Despite the age-old practice of giving birth, we still understand surprisingly little about how the process of labor actually gets started. We know the hormones like oxytocin that are involved and we have a clear understanding of how the cervix changes as it prepares for labor and delivery. But how does it all start? Why are some babies eager to come out ahead of schedule while others prefer to stay put until the last possible moment? How does the baby signal to the mother’s body that it’s go time?

We may not have the answers to these questions yet, but we do have centuries of lore and rumor on how to get the process started naturally. The bakery in my neighborhood guarantees eating two of their lemon cupcakes will put you into labor and many believe strongly in the famous ‘maternity salad’sought by celebrities at a Californian café. Plus, pregnancy can be physically exhausting and is often uncomfortable, so many women are willing to try just about anything to move on to the next stage. But do any of them actually work?

Let’s take a look at the scientific evidence (or lack thereof) behind a few of the most popular methods for inducing labor outside of the hospital.

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