Castor oil has been used to induce labor for centuries, especially by women who have reached full-term and are not yet experiencing any labor contractions. More recently, however, healthcare providers have been leaning towards more modern methods of labor induction, such as the use of intravenous medications, which are deemed to be safer and more effective.
Still, castor oil for labor has a long history of use stretching back to the time of the ancient Egyptians. This method of inducing labor is still used by many people. Learn more about castor oil and labor by reading the rest of this article.
Castor Oil and Pregnancy
Although it is not certain when the use of castor oil to induce labor first started, historians believe it was used by the ancient Egyptians in 4000 BC. There are many other natural ways to induce labor, but castor oil was said to be the most effective at that time. As a result, doctors and midwives continued to use castor oil to induce labor for centuries up to this very day, although the popularity of the practice has dwindled in light of new scientific developments in labor induction.
Aside from inducing labor, castor oil has another purpose in pregnancy, and that is to start the flow of breast milk after delivery. Castor seeds without the hull are even used as a birth control method, as they are believed to cause abortion when placed inside the vagina.
Other benefits of castor oil include acting as a laxative for constipation and healing inflammatory skin conditions, including dissolving warts and cysts.
Does Castor Oil Induce Labor?
Modern scientists are divided over the ability of castor oil to induce labor, but it is generally believed that it will work only if the mother is ready to give birth. The ability of castor oil to induce labor stems from the fact that it effectively works as a laxative. A small amount is enough to stimulate the smooth muscles of the intestines. This, in turn, will tighten the muscles of the uterus, hence initiating the labor process.
Although research regarding the effectiveness of castor oil to induce labor is limited, there are several studies that have proven its worth in initiating contractions. A study done on 100 post-term mothers showed that after a single dose of 60 ml of castor oil, more than half of the women started their labor contractions within a few hours. Some report having active labor within 24 hours of ingestion.
Basically, you can use castor oil to induce labor if you are already 40 weeks into pregnancy and are starting to show signs of labor, such as cervical thinning and softening. You should never use castor oil to induce labor if you have not yet reached your due date or you have a high risk pregnancy because of pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension.
How Do You Use Castor Oil to Induce Labor?
The typical dose given to pregnant women who want to use castor oil to induce labor is around 2-4 fluid oz every 12 hours. It can be mixed with 6 oz of orange juice and 1 tbsp of baking soda to make it more palatable, since castor oil has an unpleasant taste that may induce nausea and vomiting.
You can also opt to have castor oil shots, which involves taking in 2 fluid oz of castor oil and then sucking a lime or lemon afterwards to remove the aftertaste.
Another way to drink castor oil is by making it into a milkshake, which is very effective in masking the unpleasant taste of the oil. For this, you will need 2 oz of castor oil mixed with 2 scoops of ice cream and ¼ cup of milk. Combine these ingredients in a blender, and then drink the mixture.
Are There Any Side Effects in Using Castor Oil to Induce Labor?
Before you use castor oil to induce labor, you must take note of the side effects that it may have. You may experience abdominal cramping, but take note that this is an expected effect and may be a positive sign that the castor oil is working to induce labor. Other side effects include:
- Decreased urination
If you experience diarrhea, you should make sure that you increase your fluid intake so that it will not lead to dehydration. Since the castor oil does not enter the mother’s bloodstream as it goes directly to the intestines, there is no need to worry that your baby will suffer the same effects that you have experienced with castor oil.
Never use castor oil to induce labor all by yourself. Make sure your healthcare provider is involved in your decision so that he or she can determine if this is the right labor induction method for you.