Labor Tools: Castor Oil
What it is:
In an attempt to start labor, some women will drink a mixture of castor oil and juice. The various recipes for this mixture are generally called a "midwife cocktail," or a "castor oil induction." This is only one of several non-medical techniques used to try to induce labor, and may be used in combination with other natural techniques.
How it works:
Castor oil stimulates the bowels in the same way an enema would. For some unexplained reason, when the bowel is stimulated to empty in this way, the uterus is also stimulated. A study in Alternative Therapies, January 2000, reported that 57.7% of the mothers given castor oil began labor in the specified time period while only 4.3% of the mothers not given castor oil went into labor.
2-6 Hours after drinking the castor oil, the mother will experience diarrhea and should begin contractions.
According to Fundamentals of Pharmacology 4th Ed.
"Castor oil in itself is not an irritant ... but must be metabolized into ricinoleic acid, a potent intestinal irritant. Ricinoleic acid can be absorbed and, as it also stimulates uterine smooth muscle, was used with some success to induce labour in pregnancy."
How to do it:
There are many "recipes" for the midwife cocktail. They are all built around 2 oz of castor oil (around 4 Tablespoons).
Because castor oil is unpalatable alone, it is mixed with orange juice, grape juice, or tea. Some recipes encourage large volumes of juice to dull the flavor of the oil. Other recipes use only equal amounts of oil and juice so the mother has less to drink.
One recipe I found recommended mixing the oil with a glass of juice and a teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to give the cocktail the feeling of a fizzy drink.
NOTE: Please be aware that use of castor oil orally will result in some unpleasant side effects. Diarrhea, nausea and vomiting are common in castor oil inductions and are not only uncomfortable during labor but can cause the mother to become dehydrated. Be sure the mother who tries this is drinking enough fluids. Some experts recommend using an enema, which they feel will give the similar results with less discomfort and less risk of dehydration.
Before choosing to use castor oil, it is helpful to be sure you are ready to try induction.
Implementing it in labor:
Readers have offered many recipes for using castor oil in labor:
2 oz of castor oil mixed with 2 oz of orange juice concentrate. Drink one or two glasses of water immediately after the cocktail.
2 oz of castor oil mixed with a large glass of juice. Serve in a glass with crushed ice.
3 tsp castor oil mixed with a glass of juice and 1 tsp baking soda.
Mix 2 oz castor oil and some cola together, follow with 2-3 crackers.
2oz. of oil with a cup of ice cream and 8oz. of coke... kind of like a root beer float
1 tablespoon with some juice (in a special cup top make it more ceremonial), half an hour later another tablespoon, half an hour later another tablespoon if necessary.
Shake 1 tbsp castor oil in a cup of root beer with a lid on. You have to remove the lid quickly because the root beer foams like crazy. Then you chug the whole cup. The foam suspends the oily texture and you really can't tell you are drinking castor oil.
Thank you to all the midwives and moms who continue to offer new and interesting ways to try a Castor Oil Induction!