Pregnancy is a very delicate as well as the most powerful stage of life for a woman! Both the parents come together in ensuring the best diet and nutrition for the baby in development. No wonder, there are many questions, doubts, and concerns! One of them is using castor oil during pregnancy. While there are many mouths many opinions regarding what to eat and what not during pregnancy, one must always take the time and effort to make an informed decision. Every woman and each pregnancy is different in its own right. However, certain things hold commonly safe or unsafe for all. To know about the effects of castor oil during pregnancy and whether it is safe or not, we have detailed out every tiny detail for you! Read on to make the best decision for you and your baby!
In This Article
Castor Oil – A Brief
Scientific Name – Ricinus communis
Origin – Mediterranean region, Eastern Africa
This rich and thick oil is extracted by the pressing of castor beans and has been a popular choice since centuries to cure a multitude of problems. Be it for hair growth, skin care, or relieving joint pain, castor oil has proved its worth.
It is also an amazing remedy for constipation, acidity, and blood pressure.
This humble oil is known to stimulate the most important organs of our body, keeping them active and healthy – the circulatory system, the lymphatic system, and the liver. It helps raise the T-11 cell count in our system, which strengthens it against any foreign cell invasion. It soothes inflammation, works aptly against fungi, bacteria, and viruses, and is a genius detoxifier.
Castor oil is a keeper indeed!
But all these points are of no avail when its strong laxative property comes into effect. A property that makes this miracle oil unsuitable for pregnant ladies. Several questions have been raised on this issue, and they demand concrete answers.
Don’t worry, we are here to clear all your doubts, so you can enjoy your pregnancy. Let’s begin.
Is Castor Oil A Safe Choice?
The answer is no, it’s not.
Not when you are not deliberately trying to induce labor, for which you need to follow a lot of precautions. Ingesting castor oil is pretty dangerous for your unborn child.
I know, using this oil to induce labor is an age-old practice, but who says ancient practices aren’t risky? Midwives have used castor oil for a long time now without any research or advice. There’s a reason why child mortality rates were that high during those days (not that castor oil was the only reason, but you get my point).
Many obstetricians are against the use of this oil for an early labor due to the unknown and unfavorable side effects it can have on both the mother and the baby.
Why Castor Oil Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy?
As mentioned earlier, castor oil is a very strong laxative. One teaspoon of this oil can make you visit the washroom umpteen times and also lead to stomach upset (sounds scary, right?). This effect is very scary for expecting mothers, who have a life to nurture. Its dosage stimulates inopportune tightening of the intestines that irritates the uterine muscle mass. This process increases the secretion of prostaglandin in the system, which helps induce labor (1).
Well, this might be the biggest reason for all the hullabaloo behind avoiding castor oil during pregnancy, but this surely isn’t the only one. Here’s why ingesting castor oil is generally not suggested for the would-be mothers:
1. Increases The Threat Of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
The name sounds scary, doesn’t it?
This condition is technically a respiratory blockage that is seen in newborns – a serious one at that. It can happen before, during, or after delivery. Here, the newborn baby inhales or aspirates a combination of meconium (the baby’s first feces that is passed in the womb during early pregnancy days and again after delivery, which is gooey and dark green) and the amniotic fluid (the fluid in which the baby floats in the sac).
This unwarranted inhalation can totally or partially block the baby’s airways, causing an apparent difficulty in breathing. This condition can affect the newborn’s breathing in a number of ways, including airway obstruction, chemical irritation in the lungs, infection, as well as inactivation of surfactant (a natural substrate that helps expansion and contraction of the lungs) by the meconium.
Now, where and how does castor oil come into play?
Castor oil speeds up the pooping process of the unborn child during an untimely delivery. Hence, the sac, which is already a tight fit, is filled with even more meconium, which blocks the respiratory airway of the unborn.
See how dangerous it can be for your child?
2. Dehydrates The Mother
Now comes the risk that is the most obvious. Laxative means diarrhea; diarrhea means dehydration. And dehydration is extremely harmful for the mother’s health. It may weaken her from within, especially during delivery. She might pass out, be devoid of nutrients, and the situation might even turn worse in certain cases. Dehydration also has a long-lasting effect on the mother, interfering with her postpartum recovery (2).
All this shows that castor oil is a wrong choice.
