It is not known when the practice of using castor oil to induce labor first started, but it is believed that the Ancient Egyptians could have been using it 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 taking castor oil as one of the best natural methods to induce labor for centuries. Because of its effectiveness, however, it should only be taken to initiate uterine contractions after 39 weeks of pregnancy. Using evening primrose oil to induce labor is another natural method of encouraging the birth process to start, 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 usually begins to take effect as soon as it reaches the bowels. Many women use castor oil to induce labor, and contractions generally start just 1-3 hours after taking an oral dose of the oil. Some women respond more slowly, however, and the length of time taken for active labor to start does vary between individuals.
The use of castor oil to induce labor is not as popular today as in the past, as doctors and other medical professionals are increasingly turning to modern drugs and medications. Many women still turn to the traditional castor oil method, however. Throughout much of the world it is still a popular way 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 most popular uses of castor oil is as a treatment for 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 many natural ways to induce labor.
One recent small study conducted on 100 post-term mothers clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of using castor oil to 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.