Anecdotal evidence suggests that exercise, sex, and eating certain foods may help move labor along. But it’s best to talk with a healthcare professional before attempting to induce labor.

Your due date is an educated guess of when your baby might arrive.

While many people deliver perfectly healthy babies 2 weeks before or after this presumed due date, it’s recommended that people wait until at least 39 weeks for delivery.

It’s best to let mother nature decide when your baby comes. That said, if you’re 40 weeks in, here are seven natural ways to get things moving.

Most of these methods are anecdotal and don’t have solid evidence that they work, so you should always talk with your healthcare professional before attempting them.

Your midwife or doctor may be unable to confirm that they work, but they can let you know if it’s safe to try with your pregnancy.

1. Exercise

Exercise can be anything that gets the heart rate up, such as a long walk. Even if this method doesn’t work, it’s a great way to relieve stress and keep your body strong for the task ahead.

According to a 2022 study, walking for 30 minutes three times a week at 4 kilometers (km) or 2.5 miles (m) per hour starting from week 38 of pregnancy can help induce labor. It may also help reduce interventions during vaginal delivery.

2. Sex

Though research hasn’t found evidence that having sex actually results in the start of labor, theoretically, there are multiple reasons why having sex could induce labor.

For example, sexual activity, especially having an orgasm, can release oxytocin, which may help jumpstart uterine contractions.

Also, for pregnant people who have sex with men, there are prostaglandin hormones in semen that might help ripen the cervix.

Having sex is safe during the final weeks of pregnancy, but you shouldn’t have sex after your water has broken. Doing so can increase your risk for infection.

3. Nipple stimulation

Stimulating your nipples can cause your uterus to contract and may bring about labor.

Nipple stimulations stimulate oxytocin production. Oxytocin is the hormone that causes the uterus to contract and the breast to eject milk.

In fact, if you choose to breastfeed or chestfeed your baby right after delivery, this same stimulation is what will help your uterus shrink back to its original size.

You or your partner may manually stimulate your nipples, or you can try using a breast pump.

Research shows that breast stimulation can be an effective way to:

That said, the efficacy appears to be highest after performing breast stimulation for at least three days.

4. Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years. The exact way that acupuncture works is unclear.

In Chinese Medicine, it’s believed to balance the chi or vital energy within the body. It might also stimulate changes in hormones or in the nervous system.

That said, acupuncture should be administered only by a licensed acupuncturist.

According to research, the main benefit of acupuncture is increased cervical ripening.

5. Acupressure

Some practitioners believe that acupressure can help start labor. Before applying acupressure to yourself, make sure you get proper instruction from a trained acupressure professional.

That said, there isn’t much evidence that acupressure is actually effective in inducing labor. But if acupressure doesn’t get your labor going, it can still be an excellent way to alleviate pain and discomfort during labor.

6. Eating dates

Research shows that eating dates in the final weeks of pregnancy

Most pregnant people at 40 weeks are likely ready to have their babies out of their bellies as soon as possible and in their arms.

However, there are plenty of perks to waiting until your body naturally decides to go into labor — including recovery.

Pregnant people who weren’t induced typically recover more quickly than those who were. More time in the womb can mean both you and your new baby get to go home from the hospital sooner.

Infants who are born after a full-term pregnancy also experience other benefits. More time in the womb typically means:

  • more time to build muscle and strength
  • reduced risk of low blood sugar, infection, and jaundice
  • improved breathing as infants born even as little as two weeks early can experience twice the number of complications
  • better feeding once born
  • increased brain development, with the brain growing a third of its size between weeks 35 and 40

Let your body do the work for a few more days, and take the time to get as much rest as you possibly can.

We know that’s easier said than done when you’re 9 months pregnant. You and your baby will need all your energy soon enough!

What is the quickest way to induce labor?

If you want to induce labor fast, you need to have it done medically in the hospital. Natural remedies may be able to help, but they’re not a guarantee. If you’ve consulted with your doctor and determined that there is a medical reason for a hospital induction, then methods they might use include giving you medications like pitocin or rupturing your amniotic sac. Learn more about the management of induced labor.

What triggers natural labor?

While various external factors could contribute to triggering natural labor, experts believe the body follows a complex internal mechanism that triggers the uterus to begin contractions.

Before trying anything that might induce labor, speak with your healthcare professional to go over any risks or possible complications.

Though some of these methods are popular folklore among pregnant people, little scientific evidence supports their efficacy.

In most cases, it’s best to let the baby set their birth date, even if it means waiting another week or two.