Castor Oil To Induce Labour – Is Castor Oil Safe?

Inducing with castor oil isn’t safe. Once swallowed the castor oil is hydrolized by intestinal lipases to recinoleic acid which stimulates intestinal secretion, decreases glucose absorption and increases intestinal motility. Castor oil is used in lipsticks, too. Many women who can tolerate the oil quite well on their lips get a reaction on their mouths if the oil converts to recinoleic acid. My question to a midwife who says castor oil is not absorbed is, ‘Would you please provide me with references for that statement?’

It’s not so long ago that birthing women were given soap suds enemas (high, hot and a helluva lot) because someone started a rumor that soap was not absorbed through the colon. We know this is not true and that this black page in obstetric history is best forgotten. Too many women have turned from saying, ‘My doctor says’ to saying, ‘My midwife says’. Take responsibility for your and your family’s health. It is fine to respect professionals but ask for references on everything you’re not l00% sure of and use your internet to scope things out. There is so much crap that passes for science without anyone questioning it.

On the subject of all the women in a hurry to get their babies born: I was 3 weeks ‘overdue’ with my oldest daughter. What really helped me was that I had lunch with a friend at about 8 months pregnancy. Her son had been born 6 months before. When she saw me walk in the restaurant all hugely pregnant she said ‘Oh, Gloria, when I see you I miss my pregnancy so much’. I knew that one day I’d be saying that, too, so I made up my mind to enjoy it as long as possible and I’m so glad I did. Six months from now you’ll be wondering what the rush was.

Experiences Using Castor Oil

Below is a letter sent to the publication, ‘Midwifery Today’, who published the above information in their magazine. Here’s what the writer said:

“Thank you for including Gloria Lemay’s comments about castor oil [Issue 4:26]. We all want to see women empowered to make truly informed choices about their care. Unfortunately, most birthing women tend to simply trust that their birth attendant will know what is best for them. The danger of this occurring in a homebirth environment is no less than in a hospital setting and may in fact be more insidious, because while so many of us distrust the obstetrician’s medicalized approach, the homebirth midwife is regarded as especially wise in the ways of birth, as well as unintrusive and non-interventive. The definitions of these last two terms are of course relative, and midwifery, just like obstetrics, is based in traditions that are not always safe or beneficial.

I came to understand this first from experience. My labor was not difficult, but it was longer than average. My midwife encouraged me to drink castor oil to speed up the process. Eager to escape the tedium of labor and to see my baby, I agreed. It was a huge mistake. The stomach cramping was severe and compounded the pain from my contractions, which were now coming fast and furious. Back labor was very painful [in subsequent births], yes, but do-able; my castor oil labor was a tortured hell. Now I know that I was putting my baby at risk as well. I would have much preferred the tedium of a long labor.” – Linda Hessel, Peoria, OR

BellyBelly Member Comments on Castor Oil Use To Induce Labour

While a small number of our members say they went into labour soon after taking castor oil, there is certainly no evidence of this and midwives tend to tell them that it was unlikely that the castor oil did it. Even if they did go into labour, they often don’t have a pleasant experience of it as you will see below. The question I would ask myself (and the reason I didn’t want to touch it) would be: ‘If I do go into labour, do I want to risk having the runs and/or feeling nauseous at the same time?’ Many women (but not all) report nausea, vomiting and / or diarrhoea.

“Don’t do it!!! My sister took it and had bad diarrhoea and vomited…. she ended up being induced after going 8 days overdue”. — Rae

“I did it with 2 of my 4 earth babies. I just got really really sick! I vomited and pooed all day and into the night. Oh, and no baby!” — Deb

“I tried it and it is bloody awful. Made me poo and gag and feel like spewing – but nothing else.” — Trish

“I’m due today and i tried it last Friday, didn’t work at all.” — Kerensa

“I have known women to try it and wind up in hospital with dehydration due to diarrhoea, not labour.” — Christy

“The grossest taste…. diarrhoea all night… not one single contraction came from it!” — kahmanya

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Birth Attendant and Mother


  1. I did try castor oil one night around 10pm, knowing that I was constipated and after 38 wks I didnt really mind if it induced labor. I had a long episode of BH contractions, but still fell asleep peacefully. The next morning I woke up at 4am with my water broke and mild contractions. I took my time getting to the hospital, but the pain worsened very suddenly as soon as I was brought to my room around 7am. At only 2cm dilated (which I had been for 4 days) I was already begging for something for pain. I did have an episode of diarrhea and vomiting at some point, but was so engolfed with pain that I couldn’t even think about how to care for myself or breath. At 8am my nurse finally came in to check me and I was already a 10, and my baby’s head was there!! A 2 to a 10 in just 1 hour and the pain was the worst I could even imagine! By the time the dr arrived I had pushed 3 times and she was out by 828am. It was a terrible experience. BTW, she was born with CP after suffering a stroke inutero. Whether that was caused by the castor oil, I will never know and will always wonder. It’s not worth it ladies.

  2. I did it with all 3 of my other pregnancies and it worked within 8 hours every time. Every labor was different as though I had not used it with various labor times. In none of my labors and deliveries did I ever get an epidural (all natural). I contribute all of my times going into active labor to castor oil (just 1 TBSP in a glass of OJ). I was over my due date with all of them. I never felt nauseated and my intestines were completely cleaned out for delivery. I was sure to keep hydrated with 3 to 4 liters of water daily throughout my pregnancy so, dehydration was never an issue. To each their own experience.

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