A journey of a thousand miles, they say, begins with a step, say conception, and must surely end one day, in delivery.
A successful pregnancy journey comes at the end of delivery, and towards this tail end, another ‘brief’ journey of labor must kick in.
To see this end successfully, a pregnant woman must be able to go through labor at the right time. While naturally, labor comes at a set time, it may have to be induced if there’s a delay.
However, instead of taking chemical drugs (medications), which may have side effects and contraindications, there are natural and safe herbal teas that induce labor.
This article is research-based and promises comprehensive detail on some safe teas that induce labor, including clinical reports, dosages, and probable side effects where applicable.
What is labor, and how it works
Labor is the final stage of pregnancy, usually experienced in hours or days, and that prepares you for delivery (in vaginal delivery(3) ) when it occurs between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy.
The process starts when you begin to feel frequent, longer, and intense contractions from the irregular contractions that come and go randomly during your term, like jerky spastic fetal movements you do feel.
Labor (1.a, 1.b, 1.c, 1.d) comes in three stages with different levels of contractions till your delivery:
- Stage one (early labor): This is when your body prepares for birth. Labor at this stage lasts anywhere between 12-24 hours if it’s your first delivery and 8-10 hours in subsequent pregnancies/births. Your cervix will open during this stage, dilating from 0-6cm.
- Stage two (active labor): This stage of labor comes with stronger contractions that move you into delivery. During this stage, your cervix dilates from 6-8cm up to 10cm and opens up quickly and entirely while you push and then give birth.
- Stage three (afterbirth): You deliver the placenta at this stage.
However, labor may not start naturally, may not progress as it should, may last several hours than usual, or delivery may not be in sight due to the cervix not dilating enough, or in other terms, labor not induced.
How is labor induced?
When labor does not start naturally or progress as it should, medical assistance may be required to help induce labor. Medically, some practices involved to help induce labor include:
- taking medications (such as oxytocin and prostaglandins),
- performing amniotomy (breaking your amniotic sac) (2)
- membrane sweep or
- taking teas that induce labor.
On the other hand, some mothers may prefer not to seek medical assistance in a hospital for delivery and would want to induce labor at home.
One sure help that comes in handy is herbal teas that induce labor and help dilate your cervix.
However, you should speak with your healthcare provider about how you feel and guide you about true and false labor.
Interaction of herbal teas with labor
While labor ought to be a natural occurrence that happens anywhere from 37 weeks or two weeks before or after the predicted date of birth, it is not recommended to induce labor before 39 weeks of pregnancy except if there is a complication (1.b), (3).
As with medications such as Pitocin®, a synthetic form of oxytocin that interacts with your system to induce labor, teas have a similar effect at the molecular level to do the same.
While medication may expose you to some risks, herbal teas pose a ‘safer’ alternative.
Teas that induce labor
The following teas have proven studies of safely inducing labor and have been used for many years by pregnant women from many parts of the world:
- Raspberry leaf tea
- Licorice tea
- Parsley tea
1. Chamomile tea (most effective – has oxytocic effect for uterine contraction)
Chamomile, also known as Manzanilla in Spanish, is a medicinal herb that contains flavonoids and terpenoids and is used to manage menstrual disorders and muscle cramps. It can also be taken as a tea to manage flu.
Studies have been conducted to identify the effect of chamomile to induce labor, which saw a significant statistical (4) impact of chamomile inducing labor – onset of labor, interval of taking chamomile and onset of labor.
This fact can be corroborated by the negative effect during early pregnancy when chamomile tea can cause miscarriage by inducing preterm labor (5), among other complications. On the other hand, sleepy time tea while pregnant is unsafe because of the chamomile contained.
Chamomile Tea to Induce Labor At 39 Weeks and Success Stories
The same study (4) as above, conducted on 80 Iranian women at a gestational age of 40 weeks or older, a week more than 39 weeks, saw the significant positive effect chamomile had in inducing labor. The result shows success stories from the women, reported no ‘chemical side effects,’ and recommended it can be ‘suggested for stimulating labor in post-term pregnancy.’
How much chamomile tea should I drink to induce labor?
