Castor Oil To Induce Labor

by Carol Roberts, Childbirth Researcher on April 7, 2011

Castor oil - does it really induce labor? Some women say so, but it can be very messy and uncomfortable. So why not try a more gentle method? Download our free guide now to find out how.

Situation: You are 41 weeks pregnant and excited to give birth so that you can go back to your pre-pregnancy state. However, there are no signs of labor nor do you feel that you will be giving birth in the next few days. You know that normal term pregnancy is only up to 42 weeks and you will be having a post mature baby after that. Overdue babies pose some problems, so you want to hasten the labor induction process. But you don’t want to be pumped with medication because you fear of the effects they might have on you or your baby.

Don’t despair. There are natural ways to induce labor and give birth safely. One of them is castor oil. Health practitioners have rated it as good as other types of labor induction. Castor oil is a type of vegetable oil obtained from the castor seed. It has a high concentration of unsaturated fatty acids, a clear to light yellow color, a pungent odor, and an acrid taste that can be nauseating. Castor oil is primarily a stimulant laxative, but many women have used it successfully to induce labor and experience natural childbirth.

Here are helping guides and tips on using castor oil to induce labor. Knowing how and when to use castor oil properly will help induce labor without endangering your self or your baby.

How Castor Oil Works to Induce Labor

The use of Castor oil as a medicinal substance traces back to ancient Egypt and Europe during the Middle Ages. It was then considered as folk medicine and is said to support the healing of the small intestines.

Today, it is most widely known as a laxative to be used for constipation and as a cleansing aid for the intestines prior to a medical procedure (i.e., ultrasound, etc.). However, it is not a preferred treatment for constipation because drinking castor oil has the side effects of painful cramps.

Because of its laxative effect, castor oil is also used to stimulate contractions that bring about labor and eventually childbirth. It is believed that the cramping in the intestines brought about by castor oil ingestion leads to cramping in the uterus leading to stimulation of contractions.

A study showed that 30 of 52 women (57.7%) had labor contractions within 24 hours of taking castor oil against 2 of 48 women (4.2%) who did not try castor oil.

When to Use Castor Oil

Use castor oil only when the body is ready for labor. This means your pregnancy has to be full-term before you can induce labor on your own, which is anywhere from 38 to 42 weeks. Anytime earlier than 38 weeks your baby is exposed to danger. If you are more than 42 weeks pregnant, it is advisable to consult your doctor about labor induction.

Never use castor oil to induce labor if you have experienced complications during the second trimester, third trimester or at any time during your pregnancy.

How to Use Castor Oil and How Much Castor Oil to Take In

Castor oil is available over-the-counter at most drugstores. People who have taken castor oil recommend mixing it with other drinks or food since the taste is unpleasant and can make you nauseated or even cause vomiting.

Fruit juices, ice cream, and milk have been used as adjuncts to castor oil. One woman even recommended pouring the oil into the pizza’s cheese topping or mixing it with pasta. Another mixed it with liquor and sucked on a lime after taking the castor oil shot.
As an aid to labor induction, the castor oil recommended dosage is 2 to 4 tablespoons.

Other Uses of Castor Oil

  • Castrol oil is extensively used as an additive in industrial products like paints, lubricants, hydraulic fluids, soaps, cosmetics, etc.
  • It is also found in cosmetics such as soaps, shampoos, lipsticks, and other make-up products.
  • The US FDA has approved the use of castor oil for dermatologic purposes. It is also found in many other drugs.
  • Derivatives of castor oil can be found in food flavorings and additives.

Warnings and Precautions

Since castor oil is a laxative, it brings about diarrhea. Aside from loose stools, diarrhea causes the body to excrete fluids and electrolytes that result in dehydration. A pregnant woman who is dehydrated loses her strength and stamina to endure the physical stress of labor. This can be potentially dangerous to both her and the baby.

There is an argument that castor oil induction causes the baby to pass meconium in the amniotic fluid. If meconium is aspirated into the baby’s lungs, it can lead to serious health problems.

Other risks include fetal distress from powerful contractions, a premature baby, and uterine rupture.

The Benefits of Natural Labor Induction

Using natural ways to help induce labor is safer than having medications injected into your body. You can walk around before giving birth, further encouraging contractions. You have a faster recovery period and you can breastfeed your baby immediately since you do not have to worry about the baby taking in the drugs that come with artificial induction. Your baby will be alert and responsive since he or she will not have drugs in the system.

All in all, castor oil is a good natural way to induce labor, especially for women who fear using other medical forms of labor induction. Weigh the pros and cons of this method and broaden your knowledge about castor oil so that you can make an informed decision and have a safer and healthy childbirth.

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