There is nothing more natural than giving birth, yet modern medicine seems to disagree. Gynecologists scare women to thinking that that they are not capable of doing what we have been doing since the beginning of our species. When I got pregnant, I decided that I was going to have a natural birth and in order to prepare for the process I did some research on herbs for labor and birth. I also researched natural methods to produce breast milk.
There is a LOT of information online and unfortunately it is very contradicting. Some websites recommend some herbs for labor while others don’t. This made my search a lot more complicated. Many herbs can cause problems because of abortive features. I drank some lemongrass and rosemary tea, which you are not supposed to, without any problems. Drinking small dosages will not affect you, however it is best to err on the side of safety. If you have complications or are unsure, it is always best to consult with a herbalist or your doctor. My pregnancy was quite smooth and here is what I used.
Herbs for Labor and Birth
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
One of the oldest tonics for pregnant women is raspberry leaf tea, which has been used since the 6th century. It is recommended for women in general since it strengthens the uterus and pelvic area. This tea can help you conceive as it improves reproductive health, while balancing hormones increasing fertility and improving the chances of implantation.
Raspberry leaf tea is full of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, chromium and manganese. As well as vitamin A, C, E and several types of B. The tannins and flavonoids in the tea are strong antioxidants, protecting cells from damage and can even destroy cancer cells.
Some women start drinking this tea at the start of the pregnancy as it may reduce morning sickness and improve the strength of the amniotic sac. However, it is usually not recommended until the 2 or 3 trimester. Studies show that it can shorten the first or second stage of labor. However, there are not many studies done on herbs and they include a very small group or participants. Other studies also showed less use of interventions, including the use of forceps, which reduces the postpartum bleeding. Raspberry leaf tea is also known to lower the chances of pregnancy extending past the due date and a shorter labor.
Many midwives recommend to start drinking this tea between 32-34 weeks. Start with one cup or capsule, increase to 2, then 3 or 4 throughout the day. Stop or reduce the amount if you experience strong Brandon Hicks contractions. You can keep on drinking this after labor since it helps your immune system, prevents anemia and contracts down the uterus.
Although red raspberry leaf is one of the most popular herbs for labor and birth, this tea is not recommended for all pregnant women; don’t drink it if you are going to have a cesarean or have had in the last two years. Also if you are having multiples, have had premature labor, have problems with the placenta or if the baby is in any other position than head down. Ask your doctor first if you have vascular problems, cancer or are taking antidepressants.
Nettle Leaf Tea
It is very important that you purchase tea made from nettle leaf and not the plant which includes the roots. Like raspberry leaf tea, this tea is also loaded with nutrients such as manganese, silica, iodine, calcium, iron, sulfur, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. It also has very high levels of chlorophyll and vitamin A, C, D and K. The last is especially important since it can go into the blood prior to birth. Vitamin K increases hemoglobin, which reduces the possibility of postpartum bleeding.
Nettle leaf tea also helps with leg cramps since it has high levels of magnesium (I also took supplements). Diuretics (like this tea) can also help with cramps and to clean the body of toxins. It also reduces hemorrhoids (thankfully I did not have this problem which may be caused by too much iron) since it strengthens blood vessels and arterial flexibility. Nettle also helps clean the build up of minerals in the kidneys, which must clean 150 percent of the normal blood supply during pregnancy.
The anti inflammatory properties of stinging nettle helps improve the body’s immunity. Calcium from the plant can help lessen the pain during and after childbirth. This tea can be drunk before pregnancy as it increases fertility (in both sexes!) and after since it increases the quantity of breast milk.
Just like red raspberry leaf, this herb has benefits since the first trimester but it is generally not recommended since it can stimulate the uterus. It is best to drink it during the second and third trimester. Do not take it if you are taking blood pressure medication since it may lower your blood pressure or if you are diabetic or hypoglycemic since it can lower blood sugar levels. Nettle leaf tea will help boost energy levels, improve your complexion, nails, hair and skin. Those that have the plant can also eat the leaves which are similar to spinach or take it in capsules.
Many believe spicy food can stimulate labor contractions. While there is no concrete evidence of this being true, it could potentially irritate the digestive system. Even if it doesn’t work in labor it does have other benefits if taken in moderation. Cinnamon is not recommended to be taken daily or in high doses. Women with risk of miscarriage or obstetric disorders should avoid it.
Cinnamon can reduce the insulin requirements for women who get gestational diabetes. It can also lower blood pressure and help control nausea and vomiting. Since it is a natural antioxidant it can improve the health of pregnant women by combating infections caused by fungus and bacteria. In general it is very healthy since it has Vitamin C and E and minerals such as calcium, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, iron, sodium and magnesium. I drank cinnamon tea during my pregnancy sporadically but not for labor inducing purposes.
