Castor oil is a traditional way of inducing labor. Though natural, it’s NOT SAFE for both a mother and baby. We say this because of the limited research and few scientific studies supporting the effectiveness and safety of castor oil to jump-start uterine contractions.
Another reason to doubt castor oil’s safety for pregnant women and unborns is its mechanism of action. It says castor oil does not induce natural labor but false contractions due to its potent laxative and anti-inflammatory action on smooth muscles of the GI tract. Since the GI tract is in the vicinity of the reproductive system, the uterus contracts falsely, inducing labor. Also, the pharmacological actions of castor oil on the gut cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration in the mother, and distress in the baby.
Nevertheless, there’s a specific safe window of around 40-41 weeks where you can drink castor oil to trigger labor. But it all should be done under the supervision of an experienced gynecologist. If you intend to drink castor oil to induce labor but don’t know “How much castor oil should I take for labor?” read this insightful description and learn what the experts say.
Here, I’ve extracted some results and inconclusive comments from a few prominent studies on the relationship between castor oil’s effect on inducing labor in late-term pregnant women.
- A study comprising 50 post-term expectant mothers concluded that women who drank castor oil entered labor within 24 hours of administration, unlike the control group who did not.
- Another study with a 200 sample size of post-term pregnant women concluded that the ones who broke their water before contractions went into labor quickly after taking a castor oil shot.
- A small survey of tribes and families who have used castor oil for inducing uterine contractions discovered that castor oil (for labor) does not work in first-time mothers.
- A study with a large sample size of about 600 post-term pregnant females in Southeast Asia suggested no effectiveness of castor oil in inducing labor. A similar study also investigated the side effects of castor oil in pregnant women and babies and found no complications in either.
- Other studies revealed that women (after childbirth) got nauseated after taking castor oil for labor. At the same time, newborns are deemed at an increased risk of sickness due to passing meconium before delivery (first stool following distress, post castor oil administration by the expectant mother).
In accordance with scientific studies, women can try drinking castor oil for labor if they have;
- Past 41 weeks of pregnancy
- At least one vaginal birth
- PROM (Premature Rupture of Membranes; water breaking before contractions)
- Dilated cervix
- Recurrent Uterine Infections
- Not enough amniotic fluid
- Baby not growing at an expected rate
- Risk of placental abruption
- Decreased or slowed baby movements
- Hypertension, Diabetes, or other comorbidities
As explained earlier in the introduction, castor oil does not induce natural labor but false contractions. The mechanism behind this action is castor oil’s laxative, anti-inflammatory, and prostaglandin-like effects. These pharmacological effects irritate the smooth muscles of the GI tract and uterine walls, resulting in false labor. Nevertheless, these contractions are helpful in some women past their due date with cervix dilated.
This old norm has no specific dosage since almost all healthcare professionals do not recommend taking castor oil to trigger childbirth. Nevertheless, some expert midwives conclude taking about 15-60 milliliters of castor oil at 41 weeks of pregnancy or above, as supported by limited scientific research.
Expectant women can take smaller (gradually increasing) doses to check the results and side effects. However, not to exceed 60 ml (about 4 tablespoons). They can add castor oil shots into fresh juices or cocktails to mask castor oil’s unpleasant taste and thick consistency. Moreover, remember not to take castor oil for labor at bedtime. It is to prevent nausea and diarrhea that might disturb your sleep and make you restless.
It’s difficult to tell how long castor oil takes to induce labor due to inconsistent results in different individuals. Also, no related study showed the exact time castor oil takes to trigger false uterine contractions. However, one study showed castor oil rendered labor within 24 hours in post-term pregnant women who independently were responsive to ricinoleic acid.
If you intend to try castor oil to trigger labor, you can have the “midwives brew.” Midwives brew is the recipe many old obstetricians used to make and give to their patients. Some recipes include adding fats, almond milk, milkshakes, orange juice, or champagne to castor oil shots. Mix the combo according to your taste, drink it, and wait for the results.
Drinking castor oil is unsafe despite being an old natural way of inducing labor, particularly if you have not passed 40 weeks of pregnancy. Moreover, you should not try it to cure constipation during pregnancy, or it might result in premature delivery. Risks or side effects to women include:
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle cramping
Castor oil administration by the mothers can put the babies at risk of health hazards. It is due to the passing of meconium (first stool) before delivery as a result of distress owing to slowed or delayed labor.
What are the other natural ways to induce labor?
Acupressure, nipple stimulation, intercourse, exercise, and eating spicy foods are some other natural ways to induce labor. These are best to try if you do not lie under the indications to use castor oil mentioned in the section “When should you try that”?
Is it safe to drink castor oil to induce labor?
Drinking castor oil is not safe for everyone. It is because every pregnancy is different, and so is each individual. Everyone’s body tolerability varies, so we cannot say castor oil works safely. In fact, it may work or not for you. To be safe, try other harmless natural ways to trigger childbirth. Nevertheless, if you have complications and intend to drink castor oil, take it in the safe dosage range (15-60 ml) with monitored frequency by your obstetrician.
Does castor oil break your water?
Castor may trigger childbirth in some women within 24 hours. However, it’s not safe to take castor oil to break your water. In contrast, castor oil is used to begin false contractions in a situation where your water breaks before labor.
Is castor oil safe for your unborn baby?
No, castor oil is not safe for the unborn. It might cause him distress and put him to other health hazards owing to the passing of meconium.
At how many weeks is it safe to use castor oil to induce labor?
After 40 weeks, more precisely, at 41 weeks, 6 days or later, it is safe to drink castor oil to induce labor.
Does castor oil soften the cervix?
Yes, castor oil softens and ripens the cervix to help it dilate and ease childbirth.
To induce childbirth, how do you make castor oil palatable?
You can add your castor oil shot to a glass of orange juice, milkshake, almond milk, or any cocktail or mocktail to make it palatable and drinkable.
Castor oil, also called Ricinus oil, is obtained from the castor beans of the Ricinus communis plant. This magic oil has vast applications in the food, pharmaceutical, medicinal, cosmetics, and beauty industries. It is because of its wide range of effects viz anti-inflammatory, analgesic, laxative, emollient, and irritant. Castor oil applications for curing constipation, hydrating skin, and conditioning hair are approved by many research studies. However, its use to induce labor is neither FDA-approved nor even safe.
The reason is castor oil induces false contractions due to its laxative, irritant, and prostaglandin-like actions. Those are not the actual labor contractions. Therefore, only women who have passed 41 weeks of pregnancy can try it to trigger childbirth, particularly if their water breaks or they notice decreased baby movements. However, this all should be done under the supervision of an expert OBS-GYN. To know the precise details, explore the above insightful description and get all your queries answered at one stop.