Pregnant Women Are Steaming Their Vaginas With Coffee to Induce Labor. Here's What Ob-Gyns Say

This is the strangest coffee health claim we've heard in a while, so we took it to the experts.

Coffee is loaded with health benefits—it can power your workout, help you focus, and give you a mood boost. But can it also help get a bun out of the oven? Some expectant moms on the internet seem to think so.

What's been dubbed the “coffee potty method” encourages pregnant women whose due dates have hit and want to induce labor to squat over a toilet or bowl full of boiling coffee grounds for 20 minutes. This hack has been floating around on pregnancy website message boards since 2013, and pregnant women are still trying it and debating it.

Believers say that the caffeine from the coffee grounds will cause a pregnant woman's uterus to contract, and the steam from the hot coffee will loosen up her mucus plug, leading to contractions. And though some women claim that coffee steaming is what caused them to go into labor, ob-gyns aren’t convinced that it really works—and they warn that it's not the best and safest way to get the big push started.

“There are no clinical research trials to say whether it works or not and in pregnancy you don’t want to do any interventions that have not shown to be safe and effective,” Donnica Moore, MD, ob-gyn and president of Sapphire Women's Health Group in New Jersey, tells Health. “Caffeine increases intestinal motility. So if you're having a little constipation problem, sometimes a cup of coffee can get things moving along, but that's drinking it, not sitting on it trying to go into labor."

Dr. Moore doesn't recommend expectant mothers try the coffee potty method because being so close to hot coffee could put them at risk of burns or infection. “The vagina and vulva tissues are very sensitive to heat. Burning and heat can also change the vaginal flora and change the balance of good and bad bacteria that then creates the perfect environment for yeast, which women don’t want especially during pregnancy,” says Dr. Moore.

Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine, also thinks the method is too dangerous and scary for women who are expecting. “Pregnant women in general are not as well balanced. Their center of gravity is altered, so if they're squatting over a pot of boiling water, I would be very concerned about somebody losing their balance and injuring herself,” Dr. Minkin explains.

Instead of coffee steaming, Dr. Minkin believes going for a walk, swimming, or even having sex are safer ways to try get labor going. But she says that you shouldn't try to induce labor no sooner than a week before your due date to avoid a premature birth.

However, Dr. Moore discourages pregnant women from doing anything to stimulate labor on their own. “The only one who should be trying to induce labor for any reason is a woman's health care provider or midwife,” she says. “I get that it is difficult and uncomfortable to be pregnant, especially towards the end. I get it and I sympathize, but there is a reason that Mother Nature starts labor when she does and we need to respect that.”

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