Ways to encourage and stimulate labour

This is a list of different methods that can be used to encourage labour.

Not all of these methods have not been subjected to large scientific studies; however, women’s experiences support their effectiveness and safety. Only use the methods that you feel comfortable with and feel free to use a combination of methods.

Prepare Yourself Emotionally and Physically

Emotionally prepare yourself for the labour, birth and transition of having a new baby. Some women find that visualizations work well to prepare for labour and birth. The majority of pregnancy preparation books contain different ideas for visualizations. Walking, squats and lunges can help your baby to move into a favourable position for labour and can also encourage your baby to move deeper into your pelvis.

Belly Massage

Belly massage can encourage contractions. Use castor oil and a couple of drops of lavender or clary sage oil and massage your abdomen in a clockwise direction for 5-10 minutes a couple of times per day.

Sexual Stimulation and Intercourse

Sex can stimulate labour because semen contains prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that can soften and ripen the cervix. Orgasm is a great way to stimulate contractions and can help your baby to move deeper into your pelvis.

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil contains essential fatty acids, which are precursors to prostaglandins, that can soften and prepare the cervix for labour. You can begin taking evening primrose oil at 37-38 weeks, take 500 mg orally two times per day and/or insert one gelcap deep into your vagina at night.


Caulophyllum 30 C is a homeopathic remedy that can be taken from 37-38 weeks to encourage labour. A common dose for Caulophyllum 30 C is 1 tablet 3 times per day for 4 days, take 3 days off, and then repeat for another 4 days. When taking homeopathic remedies, remember to avoid eating, drinking or strong smells (ie toothpaste, peppermint tea, cigarette smoke, coffee) for at least 15 minutes before and after taking the remedy.

Stretch and Sweep

Your midwife can do a ‘stretch and sweep’ which involves doing a vaginal exam and inserting a finger into the cervix and ‘stretching’ the cervix and ‘sweeping’ a finger between the fetal membranes and the uterus. A stretch and sweep can be uncomfortable but may help to initiate labour by softening and preparing the cervix. Studies have shown that doing a stretch and sweep at 40 weeks also decreases the need for more invasive induction methods. Your midwife will offer you a stretch and sweep at 40 weeks.


Spleen 6 is an acupressure point that can be massaged to encourage contractions. Spleen 6 is located 4 fingerbreadths above the inner anklebone on the shinbone. Press at an angle from behind the leg, in and toward the front, the spot will most likely be tne4der. Apply hard pressure on both sides simultaneously for up to a minute at a time or massage the area in small circular movements.

Nipple Stimulation

Nipple stimulation causes the brain to release oxytocin, which is the hormone that is responsible for stimulating uterine contractions. Nipple stimulation involves massage, manual stimulation, sucking or using a breast pump. If this method is being used to actively induce labour after 40-41 weeks, it is recommended that you stimulate both breasts simultaneously for 10-15 minutes, take a 10-15 minute break, and then repeat the cycle for one hour. Nipple stimulation can sometimes cause nipple soreness and irritation.

Castor Oil

Let your midwife know if you are planning on taking castor oil. Castor oil should only be taken if trying to induce labour after 40 weeks.

Castor oil is a purgative that may cause diarrhea and/or vomiting, but can also cause uterine contractions. Castor oil is only effective when a woman’s cervix is ready to go into labour, when it is soft, stretchy and already open. If you are interested in taking castor oil, discuss it with your midwife.