Darla Torrez shares her opinion on Naturally Stimulating Labor

Many women are being pressured by their healthcare providers to have inductions. Having an induction, which sometimes also means changing plans from a birthing center or home birth to hospital birth, is intense, and many mothers will try to self-induce labor to avoid a hospital induction. Surveys have shown that at least 64% of nurse-midwives in the US, prefer the use of natural methods to induce labor. Darla Torrez is also a promoter of naturally stimulating labor. 

As a midwife assisting mothers with their home birth, water birth, and hospital birth, Darla Torrez has extensive experience helping mothers avoid unnecessary inductions.

In her opinion, labor induction should be based on a medical indication, and the rate should not surpass 10% of births. However, in the US the national average is at least 23%, which is double what it was two decades ago.

Darla Torrez answers what really works for stimulating labor

Generally, it is best to let labor start on its own. When it happens naturally, the conditions are usually best for labor and birth. When labor starts on its own, the baby’s head is in the right position, the right hormones are kicking in, and the uterus has built up a repository of oxytocin receptors that will embrace the natural oxytocin your body will produce to stimulate contractions. 

There are a number of things you can do to stimulate labor. But note that few of these are based on strong evidence, and not all are proved to be safe for the baby. Nevertheless, many women found the following approaches a preferable alternative to the risks of medical induction in the hospital. 

Natural ways to stimulate labor

Darla Torrez Opinion on Natural InductionA membrane sweep (also referred to as membrane ‘stripping’)

Membrane sweeping is a technique your doctor or midwife can do by sweeping her finger around the inside of your cervix and lifting the membranes up off the inner cervix. It is an easy option that can be done quickly and in the practice and has proven to be safe and effective in stimulating labor within 48 hours. About 1 in 8 women will successfully go into labor as a result of the membrane sweep, with no increased risk of infections. In some cases, it needs an extra sweep on a subsequent day. 

Several quality studies, including the Cochrane Collaboration review, have shown that sweeping of the membranes was associated with a reduced frequency of pregnancy continuing beyond 41 weeks, which leads to a significant decrease in chances of needing further medical induction. The main side effects of membrane sweeping are mild discomfort during vaginal examination, mild cervical bleeding, and irregular contractions. 

Nipple stimulation

Pulling firmly on the nipples in a way that stimulates the baby’s sucking, stimulates uterine contractions, and is used to naturally induce labor. Because it needs to be done firmly enough, it may be uncomfortable.. Usually, it works within 3 days for women with favorable cervices on Bishop scoring. By stimulating the nipples, the uterus contracts, which is likely caused by the heightened levels of the hormone oxytocin. This stimulates contractions. For effective nipple stimulation, it’s recommended to do this 30 minutes at a time per nipple, twice daily. There is not much research to prove safety, but it’s not associated with any complications either. Another benefit of nipple stimulation that Darla Torrez points out is that it’s associated with reduced postpartum hemorrhage. 


Among midwives like Darla Torrez, blue cohosh and cotton root bark are the most popular herbs to induce labor. Typically they are used in the form of alcohol extracts, which are to be taken in numerous milliliters at a time, 4 times a day, or more often under the guidance of a midwife. These herbs can be very effective, but blue cohosh is mentioned to be able to cause serious complications in newborns, including heart attacks and strokes at birth. Midwives have also reported an increased risk of meconium in the baby and an increased need for resuscitation, but this increase may also be caused by the baby being overdue. 

While these adverse reports are unlikely due to these herbs, they can’t be ignored. This is why Darla Torrez recommends only using these herbs under the guidance of a midwife or an experienced Clinical Herbalist.  

A safe herb to use, and very popular, is the red raspberry leaf, which can be taken in a strong tea. Use 4 grams of raspberry leaf to 1 pint of water, let it sit for 20 minutes, and take several cupfuls daily until labor starts. It’s not associated with starting preterm labor and has proved to decrease complications at birth for both the mother and the baby. her and baby.

Castor oil

Castor oil is also popular due to many women reporting it as being effective. However, little research has been done to give any conclusive data on its effectiveness. Side effects worth mentioning are terrible diarrhea which sometimes leads to anal burning and irritation during labor. So when you use castor oil, make sure to drink plenty of water with electrolytes. 

Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)

EPO is used extensively by midwives like Darla Torrez to promote the “ripening” of the cervix. It is usually taken in a 1500 mg dose orally, and the oil of opened gel caps is also applied directly on the cervix for up to a week before you want to go into labor. With EPO, studies are limited. Note that if your waters are broken, nothing should be inserted into the vagina. 


Acupuncture is also used to help ripen the cervix to stimulate labor. Research has been done, but the data wasn’t too impressive. However, it is an inoffensive method as long as clean needles and proper procedures are used.


Human sperm has a high amount of prostaglandin, which is a hormone-like substance known to ripen the cervix and encourage labor to start. This is why it has been suggested that sex can be helpful to induce labor naturally. However, there isn’t enough evidence to give any conclusive data on the effectiveness, or how it compares to the previously mentioned methods. But, if your water hasn’t broken yet, it can’t do any harm either. Midwife Darla Torrez recommends three times per day to maximize the chance that it works. 

Spicy Foods

Eating spicy foods to stimulate labor is popular among many women. However, because there is no evidence that it can trigger labor, and because it causes heartburn, Darla Torrez doesn’t recommend this option. 

Darla Torrez also shared her opinion on water birth and its benefits.