Pregnant women are turning to a 'maternity salad' to bring on labour, but does it really work?

Can a salad really bring on labour? [Photo: Getty]

As anyone who has ever gone over their due date will likely appreciate, heavily pregnant women will do near on anything to kick-start labour.

Just ask Hilary Duff.

The 31-year-old actress is currently expecting her second baby and has turned to a special ‘maternity salad’ to try and induce her delivery.

The salad, made by Caioti Pizza Café in Los Angeles, features a simple mix of romaine, gorgonzola, walnuts, watercress and the restaurant’s secret herb-balsamic dressing, has become famous for its mysterious labour-inducing properties.

Hilary Duff has turned to the maternity salad to bring on labour [Photo: Getty]

Hilary is just one of the hundreds of mums-to-be who visit the café and order the salad in the hope of bringing on labour.

“This salad is supposed to make you go into labor…@caioti_pizza don’t let me down,” she posted to her Instagram stories earlier this week.

The salad is so well-known that even gynaecologists in the local area have started recommending the restaurant to their pregnant patients to give them some hope.

“Doctors send their patients here — so do midwives and doulas,” Carrie LaDou, owner of Caioti Pizza told Today. “Everybody knows us and the salad has become an end-of-pregnancy tradition for most locals.”

But can a salad really cause the onset of labour?

“Women have for a long time looked towards ways of initiating labour. This might be because their pregnancy is prolonged beyond 40 weeks and they would like to have a natural onset of labour rather than be induced,” Mr Ian Currie, consultant gynaecologist at BMI The Chiltern Hospital told Yahoo UK.

“Various remedies have been used over the years but none have really undergone any serious scientific scrutiny.”

Mr Currie goes on to explain that though there are usually ‘loose’ hypotheses to justify the eating of certain foods or the doing of certain things to bring on labour, actually science still doesn’t fully understand how the human body initiates labour.

“Mechanism for onset of labour is complex and it is a really important area of research particularly when labour starts too early,” he continues.

“Premature labour can result in many problems for both mum and baby. Fortunately with modern obstetric and neonatal care those risk are reducing gradually.”

So what could be behind the reported success of the maternity salad in terms of bringing on labour?

“There is a suggestion that the substances in balsamic vinegar may have an impact,” Currie continues.

“If this was so shouldn’t we see higher rates of natural onset of labour in countries with high consumption of these products eg Italy. In fact Italy actually has the highest Caesarean section rate in Europe, although that might be for other reasons.”

Liz Halliday, Deputy Head of Midwifery at Private Midwives has another theory about the success of the salad. “One thing to remember is that women over 40 weeks of pregnancy are already at a high chance of labouring and so eating the salad might be coincidental or provide a placebo effect,” she says

Currie believes bring-on-baby trends should undergo more scrutiny before experts can say they work and therefore recommend them.

“Whether the medical professional support these or not will however not stop women who are usually really fed up, tired and achy in looking at any possibility to start labour.”

So even though it is unlikely that the ‘maternity salad’ is the miraculous labour starter heavily pregnant women hope it to be, is there anything else that can be done to kick start the process?

According to Liz Halliday Midwives and Obstetricians will often recommend the following, although all of these have little if any evidence to support success:

  1. Eating a spicy meal may irritate the bowel which in turn may encourage contractions in the uterus and start labour.
  2. Going for a long walk may help the baby’s head to engage and start labour.
  3. Having sex may help to ripen the cervix through the action of mild prostaglandins found in semen.
  4. Having sex that results in female orgasm increases oxytocin levels and may start labour.
  5. Nipple stimulation may increase oxytocin levels and may start labour
  6. Acupuncture or reflexology may ripen the cervix
  7. Taking a homeopathic regime may help to start labour

“It can also be advisable to simply relax and take a day off,” Liz Halliday adds. “Sometimes the anxiety of trying to bring on labour may actually be the very thing stopping labour from happening. Normal gestation is anything from 37 to 42 weeks, and it is important to remember that a 40 week date is simply a guess. Until a woman is over 42 weeks she is not overdue, but simply still pregnant. Perhaps changing this misconception is the key to reducing the pressure on women and that in itself might bring on labour.”

And we all know the other old wives tales about bringing on labour don’t we? Neflix, curry and chill anyone?

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