The ancient Egyptians first used castor oil to induce labor. It is not known when the practice first started, but it is believed that it could have been as early as 4000BC. Although there are many natural ways to induce labor, very few compounds are as effective as castor oil.
Doctors and midwives have been recommending castor oil as one of the best natural ways to induce labor for centuries. Because of its effectiveness it should only be taken to initiate uterine contractions after 39 weeks of pregnancy. Using evening primrose oil to induce labor is another method of encouraging the birth process to start naturally although it can take considerably longer to have an effect.
How Long Does it Take for Castor Oil to Induce Labor?
Castor oil starts working quickly and it is usually effective as soon as it reaches the bowels. Many women use castor oil to induce labor and contractions start in just 1-3 hours after taking an oral dose of the oil. Some women respond more slowly and the length of time taken for active labor to start does vary from individual to individual.
Using castor oil to give birth is now being recommended less often by doctors due to the discovery of new drugs and medications. Many women are still advised to take castor oil to induce labor by a midwife and throughout much of the world it is still one of the most recommended ways of starting the birth process if it doesn’t commence naturally when full term is reached.
Why Does Castor Oil Induce Labor?
One of the main uses of castor oil is the treatment of constipation as the oil is a strong stimulant laxative. Ingesting a small volume of the oil triggers contraction of the smooth muscles in the intestines and this in turn triggers the tightening of muscles in the uterus, thus initiating the onset of labor.
While it has been known for many millennia that it is possible to use castor oil to induce labor, research into the effectiveness of castor oil to start the birth process has so far been limited, as is the case with most natural ways to induce labor.
One recent small study conducted on 100 post-term mothers clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of using castor oil to give birth and start contractions. After being administered a single oral dose of only 60ml of the oil, 58% of the women given castor oil to induce labor started active labor within a few hours, compared to just 4 percent who did not take the oil. Other studies have produced less pronounced results, indicating that there is no guarantee that the oil will start the birth process in all women.