Castor Oil for Labor: What's That About?

Castor Oil for Labor: What's That About?

Keen to get baby movin’ on out? How about castor oil for labor?
Castor oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the castor bean.

While it’s not as popular as it used to be, people have used it for centuries for a variety of purposes.

Perhaps best known for its laxative effects, it’s also used on the skin to improve hydration and fight off inflammation and infection.

So can you use castor oil for labor induction? Is this really a thing? And if so, how and why does it work?

The short answer is — well, it’s complicated.

As things currently stand, the only FDA-approved use for castor oil is as a laxative.

While there may be a link between castor oil and labor, researchers don’t always agree on what that is. As well as this, the risks may outweigh any benefits.

Let’s dive in.

In this article: 📝

  • Castor oil to induce labor
  • How effective is castor oil for labor induction?
  • How long does it take castor oil to induce labor?
  • What does castor oil do to make you go into labor?
  • Is castor oil safe for inducing labor?

Castor oil to induce labor

You’re moments away from meeting your little one.

They’ve been growing and developing inside you for the last nine months.

And now you’re wondering if they’ve set up shop in there permanently. Are they ever coming out?

While it may feel like you’ve been pregnant for an eternity, the American Academy of Family Physicians only considers your baby overdue after 42 weeks.

After this point, your doctor might want to induce labor — and will probably only do so earlier than this if they’re worried about specific complications.

One way that labor can be medically induced is through the use of oxytocin and prostaglandins.

These both play an important part in helping your body through the birthing process.

Oxytocin stimulates contractions and prostaglandins help soften the cervix.

Other methods of labor induction involve the amniotic sac — that’s the armor of liquid your baby has had around them this whole time.

In one method, the amniotic sac is gently separated from the wall of the uterus, and in another, it is pierced.

No method of labor induction is 100% safe or effective. Bringing on labor isn’t like switching a dial.

Sometimes, your body just might not be ready for this step. And that’s fine too.

It may mean your baby would prefer to be born by c-section instead.

Your healthcare provider will guide you.

How effective is castor oil for labor induction?

If you’re past your due date, you may wonder what else is out there that might help you speed up the process yourself.

Methods such as acupuncture, eating spicy foods, exercising, and having sex are all used to try and induce labor “naturally” — but these have little scientific backing.

Castor oil has shown some promise as a method of labor induction — but the research findings are mixed.

This is what we know.

How long does it take castor oil to induce labor?

While this study said castor oil had no effect on labor at all, this study told a different tale.

Its message? Castor oil is related to a higher probability of going into labor within 24 hours and can be used as a safe, effective method of labor induction.

To add to the mix, in this 2018 study, 91% of the participants were able to give birth vaginally with no complications after being given a castor oil cocktail.

But the same study also emphasized that we just don’t know enough yet to determine how safe these “natural” methods of induction are.

As you can see, the findings are all over the map.

What does castor oil do to make you go into labor?

So let’s say it does work. The next question then is why does castor oil induce labor?

The theory goes that it stimulates action in your bowels, which could prompt the uterus to promote contractions.

Scientists are still working on exactly what ingredients in castor oil has this effect.

Using castor oil in this way is controversial.

Even if it does promote activity in the general area, what you’re feeling as contractions may not actually be labor.

Added to this, castor oil comes along with some unpleasant side effects.

Is castor oil safe for inducing labor?

While the findings are mixed, it’s important to note that castor oil for labor induction may have some risks for you.

The main concerns are nausea, diarrhea, and dehydration — all of which can be dangerous at any point in your pregnancy and especially at this stage of the game.

The bottom line? The recommendation from the American Academy of Family Physicians is that castor oil should be avoided during pregnancy — mainly because of its risks of bringing on diarrhea and dehydration.

So it’s probably best to avoid it completely for now.

One safe and effective method of labor induction that might be worth a try? Nipple stimulation.

While the research is still young, it seems to hold promise as a method that is both safe and effective.

That’s because it stimulates oxytocin. (Remember the part about this helping with contractions?)

Know that you don’t have to do any of this alone.

Connect with others on Peanut who are in the same boat.

This is all so much more manageable if we do it together.

💡 More from The 411:
What is Precipitous Labor?
How to Induce Labor (Yourself)
Your Intro to Lamaze Breathing: What You Need to Know
Preparing for Childbirth: Helpful Things to Know
What To Expect from Induction of Labor
What are the 4 Stages of Labor?
18 Labor Tips For Moms
How to Prepare for a Baby: 11 Tips
Signs That Labor is 24–48 Hours Away
Why Can’t You Eat During Labor?
When Can Babies Hear in the Womb?
Safe Ways to Go into Labor Tonight
Your Labor and Delivery Playlist
Late Decelerations: All You Need to Know About
Evening Primrose Oil for Labor: What’s the Story?

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