There’s no shortage of advice from well-meaning friends and relatives when it comes to inducing labor in those difficult last weeks of a pregnancy. Overdue moms everywhere have tried a variety of techniques to get the show on the road and bring baby into the world.
If you’re 39, 40, or even 41 weeks pregnant — and eager not to be pregnant anymore — you may have heard that pineapple can jumpstart contractions and ripen the cervix. So is it true? Sadly, there’s little evidence proving you’ll actually meet your little bundle of joy any faster by trying this, but here’s what you need to know.
Pineapple is known for its beautiful color, tastiness, and as a main ingredient in tropical smoothies and drinks. It also contains an enzyme called bromelain, which some women have believed ripens the cervix and causes contractions.
Even if you’ve never heard of bromelain, you may have experienced its effects. If you’ve ever eaten a lot of pineapple at once — or even had overripe pineapple — you may have had burning, tingling, or even sores in your mouth. This is caused by bromelain, which some people joke is an enzyme that eats you right back.
Posters on some pregnancy chat boards and social media groups encourage pregnant women at or beyond their due date to try consuming fresh pineapple, not canned — which they say has less bromelain — to get things moving. Users share stories that they were in labor the next day — or sometimes within hours.
Some have tried eating a whole pineapple in one sitting, often causing more (or less) than the desired result, as potential bromelain side effects include nausea, stomachache, and diarrhea.
So anecdotal reports may encourage you to eat large quantities of pineapple to induce contractions. Unfortunately, though, neither a specific quantity nor type has been proven to do so.
But there are several limitations or dilemmas when it comes to scientifically proving the pineapple theory:
- Clinical testing of anything on pregnant women is somewhat unethical, especially if there’s risk to the baby.
- How would researchers know if women who are already 40 to 42 weeks pregnant just happened to go into labor around the same time as consuming pineapple, or if pineapple caused labor?
- In addition, some people think that upsetting your stomach and bowels via spicy foods, pounds of pineapple, castor oil, or other means will lead to labor, which is not the same as a product actually causing uterine contractions.
There has been some limited research, but results are inconclusive. One
Compelling for sure, but the study concluded that evidence of pineapple causing contractions is “clearly lacking.” Plus, a
Finally, a 2015 study found that pineapple juice caused significant uterine contractions in isolated pregnant rat uterus similar to the effects of the hormone oxytocin, a known labor inducer. But the study didn’t find any effects when live pregnant rats were given pineapple juice.
And the problem is, as the study points out, pregnant women don’t have a safe and proven way of applying the juice to the uterus itself.
None of the studies showed an increase in how quickly a rat actually had their babies. None of the studies showed cervical ripening, but simply contractions. Also, not all contractions lead to active labor.
What does all this mean for the average woman ready to meet her little one at 41 weeks? Nothing helpful, it appears. Pregnant women aren’t rats, and we don’t have any sort of medically approved and tested way to get pineapple extract to the uterus. So for now, this one remains in the “don’t try this at home” category. At the very least, talk to your doctor.
Going into labor and delivering a baby is a process that depends on many factors. Eating pineapple can’t cause this to happen.
As the studies above reveal, the research only (sometimes) suggests uterine contractions, not cervix ripening or thinning. For now, it remains most effective to wait for labor to come naturally — or to talk to your doctor if you believe there are reasons you need to be induced — rather than eat pineapple.
All of this tropical flavored conversation may lead you to wonder: Should I be eating pineapple at all, at any point during pregnancy, if there’s even a tiny possibility it could cause uterine contractions?
The answer is yes — go for it without worry! It’s not harmful, as it hasn’t been linked to inducing preterm (or post-term) labor.
Be aware that, because pineapple is high in bromelain, it may cause side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and upset stomach when consumed in large amounts. So it’s best to stick with small portions. And it’s also a well-known heartburn culprit, which pregnant women often struggle with already.
As an aside: You may have heard some worrisome
Talk to your doctor if you have continued concerns about eating certain foods at any point in your pregnancy.
Pineapple hasn’t been proven to start contractions or labor, especially considering that the stomach will probably break down the enzymes before they reach your uterus anyway.
But there’s no harm in eating it and crossing your fingers anyway as long as you have a healthy mindset about it — just don’t feel compelled to eat a whole pineapple! Enjoy it in a normal and moderate amount, as you would any other approved food, throughout pregnancy.
It’s natural to have strong feelings of wanting to control when labor starts, as it can be an emotionally stressful process waiting and wondering when you feel all of the end-of-pregnancy aches, pains, insomnia, and anxiety.
However, putting too much energy into at-home induction methods can leave you frustrated. Discuss your ideas with your healthcare provider and ask them what’s best for you.