My informant, RW, is my mother. She was a labor and delivery nurse in a Dallas hospital in the 1990s. I asked her to tell me if there were any superstitions or rituals she learned working as a nurse. She told me there were lots of different ideas about how to induce labor. This piece was collected during an informal interview at home.
RW: “I learned a lot of this during my nursing residency at Parkland hospital. And there’s a whole giant hispanic population there, and there’s lots of things they do to induce labor. Well the midwives will tell you that perineal massage with olive oil, or any kind of essential oil will help. Um… you know rose hips, drinking tea with rose hips will induce labor. Um… of course, any time on a full moon, if you’re lucky enough to do that, will help. You know, walking obviously helps. Sex helps. Um… oh nipple massage or stimulation, that helps. And because that actually does make your body produce pitocin, on that one. There’s some things that the hispanic women would do… weird things like laying metal spoons across their belly. Not sure why they thought that would help, but…”
Working in a labor and delivery unit, it’s not surprising that my mom picked up lots of folk medicine surrounding how to induce labor. As she mentioned, some of it has been scientifically proven. However, there’s also probably an element of wanting to do what you know culturally, or what has been repeated by your own mother. Childbirth can be stressful, and having rituals that your family has said would help may help women to relax and calm down more than any medical effect it may have. This can be shown because, as RW said, many of this practices are associated with a specific culture.