Castor Oil to Bring on Labor
First let me just say that I do not recommend this method. That is because I used it with my second child and it was just about the most horrible mistake I could have made (other than maybe getting another epidural, anyway).
The theory behind this induction method is that the castor oil causes diarrhea and the diarrheal cramps cause sympathetic cramping in your uterus, another smooth muscle. This is another of the methods that “won’t work if you’re not already ready anyway”, as the sympathetic cramping will be ineffectual if all conditions are not already optimal for labor. In my case, my contractions began 10 minutes after my first dose of oil, hours before the diarrhea began. Therefore, it could not have been the castor oil that brought on labor in my case, and I caused myself all that trouble for nothing.
There has been much debate over whether taking castor oil to induce labor will cause the baby to have its first bowel movement in the womb before birth. This pre-birth bowel movement, called meconium, can be dangerous, because if baby inhales some of it it can cause pneumonia in the lungs. Meconium is also a widely-held signal that the baby is in some sort of distress. Most professionals with any experience with castor oil inductions agree that this is untrue. They have found that there is no increased occurrence of meconium in castor oil induced labors over spontaneous labors.
The real danger lies in the mother when using castor oil for labor induction. With the severity of the diarrhea, a laboring woman can quickly become dehydrated. Especially in a typically highly managed hospital birth where a woman is allowed few fluids. Dehydration makes one tired and less able to endure through physical activity. Plus, not only does this endanger breastfeeding (proper hydration is necessary to make adequate milk), but a dehydrated uterus is an aggravated uterus, and an aggravated uterus causes more pain for the mother. More pain makes a woman less able to handle natural child birth and puts her and the baby at increased risk for a snowball of interventions.
Nipple Stimulation to Self-induce
This is a practice often recommended by midwives when a woman is long past due or when labor is stalled. Nipple stimulation causes the release of oxytocin, the same hormone that causes uterine contractions. Many women report, however, that the contractions produced from this method are much stronger and more painful than natural labor, but are not any more effective. Please note: In order to use this method for induction, you must stimulate the nipples for long periods of time. The usual recommendation is 15 minutes of continual stimulation on each nipple each hour for several hours. So, the amount of stimulation you may experience during intimacy, while nursing an older child, or while pumping your breasts while pregnant will not cause you to go into labor. The general recommendation on these activities is to abstain from them when your condition warrants doctor recommended pelvic rest. Please check with your practitioner before trying this.
Acupressure/Acupuncture for Inducing or Augmenting Labor
There are two points on your body that will cause uterine contractions. They are always warned against during pregnancy, though they are widely believed to be another labor inducing method that will not work if you are not already ready to deliver. These points are about four finger-widths above the inner ankle on your calf, and in the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. You will know when you’ve found the spot because it will be very sore. You rub your calf, or pinch the webbing on your hand, in a circular motion for 30-60 second at a time, taking 1-2 minute breaks in between.
There is a procedure your doctor or midwife can perform called “stripping” or “sweeping” your membranes. The healthcare professional will insert their finger(s) into your cervix and sweep from side to side, pulling the membranes (bag of water) away from the mouth of the cervix and the lower uterus, and in the process stretching and irritating your cervix. Sometimes this will generate local production of prostaglandins and enough of the necessary hormones to start labor. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 attempts to begin labor. Many women find this to be a very uncomfortable, if not painful, procedure. This is a medical intervention and should be taken as seriously as any medical induction method.
Herbs and Homeopathic Remedies
All substances that would fall in this category, such as Blue and Black Cohosh are general considered to be as unsafe as medical interventions, and if they are to be used must be used only under the recommendation and supervision of your doctor or midwife.
Jessica Hudson is owner of Eva Lillian Maternity & Nursing Boutique. She is not medically trained and is not recommending any of the above. She has compiled this information from many different authoritative sources, and provides the above for informational purposes only. To read more such articles, please visit