Castor Oil During Pregnancy

I spent the last semester (since August) researching the claim that castor oil induces labor. Here are my findings. There were very close perimeters to which I had to succumb to in terms of content and length. Only “scholarly journals” (ie: standard medical literature) could be used, and I had to form an opinion on the validity of the claim. Overall, a very useful endeavor and I learned alot about how the medical communty comes to conclusions about things, how research is interpretted, and who to “listen” to in terms of credibility. Enjoy!

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Microtheme Final Draft

11/28/07

I  Ingestion of castor oil induces labor in term pregnancy (Zane, 2007).

II  I conclude that this claim is accurate but should not be accepted and used indiscriminately or without medical supervision.

III  The following information was used to reach my conclusions about this claim.

        A. It has been reported that castor oil is used routinely by nurse-midwives who choose to induce labor without using pharmaceutical      drugs.

1. One reason castor oil might work on the uterus to stimulate contractions, is it’s effect smooth muscle tissue, of which the uterus is composed of. (Burdock, 2006) B. A recent study of pregnant women was carried out for 20 weeks in which castor oil was found to increase the incidence of preterm labor.1. A drug was given to them in hopes of preventing miscarriage. The base for the drug was castor oil.2. Instead of reducing pre-term deliveries, the rate of women delivering early actually increased.

3. This was likely because of the castor oil, a known uterine tonic, being used as the base to carry the drug through injections. (Brancazio, 2003)

C. A single case study showed a direct correlation between ingestion of castor oil and uterine rupture.

1. A full-term woman ingested castor oil and within 45 minutes was in the hospital with severe contractions.

2. No other indications for labor were present. (Her water hadn’t broken, there were no changes to the position of the baby, etc.).

3. An emergency c-section was performed due to the baby’s heart rate reacting badly to the labor.

4. During the surgery the doctors attending noted a 2cm tear in her uterus. 5. The contractions caused by the castor oil were strong enough to be attributed to causing this tear. (Sicuranza, 2003)

IV    The possible consequences of accepting this claim and self-medicating with castor oil to induce labor are as follows:

1. A uterine rupture can occur, leading to the possibility of the woman bleeding to death.

2. Should a uterine rupture occur, the viability of the fetus and life of the mother are severely compromised.

B. Should this claim be accepted and come into widespread use by untrained pregnant women, we could see a rise in deliveries prior to arriving at the hospital.

C. Artificially-stimulated contractions can cause a baby’s heart rate to become erratic.

References

Lane, B. (n.d.). Using castor oil is an effective way to induce labor. In Pregnancy and childbirth Suite 101. Retrieved February 2, 2007, fromhttp://pregnancychildbirth.suite101.com .

Burdock, G.A., Carabin, I.G., & Griffiths, J.C. (2006. Toxicology and pharmacology of sodium ricinoleate. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 44, 1689-1698.

Sicuranza, G., & Figueroa, R. (2003). Uterine rupture associated with castor oil ingestion. Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, 13, 133-134.

Brancazio, L. R., Murtha, A. P., MD., & Heine, R. P., MD. (2003, September). Prevention of Recurrent Preterm Delivery by 17 Alpha-Hydroxyprogesterone Caproate. New England Journal of Medicine, 349(11), 1087-1088.

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Of course there are alot of things I couldn’t say here due to space constraints, but overall the medical literature supports the use of castor oil as a safe labor induction medication. HOWEVER… (and this is where I get really angry) the OCOG emphatically states that castor oil doesn’t work and shouldn’t be used. Hmm… even though the research THEY did shows an undeniable correlation between ingesting castor oil and the start of labor. Grrr….. no money to be made on castor oil administration and since it is used mostly by midwives of all kinds, they certainly couldn’t endorse it’s use. One opinion article actually called it an “old wives tale with no technical validity” then went on the state “castor oil ingestion does cause contractions. HUH!!?!?!?!?!  Anyway. An interesting project. By the way, I got 96 out of 100 on the paper. 🙂

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16 thoughts on “Castor Oil During Pregnancy

  1. I like to add that we must consider that the use of castor oil and any other natural remedies are still induction. Induction is a disruption for the baby. This is imprinted on the brain that is experiencing labor and birth, a developing. The baby hormonally begins the process of labor and signals to mother’s body, so, of course, induction by any means is a physiological disruption. Induction, by any means, also creates psychological, emotional, and spiritually dynamics … in the humans relationship to the world and to the parents, EVEN when done for medically necessary reasons. When done for NON medical reasons, but just for convenience sake of mother or caretakers, or mother is tired of pregnancy, a dynamic is created.

    babykeeper

  2. Thank you for this in-depth article, it helped me immensely in making the decision that my term baby will be helped by using castor oil.
    I also want to respond to Janel, who posted a comment on your article. I am offended by her assertion of calling an induction a “disruption”. Natural methods only work if the body is ready for labor, and usually, medical inductions by OBs or midwives are already guilt-ridden and fraught with problems for the parents. A loving home and Mom’s warm arms can hardly be considered an indifferent or psychologically-impairing dynamic.
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    Karma,

    I’m rather alarmed that the study I did on castor oil would be taken as encouragement for it’s use. On the contrary, I find it’s use risky at best and dangerous at worst. Please carefully consider tampering with your baby’s birthdate. Yes, cator oil works, sometimes as effectively as pharmeceutical methods, but I agree with Janel – inductions are a disruption. Only with carefully – CAREFULLY considered motives and risk assessment would I consider using any induction method.

