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    The End is Near: Avoid Using Castor Oil to Induce Labor

    The End is Near: Avoid Using Castor Oil to Induce Labor

    Castor oil is marketed as a remedy for constipation, but some women take it to induce labor. I understand that at the end of pregnancy, you might be desperate and willing to do whatever it takes to get your baby out…but drinking castor oil is not the way to do it.

    It is very effective indeed at cleaning out the bowels and it causes diarrhea. This might sound like a good thing, but the diarrhea lasts all through labor in most cases and is more of a curse than a blessing. This stimulates the uterus as well and makes a woman contract. The contractions caused by castor oil have a very distinctive pattern. They are very close together—in some cases, too close. This can be harmful for the mother and the baby. It can lead to decreased blood flow to the baby and potentially cause the placenta to prematurely separate from the uterine wall.

    What can a woman safely do to induce labor?

    One study showed that 30% of women try to start labor on their own. Many women turn to castor oil, herbs, foods, or activities that they have heard induce labor. In reality, there’s nothing you can do to hasten the delivery of your baby. Babies come when they want to come. In the weeks to days leading up to delivery, your body preps for labor (often without you even knowing it) by ripening the cervix—just like a fruit. It begins to soften in consistency, to thin out, move forward in the pelvis, and open slightly. Once it’s ripened, it will respond to regular and intense contractions by dilating….unfortunately, there’s just no good way to determine when you’re going to start having those regular and intense contractions that lead to labor.

    My best piece of advice is to hope you make it to 39 weeks gestation because your baby will do best if born after that point. Also, if you start contracting and you’re full term, move around. Activity will increase contractions, and those may or may not lead to labor.