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Keywords:

  • folklore;
  • induction;
  • labor;
  • obstetrics

Abstract:  Background:  Sometimes pregnant women take it on themselves to hasten labor to alleviate the discomforts of pregnancy. This study sought to identify how frequently women attempt to induce labor through nonprescribed methods, and what factors are associated with the use of such methods.

Methods:  Surveys were distributed to postpartum women who had delivered at a Midwestern academic hospital. Women were asked what methods they had used to induce labor on their own, where they heard about these methods, and whether they had discussed it with their physician. Information about demographics and mode and timing of delivery was also collected.

Results:  Of the 201 women who responded, 99 (49.3%) did not try to induce labor themselves, whereas 102 (50.7%) used some type of nonprescribed method to induce labor. The most common method was walking (43.3%), followed by intercourse (22.9%), ingesting of spicy food (10.9%), and nipple stimulation (7.5%). Very few respondents used laxatives, heavy exercise, masturbation, acupuncture, or herbal preparations to induce labor. Women who used any nonprescribed method to induce labor were younger, had a lower parity, greater gestational age, and were more likely to have had a vaginal birth.

Conclusions:  A substantial portion of women used nonprescribed methods to induce labor, often without discussing them with a physician. Maternity caregivers may want to inquire about such issues, especially where interventions may do more harm than good. (BIRTH 38:2 June 2011)