Castor oil for labor induction
April 8, 2012 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone weigh in on the best way to ingest castor oil to kickstart labor?

I am 38.5 weeks and in pretty much continuous pain from carrying what seems to be a very large baby and a high volume of AF. I have been walking constantly, taking EPO 3x a day and drinking red raspberry leaf tea. So far all that has happened in the past week is painful contractions that start and then peter out when they peak at 7 minutes apart.

Castor oil is a time tested remedy for inducing labor, and at this point I am desperate enough to face the "other" side effects to get this baby going. I would love to get some suggestions on the best way to take it? I know that I need to orally take around 2oz, or 4 Tablespoons but I have been advised against taking it with orange juice (apparently it just sits on the top and is horrid to drink.) Would taking it in hot coffee help to dissolve the oil and make it easier to take or should I mask it in something like a chocolate shake?

Any suggestions are welcome!
posted by rubyeyo to Health & Fitness (28 answers total)
If you are not ready it won't work and you will be even more uncomfortable.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:59 AM on April 8, 2012 [30 favorites]

While you might get some answers here, I'm wondering why you don't enlist the help/advice of your doctor or midwife? Nobody on the internet really has the ability to give you competent medical advice regarding labor induction. (Besides, folks I've known who've used castor oil to induce weren't very positive about the experience.)
posted by richyoung at 8:02 AM on April 8, 2012 [12 favorites]

Good advice from both St. Alia and richyoung but thought I would chip in with my own experience/hindsight anyway to say:

1. As with anything vile, it's best downed as a shot and chased with something nicer

2. There is nothing you can mix it with that will make it any less like drinking slightly runny lipgloss.

Good luck!
posted by pick_the_flowers at 8:14 AM on April 8, 2012

The reason it's been done with orange juice is that the oil tends to feel like pulp when you drink it. Drinking it that way wasn't bad.

But it's been 14 years and I still remember what it looked like when it came out the other end, lol. I *think* I remember telling myself that I would never do that again. But I ended up being in labor for 36 hours before they pushed me to c-section, so it's possible I was having that thought in relation to some other aspect of the birth experience. I should've stayed at home for as long as possible, instead of being eager to get to the hospital.

It was about a day and a half before I began contracting.
posted by MeiraV at 8:17 AM on April 8, 2012

My wife took it in orange juice. Who knows whether it actually did anything useful-- she was a fortnight overdue by then, and the fact that a fine healthy son was born about 12 hours later proves nothing in particular. Basically, it is going to taste pretty unspeakable whatever you do with it.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:23 AM on April 8, 2012

Gotta say, this doesn't sound like how you want to feel on top of everything else. It sounds like there are two possible outcomes: 1) guaranteed vomiting, cramping and pooping. 2) guaranteed vomiting, cramping and pooping while trying to give birth.
posted by gjc at 8:35 AM on April 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

2nding that if your body is not ready, all you will do is make yourself more miserable. Castor oil is pretty nasty on your body. If you do want to try, talk to your DR. or midwife first... The OJ method seems to be the one most people use.

Better to have a nice glass of wine (like my midwife recommended when I was 41 weeks and miserable) and try to be as comfortable as possible.

FWIW, eggplant parmesan kicked off the labor in both of my pregnancies and worked for many women I know. But it could also be post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc. :-)
posted by LittleMy at 8:37 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just gave birth to a 9lb, 3oz baby last Wednesday. I was 41 weeks pregnant, so believe me: I know *exactly* how you feel. I get that feeling starting around 38 weeks and by the time baby shows up, I am pretty much screaming GTFO! At my belly every second of every day.

That being said: Do not do this to yourself. It causes unspeakable gut discomfort. It can make you throw up. It's really, really not worth it. Not only that, but however much discomfort you are in only multiplies after baby comes out: your entire crotch/bum region is sore, after cramps, engorged boobs, back pain (is this everyone, or just me?), NOT SLEEPING AT ALL. But if you want to start labor (if it even works to start labor!!) with a pre-roughed up bum and feeling like you have had the flu, go for it. Maybe blend it into a smoothie?
posted by LyndsayMW at 8:39 AM on April 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

I don't think it actually works, from anecdotal evidence. I'm really sorry you're so miserable. It's the most frustrated I think I've ever been in my life, and you sound like you're in pain too. Yikes.

Hang in there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:44 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Richyoung- I have been cleared by my midwife to try it, which is why I feel comfortable moving forward.

She has recommended 2 oz. in a liquid of my choice, and has warned me of the cramping/ BM that comes (the contracting of the bowel is what activates the contraction of the uterus.) She has also let me know to make sure to keep hydrated as dehydration is a common side effect.

