Castor Oil to Induce Labor?

I heard drinking castor oil can help jumpstart labor. Will this work?
profile picture of Michele Hakakha, MD
ByMichele Hakakha, MD
OB-GYN
Updated
Mar 2017
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Probably not — but it will give you diarrhea! That’s because castor oil is basically a laxative, and when ingested, it will typically trigger cramping in your bowels. This “home remedy” has been popular for decades or even longer as a way to bring on labor. The theory is that if you’re already on the verge of labor, and you stir your intestines up a bit with some cramping, you’ll start some contractions in the uterus, as well. But research from Thailand found that 205 women who took castor oil after 40 weeks of pregnancy had no faster time to delivery than the 407 women who didn’t try the foul-tasting stuff. And the cramping and loose stool associated with the oil can make the experience a rather unpleasant (and not to mention messy) one.  In the end, it’s best to skip the castor oil. It can be tough getting through those last few days or weeks of pregnancy, but eventually you — and your baby — will get there.

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