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Pregnant Women May Go to Great Lengths to Induce Labor

WEDNESDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- Walking, sex, spicy foods and nipple stimulation are among the techniques most commonly used by pregnant women who want to induce labor, a new survey finds.

Other methods women reported trying include exercise, acupuncture, masturbation, laxatives and herbal supplements, according to a poll of 201 women conducted by Ohio State University researchers.

Just over half of the women surveyed said they'd tried some method to jump-start labor. Women who attempted to induce labor tended to be younger, first-time moms and pregnant for more than 39 weeks.

Yet most of the women hadn't talked about what they were doing with their doctor, and most said they got their advice about inducing from family and friends, according to the study in the June issue of the journal Birth.

While such attempts are unlikely to cause harm, lead researcher Jonathan Schaffir said doctors should be aware that patients are trying to take matters into their own hands. Little research supports any of those methods, with the possible exception of nipple stimulation.

Nipple stimulation leads to the release of the hormone oxytocin, which can cause uterine contractions.

"These contractions can be hard to control, and there's some potential downside in causing too many contractions," said Schaffir, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, in a university news release. "It's just not something I recommend because there is no established safe protocol."

So, put away the castor oil and hold the hot peppers on your sandwich. Experts believe labor begins when the fetus produces certain hormones -- something moms can't do all that much about.

"Obstetricians and midwives may want to offer some additional reassurance to make patients feel like they don't need to pursue these other techniques," he said.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about labor and birth.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, June 22, 2011

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