My Thoughts on Castor Oil for Labor Induction:
I was scared to take it. If it was up to Jarrod, I would have taken it the weekend before I did. I was 9 days overdue. I could tell the baby was big enough and my midwife had estimated she was 7lbs 13-14oz the week of my due date. I had been dilated to 3-4cm for 3 days and had had some regular contractions during the nights that always petered out by morning. My body was ready. My baby was ready (or so I thought; she apparently had other thoughts). And I had a deadline of 42 weeks staring me in the face only days away.
Pitocin and a hospital birth were my greatest fear. I was planning a homebirth and would have been devastated if this could not be. All the self-induction methods: you name them, I tried them! Except castor oil. My cousin had used castor oil for all 6 of her babies and helped allay my fears. At 9 days overdue, I decided to give it a try.
The biggest concerns with castor oil are dehydration from excessive diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and it not being a reliable induction method. Dehydration is easily combated with hydration. I typically drank at least a half gallon of fluids a day during my pregnancy, so the morning I planned to take the castor oil, I just began chugging the water with the goal of a gallon by early-mid evening. I wasn’t worried about abdominal cramping because I figured even bad abdominal cramps would be better than the breakless contractions of pitocin. I was worried about it not working, but my cousin helped boost my confidence. My body was ready; castor oil would work. If my body hadn’t been ready, then the castor oil would have done nothing but cause diarrhea. Castor oil may not be pleasant, but from the stories I’ve heard, pitocin is worse.
My cousin said to take 2 tablespoons. So at 10am on Saturday, September 7th, I did. What she didn’t tell me was that it’s helpful to dilute it in orange juice or something of that nature. I took it straight. Flavorless, but the consistency of soap and very oily. That morning I hung out at my cousin’s garage sale to pass the time. By 1pm, nothing had happened and my cousin suggested another dose as she had always seen it work within 2 hours. So 3 tablespoons this time. It took until nearly 4pm for the intestinal effects to kick in. Diarrhea, but no stomach cramps. By 7:30-8pm, I became discouraged that there was no uterine activity. I was nearly convinced that not even castor oil could evict this baby. Around 8:30pm, I felt and heard a pop and within 2 minutes, I knew my water had broken. Yay! Progress at last. Contractions began within 30 minutes and they were definitely stronger than any I had had previously. I paced through them for a half hour and then texted my mom and friend to come over. They arrived around 10pm and began giving me back rubs and providing counter pressure to my hips and lower back. I could just barely talk through the contractions that were coming about every 5 minutes. At 10:30pm, my friend and mom suggested I call the midwife back to let her know labor was in full swing. Good thing I did, because when she arrived at 11pm, I was 9cm dilated. I was shocked! The last few contractions had been 3 minutes apart and the hardest yet, but still I just moaned a little at the peak (I was getting a foot massage at this point and was very relaxed, so maybe that is why). I was really expecting transition to be worse.
The tub was finally ready, so I climbed in. The water felt so good and the next few contractions were easier because of it. Around 11:30pm, I began to feel pushy. I pushed on my hands and knees for a few contractions and then turned over to a squat. During a contraction, my mom and husband would lift me into a squat, so I could have gravity and anatomy in my favor. Between contractions, I let my lower body float and rest. I pushed for just over an hour, with her head crowning for much of that time. Finally at 12:38pm, only 4 hours after my water broke, just as a contraction ended, I gave one last push. Her head slipped out and the rest of her body slid out on its own. What sweet relief!
I remember commenting to my husband later that if all my labors are that good, I could have 10 more!
Would I take castor oil again? Definitely. It works. It induces labor if your body is already ready. But its still your body’s own labor: your oxytocin, your contractions. Just remember to drink a lot.