Q: I have heard that eating spicy food can bring on labor. Is this true?
A: It is a myth that eating spicy food during pregnancy to induce labor actually brings on labor. There is no known food that brings on labor. The exact cause of labor is often unknown, but it's believed that the fetus sends a signal which may make the uterus contract and go into labor.
Anecdotally, some women say that as soon as they ate a spicy dish, within several hours they went into labor. Some people swear that it was that extra-hot enchilada from their favorite Mexican restaurant that brought them face to face with their new baby. Unfortunately, there are no statistics on this theory. To date there has not been any research done which says that eating any spicy foods will induce labor or start contractions.
How could eating spicy food work to induce labor naturally?
If you understand the physiology of what can stimulate contractions, it makes sense that eating spicy foods could induce labor in some cases. This is because spicy food can stimulate your digestive system and may even irritate it. The irritation may cause you to have diarrhea. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, and one of the known side effects of dehydration in pregnant women is to cause contractions.
Spicy food may also induce labor by increasing prostaglandin production. The hormone prostaglandin helps to contract the smooth muscles of the body and are known to play a role in inducing labor.
The bottom line about eating spicy food as a way to induce labor is that it's unlikely to induce labor. It is your decision to make. There do not appear to be any disadvantages to eating spicy foods to try to get labor going, with the exception of maybe some gas pains or diarrhea. Moms need to realize however that this is an unresearched area and that there are definitely no guarantees that spicy food will induce your own labor.