When I was 38 weeks pregnant, my obstetrician informed me if I didn’t go into spontaneous labor by my due date, she would schedule me for a repeat C-section. Having spent my entire pregnancy rallying my doctors, spouse, family and friends to support my goal of delivering vaginally, I was now facing D-day (C-day?) and it was up to me to get things moving.
Talk to any full-term pregnant woman and she’s likely already Googled every method to get the baby out. (Side note: never tell her to “enjoy this time” and “rest while she can.” Just don’t.)
Pelvic pain and sciatica meant that many methods for natural labor induction were off the table for me, namely long walks and don’t-even-talk-to-me-about-sex. Acupuncture and acupressure were out of my budget, and I wasn’t about to start experimenting with Chinese herbs or inserting evening primrose oil into my nether regions.
That left me with one option: food. There are countless anecdotes surrounding certain foods for their abilities to induce labor and I set out to try as many as I could.
My first stop was Caioti Pizza Café in Studio City, California, founded by the late Ed LaDou. The chef, known in culinary circles as the “father of gourmet pizza,” opened his restaurant nearly 30 years ago, but I wasn’t there for the pizza. For decades, The Salad, as it’s officially called on the menu, has been purported to induce spontaneous labor.
Thanks to word-of- mouth success stories, pregnant women waddle into the small café almost daily to dine on the romaine and watercress tossed with walnuts, (pasteurized) Gorgonzola cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, in the hopes of going into labor. Over the years, owner Carrie LaDou has engaged with pregnant customers to learn their personal stories: “We always ask if this is their first “salad baby,” and of repeat customers, seven or eight out of 10 say that it worked for them before.”
Of course, she points out, what constitutes “working” varies among women, since labor has kicked in anywhere from a few hours to several days later — indicating it may have happened with or without the salad.
LaDou says her physician once suggested the enzymes in the dressing’s balsamic vinegar — sourced from a top-secret region — can cause muscle contractions. “I think it’s a combination of the dressing with the salad itself,” she says. “It was a happy accident so I’m not going to mess with it.”
I tried the salad — with extra dressing — a week before my due date, taking only tentative bites because I wasn’t quite ready for the desired effects to kick in. It’s delicious, for sure, and along with friendly wait staff that seemed genuinely curious about my pregnancy and piles of guest books filled with other women’s stories, it made for a welcoming atmosphere.
Still, I had no signs of labor in the coming days. I briefly debated stocking up on fresh pineapple, thought to ripen the cervix. But the theory is that one would have to eat multiple pineapples to reap the benefits of the effective enzyme, bromelain.