwife before trying this method if you have gestational diabetes.

Research shows that eating dates:

  • Increases cervical dilation when arriving at the hospital (1, 2, 3)
  • Decreases the need for induction of labour or augmenting labour with oxytocin (1, 3)
  • Increases the success rate of vaginal birth if an induction is needed (2, 3)
  • Shortens the first stage of labour by nearly 50% (1, 3)
  • Decreases the risk of your water breaking (1, 3)
  • Decreases the risk of heavy bleeding after birth (4)

How it Works:

  • The exact mechanism is unknown, but experts believe it’s likely related to it’s effect on oxytocin
  • Dates increase estrogen and progesterone hormone levels that when combined with uterine irritability in late pregnancy, increase the uterus’ responsiveness to contraction-stimulating factors (2)
  • Dates cause oxytocin receptors on the uterine muscles to respond more comfortably and quickly to the oxytocin your body makes to go into labour (2)



1. Al-Kuran O, Al-Mehaisen L, Bawadi H, Beitawi S, Amarin Z. The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2011;31(1):29-31. doi: 10.3109/01443615.2010.522267. PMID: 21280989.

2. Kordi, M., Aghaei Meybodi, F., Tara, F., Nemati, M., Taghi Shakeri, M. The Effect of Late Pregnancy Consumption of Date Fruit on Cervical Ripening in Nulliparous Women. Journal of Midwifery and Reproductive Health, 2014; 2(3): 150-156. doi: 10.22038/jmrh.2014.2772

3. Razali N, Mohd Nahwari SH, Sulaiman S, Hassan J. Date fruit consumption at term: Effect on length of gestation, labour and delivery. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2017 Jul;37(5):595-600. doi: 10.1080/01443615.2017.1283304. Epub 2017 Mar 13. PMID: 28286995.

4. Khadem N, Sharaphy A, Latifnejad R, Hammod N, Ibrahimzadeh S. Comparing the efficacy of dates and oxytocin in the management of postpartum hemorrhage. Shiraz E-Medical Journal. 2007 Apr;8(2):64-71.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

At 37 weeks, consider acupuncture or acupressure.  Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points of the body while acupressure involves using the thumbs or fingers to apply pressure to specific points. They can be used to soften and thin the cervix and to induce labour. Local practitioner Wei Huang offers acupuncture for induction, as well as Carrie Johnsen at Red River Acupuncture.

The research shows that acupuncture and acupressure:

  • Reduce labour pains (1)
  • Ripens and opens the cervix (1)
  • Decrease the need for medical induction (1)

How it works:

  • It stimulates the uterus by hormonal changes or by the nervous system. (1)
  • Increase uterine contraction strength by central oxytocin release or by parasympathetic stimulation of the uterus (1)

Click here for instructional videos on acupressure points you can start at 36 weeks at home! Included are acupressure points to reduce pain in labour.

Sexual Intercourse & Orgasm

Begin at 37 weeks or beyond. Have sex 2-3 times a day, for 2-3 days in a row may promote labour at term. This protocol assumes a heterosexual cis-gendered couple.  Sexual intercourse is considered safe in pregnancy if your waters haven’t broken and you do not have a low-lying placenta. Orgasm and nipple stimulation contribute to the effectiveness of sex to encourage labour. Sex must always be consensual.

There is currently no conclusive research that supports sexual intercourse as a natural way to induce labour. (1)

How it works:

  • Human semen has a high concentration of prostaglandin. Prostaglandins soften the cervix and strengthen oxytocin-induced uterine contractions. (1)
  • It physically stimulates the lower portion of the uterus (1)
  • Orgasm and nipple stimulation release oxytocin, causing uterine contractions (1)



1. Kavanagh J, Kelly AJ, Thomas J. Sexual intercourse for cervical ripening and induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2001, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003093. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003093. Accessed 21 February 2022.

Nipple Stimulation

At 37 weeks, begin nipple stimulation.

Manual: Apply traction and a pulling/rolling motion to the nipples together (or separately but one after the other) for 15-30 minutes, 2-3 times per day. Having your partner perform the manual stimulation increase the force and thus improve the effective.

Double electric pump: for a  total of an hour in this sequence – pump 20 mins, rest 10 mins, pump 10 mins, rest 10 mins, pump 10 mins.

Single Pump – Pump for 15 mins on each breast and to switch between your breasts consistently. Pump 4 times total (twice per side).

Research shows that nipple stimulation:

  • Can promote labour within 72h for birth parents with a favourable cervix (1)
  • Decreases the risk of postpartum hemorrhage (heavy bleeding after birth (1)

How it works:

  • Nipple stimulation release oxytocin, causing uterine contractions (1)



1. Kavanagh J, Kelly AJ, Thomas J. Breast stimulation for cervical ripening and induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2001(4).