I bought motherwort in a tincture with other herbs for labor. You can also make it as a tea but the taste is very bitter. It also comes in tablet form, but it can include other substances that can be dangerous. The actual dried herb can also be used under a pillow or by the window to provide sedative effects.
This herb has helped ease anxiety in mothers and women for quite a long time. Like nettle it is also considered a weed and many do not realize its benefits. Online you will find contradictory information about whether to use it or not during pregnancy. This herb can expedite labor and increase uterine contractions, so it is best to talk to your doctor about its use. If you have low heart rate, hypotension, acute gastritis, peptic or stomach ulcer or inflammation of the gallbladder you should not take this herb.
Those who use it at the start of the pregnancy do it to stabilize their emotional state. Stress and anxiety can lead to an increase of contractions in the uterus, so it could reduce the threat of spontaneous abortion. It also improves the function of the digestive track, controlling nausea and eliminating the accumulation of gases. In this stage it is better to drink it as a tea. Motherwort at the end of pregnancy helps contractions be more effective. It can be used by women who have had a lot of irregular contractions or false labor.
Women with heavy periods should not use this, although it can treat menstruation issues such as absent cycles or painful periods since it reduces cramping. This is one of the reasons women use it during contractions.
Motherwort regulates rapid heartbeat, reduces the risk of blood cloths, lowers blood pressure and improves circulation. One if its main benefits is its calming effect (like Valerian) which treats stress and anxiety. Many women use it in preparation and after labor, as it helps with the healing process. It improves your mood, which is why many women use it postpartum to avoid depression.
Blue and Black Cohosh
Even though they have pretty much the same name, blue and black cohosh come from different plant families. Both have been used by Native Americans (in North America) for centuries. These herbs for labor should be used under medical supervision.
Blue cohosh is a powerful uterine tonic that can be used during pregnancy. Baptifolin is its main active ingredient which produces strong estrogenic effects. However, it should only be used at the end of a pregnancy because it can induce labor. Blue cohosh is useful to women who lack muscle strength in the womb because it speeds up the labor process and contractions. It is also relaxing and alleviates pain since it is an antispasmodic and it reduces inflammation.
The main risk of blue cohosh is heart damage in large doses, but oxytocin (Pitocin) which is the commercial drug to induce labor has even more serious risks, including death. Women who have had abortions or miscarries can use it to heal the uterus. It is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers or women who are trying to conceive.
Black cohosh is mostly used to treat menopause since it helps with its symptoms such as mild depression, anxiety, night sweats and hot flashes. Most experts do not recommend taking this while pregnant or nursing. However, it can be used to induce labor since it prepares your cervix for delivery making it faster and less painful. Some professionals mix it with blue cohosh and dong quai which can only be taken during the third trimester since it can be an abortive. These herbs are most effective combined after the 40 weeks of pregnancy. I did not take these herbs for labor as I considered them too risky.
Evening Primrose Oil
This oil has prostaglandins which ripen, soften and dilate the cervix. Women take it orally or vaginally in capsules the last weeks of pregnancy. It is recommended to take them orally after 35 weeks and vaginally between 38-40. There is no risk since it is not an abortive, however there is no evidence that it actually works. Do not take this is you are planning on having a cesarean as it can act as a blood thinner. I did not take evening primrose oil as I considered there were better herbs for labor.
There are plenty of other herbs for labor which you can use, here are a few:
- Black Haw Bark – traditional remedy to induce labor and has a diuretic effect on the uterus.
- Pasque Flower – regulates uterine contractions and maintains a healthy mood during childbirth.
- Vervain – relaxes during labor and supports lactation.
- Valerian – pain reliever, can also help with relaxation and sleep. Slows down a preterm labor.
- Wood Betony – used for labor because it has sedative effects on the nervous system.
- Cumin – safe tea to induce labor because of its spice.
- Shepard’s Purse – this herb is used specifically during birth to stop postpartum hemorrhage. It lowers blood pressure, contracts the uterus and constricts blood tissue and vessels. Many use it to expel the placenta.
- Cranesbill – prevents or stops hemorrhage in childbirth. It is also anti inflammatory.
- Echinecha root tinture – antibacterial herb that helps bring down fever, mastitis, heals uterine and tearing infections.
- St. John’s Worth – prevents and treats postpartum depression, as well as reducing muscle pain.
- Yarrow Flower – disinfectant to spray on wounds helping them heal and killing bacteria. Can be taken internally and externally.
- Red clover blossoms – do not use the leaves. Helps the body moderate and organize hormones.
- Comfrey leaf – rich in nutrients. Builds strong tissues that are less likely to tear during birth.
- Red dates – although not a herb, they have been used since ancient times to prepare for labor since they increase cervical ripening, reduce need for labor induction and help with the dilation.
- Arnica – Homeopathic arnica pills (not the liquid) can help reduce bruising and swelling of perianal tissue after birth.
Did you use any herbs for labor? Write in the comments your experience.