It is not uncommon for pregnant moms to try different natural ways to induce labor, from walking it out, and bouncing on an exercise ball, to eating spicy foods. Some soon-to-be moms are even tempted to try castor oil. However, you might want to consider all other options because castor oil has its dangers if consumed in high doses.
We consistently say here at 1happykiddo that safety is the top priority for moms and babies and that you should always consult your doctor before trying anything out.
Knowing what effects it could have on you and your baby is something you should take seriously because it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
What is castor oil?
It is a multipurpose vegetable oil extracted from the Ricinus communis plant native to southern Asia.
The seeds from which the castor oil is extracted, which are also known as castor beans, contain a toxic enzyme called ricin.
During the heating process, the castor oil undergoes during production deactivates the ricin, allowing the oil to be used safely.
In ancient time, people burned castor oil as fuel in lamps, used it as a natural remedy to treat ailments like eye irritation, and even took it to stimulate labor during pregnancy.
To this day, castor oil remains a popular natural treatment for common conditions, such as constipation and skin ailments, and you can even find it in natural beauty products.
Some products use castor oil as a hair treatment, but there are precautions to consider. Taking too much dose can lead to some real tummy turmoil: diarrhea, an upset stomach, and cramping.
In fact, in a 2013 study, every single woman who took a dose of castor oil to induce labor felt nauseated afterward.
Castor oil to induce labor
Since castor oil is best known as a laxative, it is thought that there’s a relationship between this and its reputation for jump-starting labor.
If a pregnant woman takes small amounts of castor oil, it can cause spasms in the intestines, stimulating the bowels and vagal nerve.
This spasm-and-stimulation combo may then irritate the uterus, which can begin contracting.
Castor oil is also thought to reduce fluid absorption and electrolytes in the small intestine, which can cause diarrhea and possibly contractions.
It might also promote the release of prostaglandin receptors, leading to the cervix dilating.
How effective is castor oil in inducing labor?
Studies show different results, while a small study published in Alternative Therapies of Health and Medicine concluded that over 50% of those dosed with castor oil went into active labor within 24 hours, compared to only 4% beginning labor in the same timeframe without any treatment.
A more extensive study, published nearly 10 years later in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and GynaecologyTrusted Source, looked at using castor oil again and determined that while there were no harmful effects associated with castor oil to either mother or baby, it wasn’t particularly helpful at inducing labor, either.
When do you need to induce labor?
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnancies within 39 to 40 weeks and 6 days are considered full-term.
When a pregnancy reaches 41 weeks and 41 weeks, 6 days, it’s considered late-term. After 42 weeks, it’s post-term.
In most cases, if the pregnancy reaches late-term or post-term, inducing labor is a medical decision made for the safety of the mother and the baby.
You will most likely be induced if you are in any of the situations below:
- Almost two weeks past your due date, and labor hasn’t begun.
- Your water broke, but you are not having any contractions.
- Infected uterus
- The baby is not growing at the expected rate.
- Not enough amniotic fluid around your baby.
- Placental abruption
- You are experiencing high blood pressure, diabetes, or another condition that could put you or your baby at risk.