This would be great if it were true. We could then advise you to go home and eat a delicious chicken burrito with extra-hot salsa and you would come back in labor.
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This myth may have originated from the fact that spicy foods can cause abdominal cramping. This abdominal pain occurs in the intestines and stomach.
As you near the full term of your pregnancy, your uterus fills your abdominal cavity, which means the cramping may be misconstrued as the uterus contracting.
More than a few women have stories about eating spicy food and within hours ending up in the labor and delivery ward, only to be sent home again because they were not yet in labor. Their stomach and intestines were contracting, not their uterus.
There is some evidence that spices like cayenne can help with pain and can stop bleeding. We remember hearing stories of midwives in Oklahoma using a cayenne pepper compound after delivery to help stop the bleeding from an episiotomy or vaginal laceration.
These midwives packed the laceration with this cayenne compound, which significantly reduced bleeding and helped to ease the pain. We have prescribed a cayenne-based cream for vulvar pathologies and we can report that cayenne does take away pain, but the initial application is a doozie, about as hot as you would imagine cayenne would feel down there.
There are many references to cayenne pepper on the Internet, but if you look at those references regarding labor, some claim that it is effective for starting labor and increasing the strength of contractions, while others claim that it helps stop menstrual cramps. Until more definitive research is done, using cayenne pepper as any type of treatment or therapy is not advised.
When Angela, a twenty-seven-year-old patient in her first pregnancy, was one week from her due date, she inquired about a possible induction of labor, as she was very uncomfortable. Because it was a week before her due date, she was considered an elective induction, and we weren’t able to schedule her for at least seven days.
Disappointed, she left vowing that she would come into the hospital “in labor” before her induction date. I told her to keep her fingers crossed.
Later that evening I received a phone call from a labor and delivery nurse who said that Angela had arrived with intractable nausea and vomiting and severe abdominal pain. There were no contractions on the baby monitor, and the baby’s heart rate was perfect.
I asked Angela if she had eaten anything unusual or if anyone else in her house was sick. I ordered labs and an ultrasound to rule out appendicitis or a gallbladder issue. All of her tests came back normal, so we hydrated her and gave her anti-nausea medication, and I called for a general surgery consult.
About thirty minutes later I received a call from a very amused general surgeon who asked me if I recommended that all my patients drink Tabasco sauce to induce labor. He stated that the patient heard that if she mixed a small bottle of Tabasco sauce with water and drank the concoction, it would put her into labor within twenty-four hours. Obviously, this had to run its course.
I went to see her and explained that we were going to keep her overnight. When I asked her why she told me that she hadn’t eaten anything unusual (as I considered the bottle of Tabasco sauce unusual), she replied, “You asked me if I ate anything unusual.” From that point on I always asked my patients if they have had anything unusual to eat or drink.