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Blue Cohosh for the Induction of Labor

(To learn the early signs of labor and how to cope with them, Click Here!)

What it is:

Blue Cohosh is a plant that was used by Native Americans for many reasons, including induction of labor.  It was used frequently by doctors and midwives during the early 1900s.   It is currently used by many midwives to help aid in childbirth and induction.

What the research says:

Not enough research has been done to support induction of labor, or the safety of using it.  There has also been some case reports that have shown some concern about using it.  Animal studies have shown a possible link to heart defects.


Today the herb is typically given as a capsule or a tincture.  There is not a lot of information on how much to use, but usually midwives will advise to use only a small amount for a short amount of time.

Possible Benefits:

It may increase contraction strength and frequency.

Side Effects:

Stroke and a heart attack was seen during the use of Blue Cohosh, but this was seen only as a case report, and not in a research trial.  It may contribute to birth defects.  Other noted side effects in the infant may include tachycardia and increased meconium.

What the doula can do when her client is using blue cohosh to induce labor:

-Provide your client with as accurate information as possible

-Help the your client work through the pros and cons of this method

-Encourage your client to make sure they are discussing the use of this herb with their care provider as it does appear to have some dangerous side effects and is untested.

-Encourage your client to take care of herself, as this helps the body work better regardless of what else the mom is doing

-Provide some ways to help decrease stress and anxiety as this inhibits labor and is often a part of women’s lives when they are feeling pressured (from themselves or a care provider) to have their baby soon

-Continue to remind them of the different ways their body is preparing to have this baby.  So often we focus on dilation, but that is really one of the last ways your body prepares, and it’s overused as a method of judging when the baby is going to be born.  Focus instead on the baby moving down, the cervix softening, any increases in contractions (even braxton hicks).


Learn more about how our body naturally begins labor.

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Berger J, DeGolier T, (2008). Pharmacological effects of the aqueous extract of Caulophyllum thalictroides (blue cohosh) on isolated Mus musculus uteri. Bios;79(3):103-14.

Jones, T. K. and B. M. Lawson (1998). “Profound neonatal congestive heart failure caused by maternal consumption of blue cohosh herbal medication.” J Pediatr 132(3 Pt 1): 550-552.

Romm, Aviva Jill (2009). “Blue Cohosh: History, Science, Safety, and Midwife Prescribing of a Potentially Fetotoxic Herb.” Yale Medicine Thesis Digital Library. Paper 88.


Rebecca Decker over at Evidence Based Birth(registered), has some great info on the actual research used here

Follow Rachel Leavitt:

Rachel has worked as a register nurse (BSN from University of Utah) since 2004 with a work history in Labor and Delivery, NICU and Postpartum Care. She is also the founder of New Beginnings Doula Training which she organized in 2011. When she's not busy being a mother and grandmother, she can be found reading research papers related to some aspect of childbirth.

2 Responses

  1. Gloria Hennessee
    | Reply

    So is this article about BLUE cohosh or BLACK cohosh? They are two different herbs. Not the same herb.

    • Rachel
      | Reply

      It is about Blue Cohosh, though the video from Evidence Based Birth discusses both of them. If you notice, my references are all about blue cohosh. I tried to find articles that did not combine both blue and black cohosh together (they often are used together) in order to seperate out what, if any of the differences may be. I did another post on black cohosh here: https://www.trainingdoulas.com/general/natural-induction-methods-black-cohosh-to-induce-labor/ I discuss the idea that they are not the same in that post.

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