To put this in perspective; My mother took CO to induce labor with both my brother and me, when we were home-birthed by midwife in the late 70's. It worked incredibly well for her both times, (I was a whopping 10lbs 3 oz and my brother was 9lbs 8 oz) and her discomfort was pretty parallel to what I am feeling now at 5' tall and a smallish frame. She claimed that the stomach discomfort is intense, but the labor following is generally fast.

However, she took it with OJ both times and hated the taste, so I am eager to find a better way to mask it.
posted by rubyeyo at 8:51 AM on April 8, 2012

I took CO to induce labour at 38.5 weeks (cleared by midwife). It didn't work, but here's how I took it:

in a blender, I put half a banana, some cocoa powder, and coconut milk, and the castor oil. Then I blended the heck out of it. The banana, or maybe the fat in the coconut milk, kept the CO from rising to the top and it was drinkable. Not, like, delicious or anything, but better than I thought it would be.

I had no nausea, significant diarrhea, and zero contractions as a result. We ended up breaking waters to get things started, babe was born by 11:30 that evening with no further interventions.
posted by lizifer at 9:22 AM on April 8, 2012

Sex and playing with your nipples may do more to start labor than castor oil and are a lot more fun even if they don't work. Nipple stimulation produces oxytocin - useful hormone for starting contractions. My midwife claimed that putting the castor oil in plain view was enough of a threat to start many women - I never tried it though. Those last two weeks are miserable - hang in there!
posted by leslies at 9:37 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I was well into labour but contractions were kinda-sorta-not-really-strong-enough, we talked about using a hospital-grade double breast pump to move things along. Not necessary for me in the end, but something to consider.
posted by lizifer at 9:46 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

WebMD has an article about inducing contractions, the third page of which addresses the common home remedies:
Sexual intercourse. The idea is that sex can trigger contractions, both from the sperm (which contain prostaglandins) and from the woman's orgasm. However, research is lacking on the subject, and one study found that sex didn't have any effect on time to labor.

Nipple stimulation. Stimulating the nipples releases the hormone oxytocin, which naturally triggers contractions, but the cervix must already be ripe for this to work. Too much nipple stimulation also can produce very strong contractions that can actually be dangerous to the baby.

Herbal remedies. A number of herbs, including blue cohosh and black cohosh, have been touted for triggering labor, but there isn't enough evidence to prove they work. What's more, herbs can be dangerous if not used properly, so don't take any herb for inducing labor without first talking to your doctor.

Castor oil. Research shows castor oil probably won't do anything to induce labor, but it probably will irritate your gastrointestinal tract enough to make you feel sick to your stomach.

Walking. It's always a good idea to stay active throughout your pregnancy, but studies haven't proved that walking can induce labor.

Unless your doctor feels that it's time to induce labor for medical reasons, it's always better to let nature take its course.
posted by gilrain at 10:08 AM on April 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I tried this at 42.5 weeks. It did nothing except give me serious diarrhea. But, on my midwife's advice, I blended 4 oz (!) into a pint of chocolate ice cream and drank it that way. It was fine, if oily. I eventually shat pure castor oil. And ended up being induced in the hospital and birthing vaginally.
posted by woodvine at 10:10 AM on April 8, 2012

My midwife suggested I take castor oil to jumpstart labor with my second daughter, because the first one got stuck.

I drank it around 5 PM, went into labor maybe around 12, finally decided to go to the hospital at 3:30 or so, got to the hospital at 5 am, baby was out by 5:45. Yeah. Not a comfy car ride. (hospital was ~hour away).

I just drank the castor oil straight (well, in 4 or 5 glugs), and then had a big glass of something afterwords. It was pretty vile (but not necessarily more than drinking half a cup of canola oil would be).

I don't remember horrible cramping, just diarrhea. And not awful diarrhea, just the squirts for a while.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:17 AM on April 8, 2012

...but this is a bad idea on so many levels. Your 'in perspective' is such a common logical fallacy you can find it on Wikipedia.

There has been even more of a push recently to -- well, here -- A Campaign to Carry Pregnancies to Term. "With each decreasing week of gestation below 39 to 40 weeks, there is an increased risk of complications like respiratory distress, jaundice, infection, low blood sugar, extra days in the hospital (including time in the neonatal intensive care unit), and even deaths of newborn babies and older infants." This is a good summary of the risks.

The EPO and raspberry leaf are theoretically good uterine tonics but they don't do jack to induce, and while there is evidence to support the usefulness of walking DURING labour, again, it's not going to get baby out before baby is ready.

I would be wary of a midwife who was passing along old wives' tales while ignoring the evidence and risks surrounding these things.

