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Editorial, Labour, Maternity Matters, PregnancyBringing on Labour – What Really Works? Castor oil, when ingested, triggers cramping in the bowel, making it an effective laxative. Mummy Barrow told me that a lady she knew “drank half a litre and when her son was born the next day he came out like a bar of soap, midwife nearly dropped him. Regular exposure to the father’s semen helps cause immunological tolerance to their proteins.
I once asked a doctor to explain the pineapple thing to me and he said that this, as well as the thinking behind curries and castor oil, is that it can basically cause diarrhoea, which causes your bowels and lower intestines to spasm, which can trick your uterus into also contracting.
This post was inspired by the lovely Danielle at Blog by Baby who is desperate for her labour to get started so thank you to her and please, everyone send her lots of lovely cervix-softening, oxytocin laced thoughts! My wife took castor oil at term for all four of our pregnancies and all the boys came on her due dates, not the scans.
Hi Ian, as you point out there is very little in the way of medical research on the benefit or otherwise regarding the use of castor oil.
There is ongoing American research into castor oil usage with data currently in analysis, so should be expected to be published next year.
As for castor oil, my friend drank an entire bottle, spent three days with severe diarrhoea and very dehydrated, with no sign of labour. I have just got a yoga ball which I plan to bounce on (I am immobile so I can’t walk) will continue with the EPO, Saturday I plan to get pineapple. For me the risk of keeping him in there too long, my booked medical induction failing, c section becoming necessary or in fact even the risks of the Synoticin are greater than the risks of me now going in to premature labour via natural methods. However my medical team are skeptical any of this will work to actually induce labour, they do however think it might make my medically induced labour more successful and easier which is the main reason for them authorising me to go ahead and try now. As the science above says, these methods can strengthen my uterus to make contractions more effective, soften my cervix to shorten stage 2 labour, soften my perinium to make delivering a large baby easier etc…and possibly reduce the overall time that I will need to be kept on Syntocin which may be dangerous for me.


You’ve spent almost 10 months getting bigger and more uncomfortable and the chances are you now have an elbow in your bladder and a foot under your lungs making everything worse. Some say that straightforward sex is what you need to engage in, others say that it’s oral sex only you must imbibe the semen at the end for it to work. I was 6 days overdue and still went to 9 over and had to be induced  but my cousins waters broke within a minute of having sex with her boyfriend! Based on the lack of concrete science behind it and the subsequent lack of people flooding in and telling us how great pineapple worked for them, we’d give this a big fat thumbs down, especially if you’re suffering with gestational diabetes! Until we have sufficient evidence to base appropriate advice to women on dosage, safety and follow up, I think we have to rely on the wisdom and experience of Midwives who have lived and worked at a time when it was used more regularly. I do agree there is too much intervention but that is down to the medical model of care that seems to be eroding all choice women have over their bodys.
I know many women would prefer to find a natural induction method when faced with medical induction, but I think we do also need to asks the question why they are being induced in the first place – is it medical need following a holistic, individualised assessment of that woman and baby in that particular pregnancy, or is it purely based on an imperfect date calculation?
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Everyone you speak to will have their own advice to give about things that can induce labour, some more successful than others, so we thought we’d try to see if there is any truth behind any of the methods. Harper says sex releases prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that are like the medications used to induce labor.  And it won’t hurt to try! It also causes bad stomach cramps, which make handling contractions much more difficult, plus causing diarrhoea.
Whilst there is some evidence that it can increase uterine contactiltiy, there is no evidence as to what is an appropriate dosage. I believe thatr there is more that we do not know than that we do regarding pregnancy and birth. At the end of the day it is her body, her baby, her birth and ultimately it is her decision.


In case of trademark issues please contact the domain owner directly (contact information can be found in whois). It also leaves the labouring woman quite dehydrated as a result of the vomiting and diarrhoea which result when the recommended dose of castor oil for labour induction is taken—2 oz, or about 4 tbsp. This leaves her without access to the energy she could otherwise derive from food or drink throughout her labour process. I am a midwife myself now and I have been advised not to recommend castor oil for the same reasons you stated.
Contraction will soon get stronger in order to kick-start labor and delivery. The advice I give I freely admit is based on anecdotal evidence – passed to me by very experienced midwives who were my mentors when I trained, and who had practised at a time when castor oil was used more freely.
I firmly believe that if women are going to be induced, and many women request this, then its better to be at home with your husband than in a hospital.
Whilst in the absence of sufficient evidence to show its safety and with sufficient (albeit anecdotal) evidence to suggest a potential link to morbidity, I personally think it is reasonable to advise against its use, particularly without some kind of medical aupervision. Just because something is natural and readily available, it doesn’t make it appropriate to use.
Evening Primrose oil is another self help remedy for labour that is beginning to have its safety and efficacy called into question too.
Unfortunately I can’t find the link, but it raised some very interesting points about how we freely recommend such treatments without necessarily having sufficient confidence that they will do no harm, and without necessarily giving the women appropriate accompanying advice on what potential side effects they might experience as a result of taking such things.



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