The scientific evidence on the theory that curry induces labour is sparse to say the least. Numerous methods of inducing labour have been suggested over the years but do they have any basis in fact or are they all a coincidence?
A quick internet search will bring up thousands of forum entries from women claiming that eating a spicy curry successfully induced their labour; a few results peppered here and there however, present disparaging commentaries surrounding these pregnancy ‘myths’. The lack of proper studies carried out (hospitals will never serve anything as tasty as curry) means that both proof for and proof against the theory is sadly lacking.
The biological premise behind the idea is that spicy food can stimulate the bowel to empty (as I’m sure we’re all aware), the effect of which can also stimulate your uterus. Similarly, drinking castor oil or eating pineapple is suggested to have a similar effect.
If eating curry induces labour shouldn’t India be full of premature babies?
The side effect of eating a spicy curry when you are sensitive to spices is that it will stimulate the bowels; this will not work if you eat spicy food regularly. Be warned though, if you are sensitive to foods such as curry or pineapple it is unwise to eat a lot of these late on in pregnancy as it can result in heartburn and sickness which, along with everything else you are faced with during labour, you could probably do without.
Alternative ‘remedies’ to get your baby moving include nipple stimulation and sex to release the hormones and prostaglandins which initiate the birthing process by softening the cervix. A popular natural remedy is raspberry leaf tea although, to date, there is no evidence to support this. A variety of herbal remedies are often recommended to mums-to-be including Clary Sage; this has a narcotic effect and can strengthen the uterus but is not suitable for use during pregnancy.
It is important to remember that, as much as you may want to hold that snuggly bundle in your arms, the baby will come when he/she is ready. It is crucial not to rush your baby, as babies born as late as even 39 weeks have an increased risk of mortality. Bear in mind that, as uncomfortable or inpatient to have your infant as you are, you have a lifetime ahead with your baby and to avoid any risk of difficulties it is better to wait.
If your doctor or midwife feels that there is any risk to you or your baby or if you are more than 42 weeks pregnant then you can be offered an induction. Prior to a formal induction being carried out a membrane sweep is offered with the aim of encouraging labour to start. A labour will be induced through the use of pessaries or gels to soften the cervix and start contractions. This process is not guaranteed to work and can take up to 24–48 hours to initiate the birthing process.