I went to 42 weeks and my advice would be to hang on. Robustly healthy high-birth-weight babies are good, good things to have and doing what you can to maximise the odds there is worth the miseries of late pregnancy.
posted by kmennie at 10:21 AM on April 8, 2012 [18 favorites]

My midwife and doula anti-recommended the castor oil, and sent me for acupuncture instead. The first round didn't work immediately, but I switched to a traditional Chinese acupuncturist whole claimed a 90% success rate within 48 hours. I was in labor about four hours later.
posted by instamatic at 10:24 AM on April 8, 2012

Here's what I did, nineteen years and four days ago, when my daughter was so overdue that I had to go in for FEM every day, and a caesarian was sounding inevitable...

1. Castor oil in orange juice, with 1 oz vodka. (This was the recipe in Ina May Gaskin's book, and my OB said OK. IANAD)
2. Come to Jesus talk with the fetus. I lit some candles, made a nest of pillows to sit in, rubbed massage oil on my tummy and... asked the baby to please be born. Told her how much I wanted to see her. Dedicated all my energy to relaxation, and communicating with this baby.

She was born the next morning, so suddenly that I didn't make it to the hospital.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 10:29 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Of course, I was 41.5+ weeks at that point, so who knows if it was the acupunture or not, but I was really, really trying to avoid induction, and the midwife's patience was running out. So as always, YMMV.

Kid 2 was born at about 38.5 weeks, shortly after my midwife gave the go-ahead for acupressure/acupunture and marked the pressure points on my body with magic marker. Half-heartedly rubbing at them may or may not have had anything to do with her coming a bit early. (What with being a second kid and all.)
posted by instamatic at 10:32 AM on April 8, 2012

3 kids. 3 times the night before labor, spicy chinese food. YMMV.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:31 AM on April 8, 2012

I did castor oil mixed with Dr. Pepper. It took me awhile to like Dr. Pepper again. I had the baby a week later.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:31 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is the induction recipe cocktail given to me by my midwives:

2 tbsp almond butter (to slow digestion)
2 tbsp castor oil (to induce contractions)
blend with 300 ml water
add 5 drops verbena oil (to focus contractions more on uterus than bowels - available through some midwives)
blend in 200 ml apricot juice

take first thing in the morning
drink quickly (in half an hour)
if after 3-4 hours you haven't felt any uterine changes/contractions, then take a second dose

As others mentioned, if you take it too early (before signs of effacement/dilation or before 40 weeks) it probably won't work.
posted by rabbitfufu at 7:43 PM on April 8, 2012

My ex and i did this. She drank a half a bottle of castor, the normal smallish size, and walked up and down a rather steep hill at our apartment complex twice and -something magic happened- she was in labor. It took 15 minutes. BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT she was in labor 19 hours before she had a c-section. Dr said the castor oil expedited the process too quickly and her cervix didn't dilate quickly enough and instead started swelling as holdkris99 jr was making his way out. So, why not be patient with the natural bodily processes?
posted by holdkris99 at 8:48 PM on April 8, 2012

Seconding acupuncture if you haven't tried that yet! Much more pleasant than castor oil, and probably more effective too, if you have a talented acupuncturist.

I had acupuncture 3 days in a row, W, Th, F, and the acupuncturist told me I would go into labor on Sunday, or maayyybe Saturday night. I went into labor Sunday morning.

Of course my baby wasn't born until Wednesday, maybe if I had not tried to induce I wouldn't have been in labor for three and a half days...
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:35 PM on April 8, 2012

Thanks for everyone's comments and suggestions! We took a small dose (1 TB) of CO yesterday afternoon, and ended up in early labor for 6 hours until the contractions petered out and the birth team went home.

Post CO I am only 2cm dilated and 50% effaced, so it looks like my body just wasn't ready. I am glad that I took a small dose and not the recommended 2 oz, as the discomfort probably would have been horrible. Now we just wait and let the baby come as it will, and I will have to continue to carry this load up and down 4 flights of stairs every day and schlep it on the NYC subways *sigh*.
posted by rubyeyo at 5:58 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, you have my sympathies! Being super pregnant in NYC was so uncomfortable. Sure, people let you sit on the subway, but when sitting down and getting up is a major production in and of itself...oy.

Thanks for the update, and if you get a chance after the baby is born we would love a few pictures!

Hang in there, and GOOD LUCK!
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:28 AM on April 9, 2012

@Rubyeyo, sorry I second-guessed you and glad to hear you're in good hands. FWIW, my wife had two of her three labors kick-started by foods reputed to start things off, and I don't see them listed here, so I'll mention rhubarb (accidental - she was snacking on raw rhubarb dipped in sugar while I was trying to make a pie) and spumoni ice cream (intentional that time).

Best of luck to you - I know the last couple weeks are hard.
posted by richyoung at 7:53 AM on April 9, 2012

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