    Kelly

  3. Caster oil has been used for a very long time, and to be fair your study is pretty one sided. Why not also share the thousands of positive birth stories inwich caster oil has been used. Everything has a positive and negitive .everything!!

  4. I’ll have to agree with Kayleigh in saying that the study you published is pretty one sided…
    I’m still looking up everything I can on castor oil and it’s uses during pregnancy…
    I took some about 2 hours ago…we’ll see what happens!

  5. Kayleigh,

    I understand that the paper seems one sided. It does. It is. The information i found from scientific studies supports it’s use, but it is very hard to monitor and predict “how” it will work for each individual woman. That’s my concern with it’s use. That given, and the studies concerning VBAC women, and I still maintain my position that castor oil works, sometimes too effectively, and should only be used on women with unscarred uterus and only in times of absolute necessity.

    Personally, if an induction was necessary, I’d find that birth outside the scope of a safe “unmedical” homebirth. But that’s just me. 🙂

    Also, this paper was written for a college biology class. The assignment included researching and then forming a conclusion based on research. I had to write the paper from the conclusion **I* made. This is that conclusion.

  6. I used castor oil when my son was 2 days late. I drank a shot of it, around 10PM and He was born the next day. I also did not have any bowel movement. He is a happy 5 year old with no “disruptive issues”

  7. I went 3 days past my due date with my son, and after a horrible sleepless night of him hiccuping , in desperation I took about 2 TB of castor oil. In a few hours I was in labor, and safely delivered him in about 6 hours, with no complications. I would say it is a lot safer than pictocin or other harsh drugs. As with everything, anything carries some risk.

  8. I think that castor oil is an option for women who wish to give birth a little nudge. Pitocin, IMO, is much more harsh and is a synthetic drug that requires extreme care and very close monitoring. Having had 5 children, I can only speak for my own experiences. I have had one inductions with Pit and it was the worst birth experience I had. Castor oil does work, if the mother is ready for labor. If the mother is not ready, than it simply will not work. Each woman must realize that there is potential risk to any attempt to induce, whether it be nipple stimulation, sex, castor oil, or Pit. There have been many cases where Pit caused uterine rupture as well as c-sections that otherwise would not of been needed. Your study was interesting and I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for your opinions and for shining some new directional light on castor oil.

  9. What I like about castor oil is that it takes care of 2 issues. 1) it may help start labor up when labor is due and 2) it will clear out a woman’s bowels so that a big hunk of stool will not get into the way of the baby coming down the vaginal cannal. Win win situation to me. I have never heard of any harmful effects of castor oil. Midwifes I have worked with tell folks to try it. Of course, if you develop diarrhea, stay well hydrated and drink frequent small amounts of juice, gatoraid or water. Thanks for the post

    • I guess my point is that castor oil IS an induction method and should be approached judiciously. As for it clearing out a “hunk of stool that could get in the way of the baby coming down the vaginal canal” I find the babies head quite adept at clearing it out him/herself! 🙂 Implying that it could slow down the natural progression of labor is akin to the reasons given for routine “hot and high” enemas of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60’s. Not something I think we want to repeat. 🙂 And what about ingesting castor oil sometimes causing baby to pass meconium prior to birth? it happens and can make it tough to differentiate between the normal response of having been given an intestinal stimulant (castor oil) or true distress.

  10. Kelly,

    I have to say that the “research” you did was completely misinterpreted on the Brancazio, 2003, article. This article had nothing to due with research on castol oil, but on the effects of the drug proesterone in helping women at high risk of delivering preterm delay delivery. The article found that in a single blind trial, women who took the drug, which was suspended in castor oil, not ingested as you suggest, decreased the preterm delivery rate by 20% verses those who did not recieve this drug. In your article, you purport that castor oil increased the rate of preterm delivery, and this is completely and totally WRONG!!! Next time, you are going to publish an article on the web that some women are vulnerable to read and not follow up with research, read the article thoroughly and correctly and give information based on what the article says, and not what you want it to say. Thank you!

  11. Pingback: Boy oh boy…. CASTOR OIL « Fearless Birth

    • Absolutely not. I am not your midwife, nor am I physician, but speaking mother-to-mother: DO not do castor oil!!!!! 37 week babies are rarely ready to be born, and then only if they come on their own! Let him/her bake just a couple more weeks. 🙂 Good luck!

  12. i was wondering if castor oil will work with Me.. im due tomorrow and im not dilated at all. my doctor told Me if i do not go into labor this weekene monday morning he will insert a balloon type thing to dilate Me. could castor oil help Me instead?

    • The short answer (and I”‘ll try not to pull my hair out while I am typing this):

      NO, castor oil won’t help you.
      Your doctor should not be telling you “if you don’t go into labor by such-and-such a time”. He should not be giving orders to you.
      No one but your body and your BABY should be choosing the birthDAY. Period. End of discussion.
      Did you know induction increases your risk of a cesarean by 50%??? And along with it the risks of life-long complications and side effects like secondary infertility, PID and endometriosis, painful adhesions and bladder problems? These are the risks of cesarean that are NOT on the informed consent document you sign when you agree to an induction.

      Your baby really will be born on time. On time for THIS baby. 🙂 Blessings. I’m guessing you’ve already delivered, but in case you are still contemplating it, PLEASE do not agree to an induction of any kind!!!

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