A pregnant woman past her due date is often desperate to find ways to start the labor process, so theories about what can jump start it are abundant. Some are scientific, while others are more spiritual. Which are based in fact, and which are simply myths?

Helping Labor Along

"The fact is we are not sure what causes the complex cycle of events to occur between mother and baby," she said. "There are no exercises a woman can do to stimulate labor to begin, but there are certain activities a woman can do to help her baby engage down into the pelvis, which in turn, applies pressure to the cervix and may assist in dilation and thinning of the cervix."

"However, nothing will bring on labor unless the cervix is ready," Fitch said.

How Physical Activity Can Help

According to the Modern Mom site, walking encourages contractions to get stronger and more regular if they have already started because it uses the pull of gravity to pull the baby down and puts gentle pressure on the cervix to encourage it to dilate. Walking doesn't necessarily mean powering through an outside trail or even hopping on a treadmill. Mundane tasks, such as walking throughout the house, checking the mail or climbing stairs, are beneficial.

Why Sex Can Help

It is no myth--sex can actually aid in starting labor. However, it is the hormone in sperm, not the actual intercourse that is key. "The prostaglandins released in male semen can have a softening effect on the cervix and possibly stimulate uterine contractions," Fitch said. "That is why women who are experiencing pre-term labor must refrain from sexual activity. However, nothing will really help unless the cervix is willing and able."

Although medical professionals are usually adamant about explaining that to their patients, some women insist that being mentally prepared or "in touch with their bodies" can bring on labor anyway.

Getting in Touch With Your Body

Labor can't begin if you are tense, so try a warm (not hot) bath, aromatherapy or pamper sessions, such as:

  • manicures
  • dinner dates
  • massages
  • acupuncture