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Castor oil to induce labour: Is it safe?

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

When your due date is fast approaching, or has been and gone, you might be looking at natural ways to kick-start labour and give your little one an eviction notice. In your research you’ve probably come across castor oil. But does it really work? And more importantly, is it safe?

Castor oil is a vegetable oil (ricinoleic acid) derived from the castor bean. It is used to ease constipation, treating a verity of infections, skin conditions and stimulating the immune system. Whilst some research suggest that it may force contractions of the uterus by causing spasms in the intestine, which may stimulate the bowel and vaginal nerves, there is not enough evidence to support claims that castor oil induces labour.

Inducing labour with castor oil comes with side effects that are unpleasant and could be dangerous for you and your baby.

Side effects may include:

• Diarrhoea • Nausea & vomiting • Contracting of the uterine muscles

• Dehydration (from loose stools and vomiting)

• Stomach pain • Fatigue

• Haemorrhoids • Foetal distress Uterine rupture in women who have had previous cesarian deliveries.

• Meconium passed in the womb

Meconium is the early stools passed by a newborn in the first few hours after birth. Castor oil to induce labour, increases the risk of baby passing meconium whilst still in the womb. If the baby is in distress, which is likely from being induced with castor oil, it may cause baby to inhale the amniotic fluid containing meconium and deposits to the lungs. After delivery, the aspirated meconium may block the newborn's airways and cause regions of the lungs to collapse.

Doctors use other reliable and effective methods of induction, which guarantee success. If you are having a difficult pregnancy, you may want to refrain from using castor oil and seek medical advice instead. It really isn’t worth the risk!

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