LOS ANGELES (Circa) -- Being pregnant is tough. Being pregnant and overdue is one of the most uncomfortable things in life, according to any overdue pregnant woman you ask. That's why a bunch of them—hundreds—are turning to a salad that's supposed to induce labor.
"I had it on a Monday in March—the last Monday of March. My water broke Wednesday," said Selena Mares, who had the salad when she was pregnant with her boy.
"I had the salad on Easter Sunday and then went into labor on Tuesday to have my baby Thursday.”
The salad they're talking about is called "The The Salad," and it's sold at Caioti Pizza Café in Studio City, California, not too far from Los Angeles. Head to the restaurant's Yelp page, and you'll see a few pictures of pizza and lots more of smiling pregnant women before they eat "The The Salad." It's been written about a lot, but no one really knows how, why or if it actually works.
To get the full story of how this urban legend even started, we went and talked to Carrie LaDou, the owner of Caioti Pizza Café.
"Thirty-one years ago, a woman came in, and she was past due," said LaDou. "She ate the salad, and she said, ‘Wow, I think I’m having contractions.’ And I believe, before she even got home, her water had broke, so she immediately told all her pregnant friends. It has truly been an organic phenomena in the sense that we have not ever promoted, or made any declaration."
What's in the salad?
"The ingredients in the salad arefresh romaine, fresh watercress, pasteurized gorgonzola and then our dressing. And we don’t tell all the ingredients in our dressing.”
That dressing, a balsamic vinaigrette, is what LaDou thinks does the trick, at least that's what her own ob-gyn told her when she was pregnant 14 years ago.
"He said it’s possible that the chemistry brought about by the balsamic dressing—It has enzymes. They have positive and negative charges and that could cause muscle contractions."
It's a recipe that's kept expectant mothers coming and chronicling their experience in a journal.
“I have stacks and stacks of these journals at my house," says LaDou, pointing at a basket on the wall that has notebooks with "Baby Journal" written on it. "I’m sure that we have at least a hundred journals by now."
I would say anywhere from 10 to 30 pregnant women eat the salad everyday.
She grabs one of the journals and reads one of the entries to us.
"From August of 2014, the mother said, ‘Get it out.’”
If the salad is successful, the new parents can write their baby's name on the "Salad Babies Wall."
The waitress, Gloria, says anywhere from 10 to 30 pregnant women eat the salad everyday. Some come to the restaurant, others send their "extremely tired, worn out" husbands to pick up the salad.
After waiting for about half an hour, we saw 5 pregnant women come into the restaurant. But only one was willing to go on camera and let us record her experience.
"I’m 39 weeks tomorrow," Alexis Villalobos tells us. "I’m here to have the "The Salad," I guess that’s what it’s called. I heard about it from my friends. Some of them say it's worked for them. Others say it hasn't."
There's only one way to know if such a salad actually "works." While we waited 24 hours to see what effect the salad had on Villalobos, we went to talk to Dr. Leena Nathan, an ob-gyn at UCLA Health.
"You know, there’s no good evidence for balsamic vinaigrette being useful to promote labor. But clearly there is something in this salad that works for some people to help get into labor," said Dr. Nathan.
Still, I'm sure pregnant women struggling to walk or do much because of the rambunctious weight inside them would want to know if there's anything they can do to induce labor.
"Nipple stimulation—so if you stimulate your nipples, it actually promotes pitocin, which helps induce contractions," Dr. Nathan said. "Overall, I tell people to just wait it out because there’s no great evidence for any particular therapy. Sometimes I do recommend acupuncture, though, for my patients because that has seemed to help some people."
Now that we had the medical side of it unpacked, it was time to see if it worked for Villalobos. I called her at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, exactly 24 hours after I'd last seen her.
"Hello?" answered the other phone on the line.
"Ok, so I wanted to call to see if there’s any update, good or bad, just lay it on me. How are you doing?” I asked.
"All right, well, I’m in the hospital right now. I came in at about 8 a.m. after having pretty heavy contractions all night. And as it stands, it’s 1:30 p.m. right now, and I’m 5 centimeters dilated, if not more, because that was checked actually a couple hours ago."
After handing up, I called LaDou to let her know to make room for another name on the wall.
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