Does Spicy Food Actually Help With Labor? Here's What An Obstetrician Has To Say

As a pregnant patient approaches their due date, many people will try at-home tactics to help induce labor. These may include going for a walk, engaging in sexual intercourse, or stimulating the nipples (via Healthline).

You may have also heard talk of eating spicy foods as a method for jump-starting labor. In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Dr. Vaibhavi Umesh, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Stony Brook Medicine, broke down where this tip may have come from and whether or not there is any truth behind it.

"Natural methods for labor induction are commonly discussed in popular literature, and recently several research articles have looked into these alternate methods for labor induction," she starts off explaining. "Eating spicy food is often talked about as an unconventional method for labor induction." Dr. Umesh states that in some cases, this information may have been passed down from one family member to the next. "Sometimes, information like this is passed from generation to generation, as old wives' tales or anecdotally by women who tried something and felt like it worked," she says. "These types of rumors are often rooted in science," Dr. Umesh notes.

Spicy foods may pile on additional discomfort

"With regard to spicy food — people have guessed that eating spicy food may irritate the GI tract and [that] this may cause uterine contractions, but we do not know this for sure," Dr. Umesh told us exclusively. "Some research attempted to correlate eating spicy food with early labor, but we do not have any robust data that proves spicy food causes labor."

Rather, Dr. Umesh explains that eating spicy foods to kick-start labor may actually cause more discomfort for the patient. "If you have heartburn, it is probably best to avoid eating spicy food, and you should talk to your OBGYN about treatment options," she states. "Spicy foods are often a trigger for heartburn, and experiencing heartburn during pregnancy can be very uncomfortable."

Because there is no guarantee that eating spicy foods will do the trick, adding on the potential discomfort of heartburn may not ultimately be worth it, she explains. "There is no evidence that ingesting spicy food will guarantee the onset of labor, so you may be bringing on unnecessary discomfort for no reason." Instead, Dr. Umesh encourages patients to speak with their doctor. "You can discuss other methods for labor induction that are safe and effective with your OBGYN if you would like to learn more," she offers.

Alternate foods that may help induce labor

When weighing the pros and cons of eating spicy food during pregnancy, Health Digest asked Dr. Umesh if there are any health benefits to be gained in doing so. "There is no good data discussing the benefits of eating spicy food while pregnant," she says definitively. Rather, it's best to try and stick to well-rounded meals while pregnant. "It is important to maintain balanced nutrition while pregnant, and this is something you should discuss with your OBGYN," Dr. Umesh encourages. "Eating spicy food during pregnancy, especially if you enjoy it, is generally safe; however, it can cause some uncomfortable side effects such as heartburn and indigestion," she reiterates.

In lieu of spicy foods, we asked Dr. Umesh if there are any other food items that may be more beneficial when it comes to inducing labor. "There are several foods that are rumored to help induce labor such as castor oil, dates, pineapple, and raspberry leaf tea to name a few," she states. However, she notes that there is little scientific evidence to support these claims as well. "Again, like with spicy food, though there may be some truth to these old wives' tales, the data is inconclusive on how effective these foods are on labor induction," she concludes.