Made from pressed castor beans, castor oil is a vegetable oil hat has been used in a variety of manners for millennia. Nowadays, you can find this substance as an ingredient in multiple products, including lubricants, dyes, inks, soaps, perfumes, and even nylon. This natural oil has also been approved by the FDA as an over the counter laxative, a function that it has been utilized for since the days of Ancient Egypt.
There are those, however, who claim that castor oil can do more than just offer assistance with digestive issues. Traditional midwifery wisdom and anecdotes passed down over the centuries claim that, if used correctly, castor oil can also help induce labor in full term pregnancies.
There are many who, to this day, swear by this natural remedy. Others claim that there is no scientific evidence to confirm whether castor oil can, in fact, dilate the cervix and help induce labor. Then, there are those who are adamant about their belief that not only is castor oil ineffective, but it can also be dangerous to pregnant women and their babies.
So what is the truth? Can castor oil truly help induce labor? Is it dangerous? Or is it just a completely neutral substance, neither helping nor harming those who use it?
In hopes of answering these questions, we’ve gathered information on some studies done in the subject and compiled their conclusions in this short post. That being said, we believe it is still important to reiterate that if you are, in fact, considering inducing labor through the usage of castor oil – or any other natural remedy, for that matter – then, please, TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.
They will be far better informed in this matter, they are better familiar with your medical history, and they will be better able to give you medical advice that best fits your unique situation, ensuring the safety of both you and your baby.
Now that we got the disclaimer out of the way, here is what we discovered.
Why Induce Labor?
There are many reasons why a doctor might be seeking to induce labor, even when the pregnancy has not reached 40 weeks yet. Some of these reasons may include uterus infection, high blood pressure or diabetes, placental abruption, and other such complications. If a pregnancy has passed the 40 weeks mark and there have been no signs of contractions at all, that might also make a doctor consider inducing the labor process.
Does Castor Oil Truly Help Induce Labor?
Though there are claims that castor oil has been used for centuries to induce labor, modern scientific data and studies regarding this subject are limited at best, making it hard to draw any conclusions.
The few studies that have been done in the subject showed no indication that ingestion of castor oil helped induce labor in full term pregnancies. What castor oil did appear to succeed in doing was causing false contractions, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal-related conditions.
There have also been reports of women who felt extremely nauseous after ingesting castor oil, though it did not make them any more likely to go into labor when compared to women who did not consume it.
Is It Dangerous to Use Castor Oil to Induce Labor?
Though there are those who swear that castor oil should not be used to induce labor for it can be extremely dangerous to both the mother and the baby, the reality is that science does not appear to back such claims.
That is not to say that there are no risks to taking castor oil when pregnant. As mentioned earlier in this post, this is a natural vegetable oil widely used today as a laxative. This means that were you to take castor oil, there’s a high chance you would have diarrhea.
Now, is diarrhea dangerous when you’re pregnant? Not overly so, but as with everything else you might be experiencing during this vulnerable state, it is important to monitor your symptoms closely. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, after all, which in turn can be dangerous to your health and that of your baby.
It is for this reason that those who do advocate for this method of inducing labor recommend the ingestion of castor oil to be done in the morning, making it easier to monitor any symptoms you might experience.
Should You Take Castor Oil to Induce Labor?
Again, we must emphasize that if you are seeking to induce labor, be it through castor oil or any other natural remedies, then your best course of action is to talk to your doctor. They have years of experience in this area of expertise, are familiar with studies done in the subject, and know of all the different factors that makes your pregnancy unique. They will be able to better inform you of any risks you might face, difficulties you might encounter, and give you the best advice on how to proceed with this process if they believe it is safe to do so.
Conclusion: What are the Risks and Dangers of Using Castor Oil During Your Pregnancy?
Castor oil has been used for a multitude of purposes for millennia; in fact, since the days of the pharaohs, this natural vegetable oil was used as a laxative and, if reports are to believe, to induce labor in full terms pregnancies.
Today, though the FDA has approved castor oil to be used for the former of these purposes, scientific studies do not seem to support claims that it could be used for the latter.
That is not to say that castor oil is overly dangerous as some of its critics claim. While ingestion of it can cause nausea, upset stomach, and false contractions, the most dangerous of its side effect appears to be dehydration caused by diarrhea.
If, for whatever reason, you are considering inducing labor and wish to do so through natural remedies such as castor oil, be sure to talk to your doctor to see what they recommend.