Clary Sage

At 37 weeks, Put 20 drops of Clary Sage oil in 50ml carrier oil and massage gently around the abdomen, hips, lower back and pelvis daily.

There is currently no formal research supporting its use.

How it works:

  • Stimulates the release of oxytocin (1)
  • Promotes effective uterine contractions by intensifying strength and the pulling up action on the horizontal uterine muscles to dilate the cervix and help the baby drop into the pelvis (1)
  • Speeds up a slow labour (1)
  • Improves breathing by calling the lower spinal cord (1)



1. Hobbs V. Aromatherapy in Pregnancy. Labour, Birth & Postpartum. 2013.

The Miles Circuit 

At 37 weeks, do the Miles Circuit daily. Starting with 10 minutes per position per day, adding a few minutes each day until they get to the full 90 minutes.

There is currently no formal research supporting its use. Read testimonials here.

How it works:

This position series can help to rotate a baby. As a natural method of induction, it helps get things going if baby just needed a gentle nudge into position to set things off.



1. The Miles Circuit. Homepage [Internet]. Cited 21 Feb 2022. Available from:

Stretch & Sweeps

Your midwife will offer a vaginal exam and “Stretch and Sweep” at your routine prenatal appintment.  During a stretch and sweep,  your midwife will use sterile gloves and lubricant. Then they will put two fingers into the vagina to examine and stretch the cervix. Next they will sweep their fingers around the inside of the cervix to separate the bag of waters from the lower part of the uterus. (1) Your midwife can only do a “Stretch and Sweep” if your cervix is open.

“Stretch and Sweeps” may cause discomforts like cramping or bleeding due to cervical change. Research shows that although clients report it’s uncomfortable, they felt the benefits outweighed the harms and most would recommend it to other pregnant people. (2)

There are theoretical risks including infection, rupture of membranes, and bleeding from an undiagnosed placenta previa. (1) No clinical studies have found an increase in infection levels after a “Stretch and Sweep.” (1) Your midwife uses sterile gloves and lubricant to decrease the risk of infection. A placenta previa is ruled out on routine ultrasound scan.

The research shows “Stretch and Sweeps:”

  • Ripen your cervix for labour (1)
  • Reduce the rate of medical induction of labour for 1 in 8 pregnant people (2)
  • Decrease your time to delivery (1)
  • Decrease the risk of going over 41+0 weeks gestation (1)

How it works:

Sweeping causes your body to release prostaglandins, softening the cervix and strengthening oxytocin-induced uterine contractions. (1)


1. Delaney M, Roggensack A, Leduc DC, Ballermann C, Biringer A, Dontigny L, Gleason TP, Lee LS, Martel MJ, Morin V, Polsky JN. Guidelines for the management of pregnancy at 41+ 0 to 42+ 0 weeks. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. 2008 Sep 1;30(9):800-10.

2. Finucane EM, Murphy DJ, Biesty LM, Gyte GML, Cotter AM, Ryan EM, Boulvain M, Devane D. Membrane sweeping for induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2020, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD000451. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000451.pub3

Evening Primrose Oil

At 38 weeks, take one vaginal capsule of evening primrose oil 1,000 daily. Take it at night and wear a liner to bed to minimize the mess. The gel capsule will melt with your body heat and some oil may leak from your vagina. You can buy capsules at in the vitamin/supplement section of drug stores or health food stores.

Research shows that evening primrose oil:

  • Decreases the rates of medical cervical ripening (1)
  • Reduces Caesarean section rates (1)
  • Shortens the first and second stages of labour (1)

How it works:

It contains linolenic and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which are the main precursors for prostaglandin synthesis. Prostaglandins cause uterine contractions to help your cervix change to get ready for labour. (1,2)


1. Hemmatzadeh S, Charandabi SM, Veisy A, Mirghafourvand M. Evening primrose oil for cervical ripening in term pregnancies: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine. 2021 Jul 14.

2.  Romm A. Botanical medicine for Women’s health E-book. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2017 Jan 25.

The “Midwife’s Brew”

At 40 weeks, ask your midwife about the recipe for the “Midwife’s Brew” or “Labour concoction.” Your midwife may recommend trying it to promote labour if your cervix is ready. They will explain the research and how the components work to bring on labour.

Labour Tincture

Book an appointment with Dr. Tracy Cook, ND at the Naturopathic Clinic to discuss use of the labour tincture. Please be aware it contains black and blue cohosh, which have been linked to increased rates of meconium and uterine hyperstimulation.