Castor oil was used by ancient Egyptians for labor induction. Although there is no definitive scientific proof on its efficacy, people still use or want to know about using castor oil for inducing labor.
In this MomJunction post, we tell you if castor oil is safe to use, the risks involved, and how it could work for inducing labor.
Is Castor Oil Safe To Induce Labor?
Though there is no scientific proof of its benefits, doctors and midwives used castor oil in the past for inducing labor, in the case of post-term pregnancies, which is after 40 weeks (1). But it is rarely used now.
One study found that more than half of women at term who were administered castor oil went into active labor within 24 hours, while nearly half of the women who received the dose did not enter into labor (2).
Another study conducted ten years later and published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found that castor oil neither showed any effect on the time to birth during labor nor caused any harmful effects (3).
What Are The Risks Associated With Castor Oil?
Health practitioners usually do not recommend castor oil as it is known to cause the following risks to the mother and the baby:
- A small study published in the Cochrane database of systematic reviews found that all women who ingested castor oil experienced nausea (4) (5).
- It may cause hours of abnormal and painful contractions, which are not real labor pain. They can make you feel exhausted, making the labor difficult.
How Is Castor Oil Thought to Work?
Better known for its laxative properties, castor oil is also believed to work in jump-starting the labor. A research paper published in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,’ says the key ingredient of castor oil, ricinoleic acid, targets the prostaglandin receptors of the intestines and uterus to stimulate contractions (6).
- It is believed to cause cramps in the intestines, which stimulate the bowels and irritate the uterus to start contractions.
- It might also limit fluid absorption and electrolytes, thereby dehydrating the body and causing contractions.
How Much Castor Oil Is Needed To Induce Labor?
In a study, where labor was successfully induced in more than half of full-term women, a single dosage of 60ml was given (2). However, this is may not necessarily be the standard dosage of castor oil for inducing labor.
How Long Does It Take For Castor Oil To Induce Labor?
The time taken for active labor varies from individual to individual. Some of them may get within 24 hours, while some may take more time. Limited studies report about women going into active labor within 24, 36, and 48 hours of castor oil intake (7).
Castor Oil Recipes To Induce Labor – Aren’t They Interesting?
It is not advisable to use castor oil to induce labor. However, if you like the flavor and aroma of the oil and like to have it in your diet, check with your doctor. Meanwhile, here are some recipes that people have tried to take castor oil as a laxative.
- A smoothie can mask the pungent taste of castor oil. Put the required dosage in a mixture of juice, yogurt, and frozen fruit. The cold smoothie can easily flow down your throat.
- Beat three eggs along with castor oil and make an omelet out of it. You can top it up with salsa to make it taste better. However, heating may lower the effect of castor oil.
- Add two scoops of ice cream to the dose along with some orange juice. Have it before the ice cream melts.
Some Stories Of Using Castor Oil
While some say they went into labor sooner after castor oil consumption, there is no evidence to substantiate it. Some women also had unpleasant experiences using this method. Here we mention a couple of stories from MedHelp (8) and Emma’s Dairy communities (9).
- Melody Oliva shares her experience saying, “I was 40+ weeks into pregnancy, already with a dilation of 5cm. But I had no contractions. I have then ingested 2 ounces of castor oil added to a milkshake and went for a walk. I started pooping and experienced severe cramping. After one and a half hour, I suffered the contractions, and I was admitted. I delivered my baby after 40 minutes. That was my third pregnancy. Even one of my friends did the same on the same day, and we both delivered sons on the same day.”
- An anonymous woman says that she was dehydrated and had to get a drip. It can be dangerous to the health of the mother and the baby.
Your healthcare provider may suggest the safest method of inducing labor if you are past your due date. Using castor oil for labor induction is not in vogue anymore, and the doctors do not recommend it either, because there are advanced alternatives such as medications to induce or progress labor.
Do you know of anyone who has used castor oil for labor induction? Do share the story with us in the comment section.
2. Garry D et al.; Use of castor oil in pregnancies at term; Altern Ther Health Med (2000)
3. Boel ME et al.; Castor oil for induction of labour: not harmful, not helpful; Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. (2009)
4. Kelly AJ et al.; Castor oil, bath and/or enema for cervical priming and induction of labour; Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (2013)
5. Sahar Abd El-Gawad; Castor Oil Safety and Effectiveness on Labour Induction and Neonatal Outcome; Research gate (2014)
6. Sorin Tunaru et al.; Castor oil induces laxation and uterus contraction via ricinoleic acid activating prostaglandin EP3 receptors; Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (2012)
7. RonitGilad et al.; Castor oil for induction of labor in post-date pregnancies: A randomized controlled trial; Elsevier Women and Birth Volume 31, Issue 1 (2018)
8. Successful stories of using castor oil?? MedHelp.org
9. Any positive stories on castor oil induction? Emma’s Dairy.co.uk