How Long Does Castor Oil Take To Work To Induce Labor?

Pregnancy is a wonderful thing, but as the months fly by everything gets harder and harder for you. And then you find yourself in the 40th week of the pregnancy and still no baby on the horizon.

What do you do then? You start looking for natural ways to induce labor, and this is where castor oil comes into the picture. You’ll find many successful stories of women who have used it for laboring. But does it really work and how long does it take?

Well, I’m here to talk about the pros and cons of using castor oil for labor and answer all your questions.

But before we begin, let me say that it’s imperative that you don’t try anything to jump start the birth before consulting with a professional. Otherwise, you are risking birth complications and the life of your unborn child.

How does castor oil work?

Castor oil is made from the seeds of the castor plant, and it has been used by midwives to induce labor in post-term women far longer than you can imagine. The modern medicine has denied its efficacy, but nevertheless, many women share that it worked for them.

Medically speaking, there is only one use of castor oil, and that’s to cure constipation. It's a potent laxative, and if you take it, then it’s very likely that you’ll end up in the bathroom with an upset tummy.

But why people think that castor oil induces labor? Well, there are several reasons.

First, since it’s a laxative, castor oil stimulates the bowels and causes cramps and tightening of your intestine muscles. Some speculate that this effect can spread to the uterus and cause contraction.

Second, due to it laxative power, castor oil might lead to dehydration. You probably think that this is something bad, but it turns out that in certain cases dehydration stimulates contraction. Read more about it here.

But a severe dehydration is a potential problem because you won’t have the needed strength to go through the labor. So don’t get dehydrated on purpose under any circumstances.

Third, it contains a ricinoleic acid. Researchers have found out that it targets specific receptors called prostaglandin to stimulate contraction in the bowels and the uterus.

However, results are not conclusive, and some studies haven’t found any significant difference in time of birth among women who used castor oil and those who didn’t.

The bottom line is that castor oil might lead you to the delivery room, but it will certainly send you running to the bathroom.


Is castor oil safe?

Castor oil is considered safe for pregnant women. However, it has unpleasant side effects such as severe cramps, nausea, and diarrhea. And it tastes awful.

Whether it’s safe for unborn babies is still a matter of debate. Some speculate that it can pass through the placenta. As a result, the baby might pass its first stool which is called meconium. This can lead to aspiration, pneumonia or development delays.

However, several studies didn’t show any ill effects on the baby when the mother used castor oil to induce labor. And there is no proof that castor oil actually passes through the placenta.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that overdue babies are at higher risk of passing stools because their bowel system is more matured than term babies. And no research has found a substantial link between passing meconium and the use of castor oil to induce labor.


When to use castor oil?

Before you even consider using castor oil to induce labor, there is something you should know. It won’t work if your body is not ready for the birth, and you never should use it before your due date or without consulting with your doctor.

Also, professionals don't recommend castor oil if:

  • you haven't reached the 37th week
  • you have a high-risk pregnancy
  • you have suffered any complications during the pregnancy

How to prepare castor oil?

There is a debate on how much castor oil you need to induce labor, but most agree that two to four tablespoons should do the trick.

Some mothers who have used it, advice that you take several small doses – 1-1.5 tablespoon over 3-4 hours rather than risking a larger dose that could make you sick.

As I mentioned before, castor oil has a disgusting taste, and it’s unlikely that you’ll manage to drink it in pure form without vomiting. The best solution is to mix with something else – orange juice or milk

Here’s one popular castor oil recipe for labor.

You’ll need:

  • 2 oz of castor oil
  • 6 oz of orange juice
  • One teaspoon of baking soda

You mix these ingredients together, stir well and drink the concoction slowly. You might wash off the taste with water afterward.


How long does castor oil take to work?

In general, it takes about two to six hours before you feel the first effects of using castor oil, such as cramps and diarrhea. If it’s going to happen, labor might begin up to 24 hours after drinking the oil.

Some moms recommend that for better results, you must drink the castor oil first thing in the morning. And keep your hospital bag ready, just in case.


Tips for using castor oil

Here are some additional tips when it comes to castor oil.

Try small dosages to see how you feel.

Don’t forget to drink plenty of liquid to keep yourself hydrated.

Never use it to speed up the labor only to induce it.

Before you use castor oil, you can try other ways to stimulate contractions such as exercise, massage, spicy food. Read more about how to induce labor naturally here. Or watch this clip.

As you can see, there is still much controversy regarding castor oil and it’s up to you to decide whether you’re willing to try it. Just remember to talk to your doctor about it, especially if your baby is overdue. And think about

If you have any more questions about castor oil, and its use for inducing labor, post a comment. Or you can share whether castor oil worked for you and how things turned out with your baby.

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