Does Castor Oil Work to Induce Labor Yourself?

by Carol Roberts, Childbirth Researcher on July 4, 2011

Will castor oil let you meet your baby? Some ladies say so, but we have found a much gentler method. Download our free labor guide to find out more now.

Of all of the old wives tales to induce labor, probably one of the most famous is the recommendation that a pregnant woman take castor oil in the final weeks of her pregnancy in order to induce labor. Is this true though?

Does castor oil work to induce labor yourself?

Castor oil causes diarrhea. As part of that process, your body releases prostaglandins, which are a compound known to cause contractions. Similar compounds are released during sexual intercourse in male semen, which is one of the reasons why sex is similarly recommended to induce labor. The other reason is that sex release Oxytocin, another contraction-causing compound.

Many women say that indeed castor oil worked to induce labor. This technique doesn’t work for every woman, but every woman is different. It certainly has a basis in fact though, and there are enough new mothers who say it worked for them that it may be worth trying from the standpoint of effectiveness alone. There is more to the matter though than mere effectiveness.

You should consider first that castor oil is unpleasant and stressful. There are easier and gentler ways of inducing labor yourself. Castor oil is dehydrating unless you fill up on liquids. Diarrhea also means that you’ll be losing your nutrition. Right now your body needs all the energy and nutrition it can get, as does your baby. Also think about the fact that whatever you digest, your baby has to digest. If castor oil is uncomfortable for you, just imagine how unpleasant it might be for your baby. Furthermore, castor oil can cause vomiting, which is an intensely draining and occasionally dangerous experience even for a non-pregnant woman. Do you really want to put yourself and your baby through this?

So while castor oil does work to induce labor for some people, you may want to consider the other possibilities first. For instance, you could try taking some herbs or eating some foods which are believed to induce labor. Evening primrose oil, cumin, ginger root, raspberry leaf, and black and blue cohosh are herbs which can induce labor. Pineapple is a prime food believed to induce labor, and many new mothers indicate that spicy foods may have helped them go into labor.

You can also try exercises such as walking, squatting, sex, using a birthing ball, or going up stairs two at a time. These exercises are gentle to your baby and you, and safe for most women to perform.

Reflexology and acupressure are two other methods you can do yourself to induce labor. The great thing about these methods is that they won’t induce labor prematurely, and they don’t require you to put anything in your body that you might have an adverse reaction to. While the foods suggested are safe, the herbs are perfect for everyone, and the castor oil should really be treated as a last resort. Choose a healthier way to go into labor like acupressure, and your baby will be born when it’s ready and when you are!

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