In the same study of the 80 Iranian women, the dosage administered was a bottle of 42,500 mg capsules of chamomile (500 mg per capsule) to be taken as two capsules every 8 hours daily (6 capsules per day).
Though the chamomile form used in this study was capsule, the equivalent of the dosage can be taken as tea.
2. Raspberry leaf tea (popular but has a weak effect)
Raspberry leaf, the perceived popular natural herb among women who believe it helps shorten labor and makes it easier (7), does not exactly hold this effect as claimed according to clinical reports available. However, the results still hold true that it induces labor.
This study (7), which aimed at identifying the effect and safety of raspberry at a specific dosage (2 x 1.2 g per day) on labor and birth outcomes, concluded statistically that raspberry leaf at the dosage used had no adverse effect on the mother or child. Still, contrary to popular claims, it did not shorten the first stage of labor.
However, the conclusion also included that it shortened the second stage of labor, which is birth, and that forceps deliveries were lower. Forceps delivery (8) is a situation during vaginal delivery where assistance is required when the final stage of delivery is not progressing due to prolonged labor.
What this implies is that raspberry leaf induces labor, dilates the cervix, and is safe, but it does not shorten the delivery time.
Nonetheless, if you have gestational diabetes, you should not take raspberry leaf tea. Raspberry leaf may lower insulin levels in women with gestational diabetes mellitus (9).
More recent research published online in 2023 reports “a weak effect of raspberry leaf on inducing labor” (10).
How much raspberry leaf tea should I drink to induce labor?
According to the study (7) referenced above, the dosage administered was 1.2g of raspberry leaf twice daily.
While herbals are generally perceived worldwide as natural and should be safe, few clinical trials corroborate such claims.
After your delivery, you may need to increase or decrease your milk supply. Herein are guides on what teas decrease milk supply if you have an oversupply of milk and what to drink to increase breast milk.
You should consult a physician before taking any tea when pregnant or breastfeeding.
(1.a) Labor: Cleveland Clinic – Labor & Delivery, (1.b) John Hopkins Medicine – Labor, (1.c) Mayo Clinic – Labor and Delivery, postpartum care, (1.d) InformedHealth.org/NIH – Pregnancy and birth: When your baby’s due date has passed
(2) Amniotomy (breaking your amniotic sac): Cleveland Clinic – Amniotomy
(3) Vaginal delivery: Cleveland Clinic – Pregnancy: Types of Delivery
(4) Chamomile effect (study): PubMed – Onset of Labor in Post-Term Pregnancy by Chamomile
(5) Preterm labor from Chamomile: PubMed – Herbal Medicinal Product Use During Pregnancy and the Postnatal Period
(6) Oxytocic and uterine contraction effects: PubMed – Complementary and alternative medicine in obstetrics, Obstetrics & Gynaecology – Complementary and alternative medicine in obstetrics
(7) Raspberry leaf – ‘shortening and making labor easier’: PubMed – Raspberry leaf in pregnancy: its safety and efficacy in labor, PubMed – Raspberry leaf and its effect on labour: safety and efficacy, Wiley Online Library – RASPBERRY LEAF IN PREGNANCY: ITS SAFETY AND EFFICACY IN LABOR
(8) Forceps delivery: Cleveland Clinic – Forceps Delivery
(9) Raspberry leaf and diabetes: PubMed – Raspberry Leaf and Hypoglycemia in Gestational Diabetes Mellitus
(10) The 2023 published research on Raspberry: PubMed – Raspberry Leaves and Extracts-Molecular Mechanism of Action and Its Effectiveness on Human Cervical Ripening and the Induction of Labor
(11) Black cohosh: AJP Reports/PubMed – Severe Hyponatremia Associated with Use of Black Cohosh during Prolonged Labor and Unsuccessful Home Birth, PubMed – Safety and efficacy of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) during pregnancy and lactation, NCCIH – Herb-Drug Interactions: What the Science Says
(12) Blue cohosh: PubMed – Complementary and alternative medicine for induction of labour, The Journal of Pediatrics – Profound neonatal congestive heart failure caused by maternal consumption of blue cohosh herbal medication