3. Reduces Milk Supply
We all know how essential breastfeeding is for a newborn, especially the colostrum (yellowish milk that is full of nutrients that strengthen the immunity of the newborn). The dehydration caused by the frequent ingestion of castor oil has a tendency to lower the milk supply. It might lead to several health issues for the infant, including delayed cognitive growth and bone formation.
4. Painful Labor
This point is a given. Anything unnatural causes pain, and inducing labor with castor oil is no different.
Ingesting castor oil for an early and unsupervised labor has shown to be more painful when compared to the natural method of delivery. This is because since the oil is a strong laxative, it promotes unusual and painful tightening of the intestines that irritates the uterine muscle mass, further leading to a painful labor.
5. Preterm Delivery
This is the most dangerous threat that comes with the deliberate usage of castor oil during pregnancy. While this oil is dubbed to be a blessing, it’s nothing but a curse for an expecting mother who is yet to pass 40 weeks of pregnancy.
If castor oil is used to induce labor, its early use can lead to preterm delivery or even miscarriage (when taken in the earlier months). Preterm birth can seriously hamper the growth process of the newborn and affect organ and cognitive development.
Keep in mind that all these are the risk factors associated with the consumption of castor oil and not its external application. In fact, when used externally, this oil increases circulation and promotes healing of the organs and tissues under the skin. Thus, it is very essential in soothing inflammation and decreasing pain. It can also be used to prevent the formation of stretch marks. However, it is always better to consult your doctor before using castor oil, internally or externally.
Precautions To Be Taken Before Using Castor Oil To Induce Labor
There are certain guidelines to follow if you want to induce labor in a woman who is facing problems giving birth naturally, and is way past her due date. Take a look:
- Be very careful if you are using castor oil close to the date of your delivery. Castor oil is a home remedy that triggers the process of contraction of the uterine walls. This induces labor pain in pregnant women. Consuming castor oil early on in pregnancy involves high levels of risk.
- The next precaution involves the dosage. Usually, pregnant women are given regulated doses of castor oil (not more than an ounce) on a daily basis.
Castor oil is known to induce contractions within 24 hours of its consumption. However, this is not the case with all women. In such cases, the dose is repeated at the same time the following day as well.
Castor oil can be consumed with juices, or you can also include it in other recipes of your choice.
Symptoms Related To The Use Of Castor Oil During Pregnancy
There are certainly a few factors and symptoms related to the use of castor oil during pregnancy. A few of these symptoms are listed below:
- Nausea is a sure shot symptom that occurs after the ingestion of castor oil. The tendency to vomit, sluggishness, and abdominal unease are bound to happen when you consume castor oil for inducing labor pains.
- Loose motions may also happen in women who do not deliver within 24 hours of ingesting castor oil (very rare chances). It happens due to intestinal upset caused by castor oil.
These symptoms are indications of early contractions. Usually, such symptoms are immediately followed by labor pains. Castor oil initiates the bowels to contract and expand rapidly. This artificial contraction and expansion work like a booster for the uterus. As a result, the walls of the uterus begin contracting and expanding as well. However, it is still unwise to believe that a few contractions are that of labor. Actual labor begins only when the contractions become periodic.
Though the usage of castor oil during pregnancy is popular, it may not be safe. The oil may pose a risk to both the mother and the unborn child. The strong laxative properties of castor oil make it a poor choice during pregnancy. In addition, the oil may also cause respiratory blockage, dehydration in the mother, a reduction in milk supply, and painful labor. Deliberate usage of castor oil during pregnancy may also lead to preterm delivery. Hence, caution is highly advised.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much castor oil is safe during pregnancy?
The intake of 60 ml of castor oil mixed with 200 ml of warm water per day at 40 or 41 weeks of pregnancy is considered safe (3).
How long does it take for castor oil to work to induce labor?
The time it takes for castor oil to induce labor varies from person to person. Women may enter the active phase of labor 24, 36, or 48 hours after ingestion of castor oil (4).
How long does castor oil make you poop?
Castor oil may cause a bowel movement to occur in 1.5-3 hours after ingestion.
Does castor oil only work when you are dilated?
Yes. It can only work when the cervix is dilated. Hence, never use it before the 38th week of pregnancy.
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Tanya is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition. She specializes in writing articles on ingredients that benefit skin,… more
Dr. Jennifer Mercier
(ND, PhD)Jennifer Mercier has been in the practice of women’s health since 1999. Her practice started with Massage Therapy and Midwifery… more