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Can pizza from this NorCal restaurant really induce labor? Customers say yes

Can this pizza induce labor? Some pregnant women think so

The Prego pizza from Skipolini's Pizza in Folsom is believed by some to help induce labor.
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The Prego pizza from Skipolini's Pizza in Folsom is believed by some to help induce labor.

A week-and-a-half before her due date, Fayleen Peebles and her family packed into their cars and drove 25 miles through rain and traffic to Folsom for pizza.

There were pizzerias closer to the mom-to-be’s home in Elk Grove, sure. But none had the reputation of Skipolini’s Pizza, where the “Prego Pizza” is rumored to have the power to send women straight to the delivery room.

“My cousin, she’s been wanting me to try it my whole pregnancy,“ Peebles said. “As soon as we found that there was one out here, we instantly came.”

The pizza equivalent of an everything bagel or a kitchen sink ice cream sundae, Skipolini’s Prego Pizza bears 13 toppings above a thick crust, marinara sauce and melted mozzarella. Salami, pepperoni, sausage, ham, ground beef, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, oregano, linguica, black olives, bell peppers and heaping handfuls of onions and minced garlic.

As the story goes, a pregnant woman walked into a Bay Area Skipolini’s in 1981 and jokingly asked for a pizza that would induce labor. After eating the manager’s concoction – one of just about every topping in the restaurant – the woman’s water broke that night.

It’s a tale that’s been replicated time and again, including 140 documented cases on Skipolini’s website. As many as 10 pregnant women come into each of Skipolini’s seven restaurants on a given night, general manager Victor Perez said.

Perez brought his sister-in-law a Prego Pizza when she was nearly due. By the time he walked out of the house that night, her water broke. He replicated the strategy with his own wife, though it took her about 24 hours to go into labor.

“We have so many cases where actually as they’re eating the Prego Pizza, their water breaks at the restaurant and they’re like, ‘We gotta go,’” Perez said. “I (tell) everybody anytime they’re eating a Prego Pizza, you gotta let us know as soon as you start feeling something because we’re not certified to deliver babies.“

The powers in Skipolini’s Prego Pizza seem to have made their way into other entrees around the country. From shrimp quesadillas in Gainesville, Florida, to lemon cupcakes in Charlottesville, Va., to “The Salad” in Studio City, most metropolitan areas seem to have their own famous childbirth-inducing dishes, said Dr. Robert Azevedo, an OB-GYN and physician-in-chief for Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento.

A suburban Atlanta restaurant called Scalini’s offers a free gift certificate if expectant mothers don’t deliver within two days of eating their eggplant parm, one step beyond Skipolini’s “Italian Guarantee” that women near their due date will definitely give birth at some point in the future.

The internet is full of women preaching the benefits of pineapple, ginger cookies, spicy foods and other cures to kick-start the delivery process. The spicy red sauce at Mountain Mike’s Pizza is another purported baby-pusher according to online maternity discussion boards, though vice president of marketing Carol DeNembo stopped short of making the connection.

“While we can neither definitively confirm nor deny whether our delicious pizza has labor-inducing effects on near-due pregnant women, we will say that our pizza is known to produce joyous, and sometimes unexpected, responses from our guests,” DeNembo wrote in an email.

Medical professionals haven’t found any links, either. There’s no scientific evidence that what women eat (or don’t eat) in the final days of their pregnancy has any bearing on when they go into labor, Azevedo said. Sutter Women Services medical director Bill Gilbert agreed, writing in an email that he hadn’t heard “anything scientific about foods to induce or start labor.”

It’s correlation without causation, Azevedo said. Women eat these dishes near the end of their pregnancies. When the baby starts its journey out within the next day or two, the parents tie it back to the much-hyped meal.

“It really keeps that myth alive out there because most women who are trying to do that are at full-term pregnancy,” Azevedo said. “They just spontaneously go into labor, but oftentimes link it back to certain food or a certain place, especially if it’s known in the community.”

Other old wives’ tales, such as drinking castor oil and serious walking, are similarly bunk, Azevedo said. The baby will usually come when it wants to come. In the final days of pregnancy, he recommends eating lots of small meals, staying well-hydrated, moderate exercise and resting as much as possible.

There is one thing that can help induce childbirth, Azevedo said; the same thing that got the couple there to begin with. Doctors use a concentrated dose of lipids called prostaglandins, also found in semen in lower doses, to induce childbirth when necessary. Sex isn’t guaranteed to get the ball rolling, but Azevedo conceded that “there is some evidence” that it may help.

And maybe there’s no wrong time to scarf down a pizza. During the course of a pregnancy, Azevado recommends women eat foods rich in protein, calcium and folic acid – found in meat, cheese and some crusts, respectively.

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