Over the years, desperate women have tried all kinds of things to induce labor. While suffering through the last few days or weeks of their pregnancy, many mothers wish to hurry things along in a safe and natural way. As long as the techniques used are approved by a doctor, there’s usually nothing saying labor can’t be induced before or after the mother’s due date. So, although most mothers wish to wait for nature to take its course, some like to put the power back in their own hands.
One way that that personal power is distributed is with natural substances. Trusted for centuries, women from all over the world have used castor oil to induce labor because it’s relatively safe and surprisingly effective. So, what exactly is castor oil and how can it be used to hurry labor along?
What Is Castor Oil?
According to homeopathic experts, castor oil is most commonly used as a natural laxative. This pale-yellow substance is created using castor beans and is then administered to people suffering from constipation and digestive problems. In many cases, castor oil is given to patients who are about to undergo surgery because it helps empty the bowels. Respected as both a purgative and a lubricant, castor oil is also used in the manufacturing of certain oil-based products.
Although historians are unsure exactly when people began using castor oil to induce labor, the practice has been illustrated in ancient Egyptian art that dates as far back as 4000 BC. In modern times, castor oil is most commonly used by holistic doctors and midwives as an alternative to prescription medications that have several life-threatening side effects. So, while the practice of using castor oil to induce labor may have dwindled in lieu of new scientific developments, it is still a useful substance that has a permanent place in our society.
Castor Oil and Pregnancy: Is It Safe?
Numerous studies have discovered that castor oil is good for more than just the induction of labor. In fact, it’s especially helpful to pregnant women (if it’s used correctly). That’s because castor oil aids in the production of breast milk, helping mothers be more prepared to feed their newborn after delivery.
On the other hand, castor seeds (without the hull) can be used as a natural form of birth control. In fact, many people believe that they can cause an abortion if they’re placed inside the vaginal canal. If used as directed, however, castor oil is a safe and effective alternative to modern labor induction medication and can also be used to treat inflammatory skin conditions or dissolve cysts and warts.
How Does Castor Oil Induce Labor?
Using castor oil to induce labor is based on the theory the substance causes involuntary abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Those two side effects of castor oil make it ideal for inducing labor, especially if the mother is close to her due date. The subsequent cramps and bowel emptying stimulate the uterus and aid in the production of prostaglandins. Those prostaglandins then cause contractions that can help expedite the birthing process.
Dosing Guidelines for Using Castor Oil to Induce Labor
Mothers pursuing a castor oil labor induction need to understand how to use it for best results. In most cases, women are advised to ingest castor oil in the early morning hours after getting a full night’s sleep. If she takes it at night before bed, the subsequent abdominal cramps and diarrhea may make it extremely difficult to sleep – leaving mom too tired to labor effectively when the time comes.
With that said, the usual recommended dosage for castor oil to induce labor is about two tablespoons. Keep in mind, however, that castor oil has a very pungent and unpleasant taste. For that reason, it’s probably a good idea to mix it with another food or drink to make it more palatable.
Common combinations typically include the following:
- Root beer
- Ice cream
- Orange juice
- Scrambled eggs
- Warm apple cider
Remember as well that castor oil is a thick, oily substance that can linger on the taste buds for a long time. So, if you’ve experienced a lot of nausea throughout your pregnancy, are sensitive to tastes and smells, or have problems keeping food down, be sure to mix your castor oil with something you’ll be willing to eat.
For expectant mothers wanting to use this all-natural labor induction method without the pungent taste, castor oil is also available in capsules. The average dose is typically two 500mg capsules per day, but that can vary widely between women. At full term, the capsules themselves can be inserted into the vaginal canal to be dissolved completely. As always, ask your doctor for more information about this before trying it at home.
The Risks of Using Castor Oil to Induce Labor
It’s important to realize that there are some risks associated with using castor oil to induce labor. For instance, there has been much debate about whether the oil can cause an unborn baby to pass meconium inside the womb. However, research has determined that there is no significant increase in meconium staining due to a castor oil labor induction.
On the contrary, a mother using castor oil to induce labor may be putting herself at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated due to the resulting diarrhea. This can make a mother feel extremely exhausted, causing labor to be more difficult and painful. In addition, pre-labor dehydration can deplete a mother’s milk supply significantly.
Therefore, it’s usually recommended that expectant mothers not use castor oil to induce labor until they are well into their 40th week of gestation and/or they are starting to show signs of active labor – cervical softening and/or thinning, for example. Never use castor oil before your due date unless otherwise instructed by a physician. Additionally, steer clear of castor oil inductions if you have a high-risk pregnancy, certain pre-existing conditions, diabetes or high blood pressure, as it could worsen your symptoms and/or make labor extremely difficult.
What Are the Side Effects of Using Castor Oil to Induce Labor?
It’s crucial that you understand any and all possible side effects to using castor oil for labor induction, especially if you’ve never tried it before. Take into careful consideration your personal goals and think about how those goals relate to your health and the safety of your unborn child. If you’re still unsure as to whether castor oil is right for you, consult a doctor.
Also, understand that abdominal cramping is generally considered to be a positive side effect, as it’s indicative of the substance working to induce labor. In the meantime, realize that you may experience some (if not all) of the following side effects when using castor oil to induce labor:
- Excessive thirst
- Decreased urination
In the event that you experience uncontrollable diarrhea after ingesting castor oil, be sure to supplement by increasing your fluid intake so that you don’t experience dehydration as a result. The good news: castor oil does not enter the mother’s bloodstream as it travels through the intestines. Therefore, mothers need not worry that their unborn child will be directly affected by it, although indirect consequences may occur if dehydration sets in.
5 Important Tips for Using Castor Oil to Induce Labor
While using castor oil to induce labor is considered generally safe for use in full-term pregnancies of mothers without certain pre-existing conditions, the following is still important to note:
- Castor oil should never be used without guidance from or management by a trained physician, midwife or holistic expert.
- Inform your healthcare provider of your intentions to use castor oil to induce labor so that they can determine if it’s the right decision or not.
- Only use high-quality castor oils that have been made under the strictest manufacturing standards.
- Consume the recommended dosage only and do not ingest more than is recommended, even if you’re not experiencing noticeable side effects.
- Never use castor oil to induce labor if you have a high-risk pregnancy or are less than 40 weeks pregnant.
Since each woman is different, it’s impossible to know how castor oil will affect everybody. If you experience symptoms that have not been mentioned here, seek medical attention immediately.
In conclusion, using castor oil to induce labor is considered to be a safe and effective alternative to modern-day medications. Although not ideal for every woman, castor oil labor inductions can suffice where patience and prodding have failed.
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