Published: June 2, 2010
Updated: June 2, 2010
By Kate Griesmann
For expectant mothers, the final weeks of pregnancy can be a trying time. After nine months of growing anticipation, some women try eating spicy foods in hopes of spurring on labor. Does this menu manipulation work?
The connection between spicy foods and labor is essentially a matter of digestion, says Amy MacDonald, CNM, MSN, director of Duke Midwifery Services. Spicy foods can irritate the intestines, which are located near the uterus. In some cases this irritation can cause contractions to start.
“It’s certainly a common understanding that is passed on among family and friends,” says MacDonald. “It’s the same idea when people suggest drinking castor oil -- it causes intestinal irritability.” While it’s not a sure-fire way to prompt the onset of labor, eating spicy foods in moderation isn’t likely to harm the mother or fetus.
If the spices do cause labor pains to start, MacDonald offers plenty of advice on ways stay comfortable and calm. “Women are almost always more comfortable in an upright position than lying down at the start of labor,” says MacDonald.
Walking -- another commonly tried method to induce labor -- can be especially beneficial as it helps maintain good fetal position. MacDonald also recommends slow dancing or sitting on birthing ball. “All of those things provide a sense of comfort and control,” she says.