According to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, castor oil will likely cause uterine contractions and irritation. Although these may appear to be labor contractions, they are more likely the result of digestive distress than actual labor.
In fact, they go on to say that women who take oral castor oil are no more likely to go into labor than those who do not.
However, one recent study found that there is a connection between taking castor oil and inducing labor. The study concluded that castor oil may induce labor within 24 hours if a woman is 40 weeks pregnant.
Researchers conducted the study using women in their 40th and 41st weeks of pregnancy, over a period of 5 years.
A smaller study, this time from 2000, found that 57.7% of the women who took castor oil went into labor within 24 hours. Only 4.2% of the women who did not receive castor oil went into labor within 24 hours. Evidence from this study suggests that castor oil may help induce labor.
However, one 2009 study found no connection between taking castor oil and inducing labor. This study included over 600 participants in week 40 or above of their pregnancy. The study concluded that castor oil had no effect on the time of birth. It also did not seem to have any harmful effects.
A 2018 study found that castor oil induction is more effective in women who have had babies previously. The researchers reported no adverse effects from their sample of 81 pregnant women.
Another 2018 study looked back on women who had used castor oil (while 40–41 weeks pregnant) under the care of their doctor, and they found it to be effective in inducing labor within 24 hours for most of the women.
Though study results are mixed in terms of castor oil’s labor-inducing abilities, none of these studies examined issues of safety for either the mother or the fetus.
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