Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Labor-Inducing Myths Abound

WebMD Health News

April 9, 2002 -- Folk remedies about how to induce labor continue to flourish among pregnant women, regardless of their age, race, or education level. And the fact that many are just plain untrue doesn't seem to deter most women from believing in them.

A new survey shows two out three pregnant women believe walking helps induce labor, and almost half think having sex will also speed up the process.

As expected, friends and relatives were the most common sources of information for alternative advice on the subject. But researchers were surprised to learn that 12% of the women said they heard about the techniques from doctors or nurses.

For the study, Ohio State University researchers asked 102 pregnant women about their awareness of 10 popular folk suggestions for inducing labor and whether or not they believed they worked. The findings are published in the March issue of Birth.

Walking and intercourse were the most frequently heard recommendations, followed by heavy exercise, using a laxative, eating spicy food, and nipple stimulation. Although 84% of the women had been told that walking would help induce labor, 64% believed it would actually work. Nearly half of the 74% of women who had heard sex was a labor inducer believed it.

The study found age, race, or educational status didn't seem to affect the women's beliefs or exposure to these old wives' tales. Women who did not complete high school did not believe in any more folkloric recommendations than those with a diploma.

Researchers say it's important for healthcare providers to be aware of these remedies because some of the activities may actually be harmful to the mother and her unborn child. For example, vigorous physical work and exercise has been linked to premature births, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and limiting growth of the fetus.

"While it's important to maintain some level of physical activity throughout pregnancy, an otherwise sedentary woman might run into trouble if she decides to start an exercise program at the very end," says study author Jonathan Schaffir, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State University, in a news release.

Researchers say some of the old wives tales to induce labor may be biologically plausible, such as sexual intercourse and nipple stimulation, but there is little scientific evidence to support any of them.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
slideshow fetal development
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
What Causes Bipolar
Woman trying on dress in store
pregnant woman
Woman looking at pregnancy test
calendar and baby buggy
dark chocolate squares