The Pregnant Life: Why I'm Saying No to Castor Oil

Amy Keyishian

Week 38
Week 38
My second-time moms group is meeting up tomorrow. The second one of us has had her sprog, via home birth, but I don’t want to tell you the name because it’s really unusual -- a gorgeous Dutch name, let’s leave it at that. A couple of us have hit 41 weeks, and one other mom, who’s at 38 weeks like me, said she’d like to be there, but will be late because if her acupuncture appointment doesn’t work, she’s going to have “a date with castor oil” to get things moving.

I’ve gotten in trouble on mommy-lists before for piping up with un-asked-for advice. So even though I just wrote about how castor oil (and other natural remedies) aren’t proven to work, I clammed up till I saw that several other moms on the list had chimed in with very, very emphatic advice not to go the castor oil route.

The horror stories they told!

Between the hours of barfing, the dehydration, and a baby's continued refusal to budge, I think we either convinced her to skip the castor oil or drop off the list. I feel sorta bad, but on the other hand, I think castor oil is potentially such a bad move, I’m glad she got the information.

The bottom line from what I can see (and I got to say, “Hey, I just wrote an article about this!” which I think gives me gravitas) is that castor oil works to throw your digestive system into whack, which in turn might set off some contractions -- but all the contractions in the world won’t do you a bit of good if your cervix isn’t dilated, effaced, ripe … you get the picture. Rather than focusing on setting off contractions, I advised her to focus on getting her cervix ready -- via evening primrose oil, her husband’s spoo (yeah, I said spoo), or having her midwife or doctor sweep her cervical membranes.

The membrane sweep sounds awful, though! The doctor or midwife sticks a finger up your hoo-hoo, inserts it into your cervix, and makes a firm circular motion. It’s supposed to separate the cervix from the womb a bit and kick off the release of prostaglandins. But again, if your cervix isn’t also low and soft, it won’t do much, apparently.

Pitocin is the other option -- this dreaded drug is just a synthetic form of oxytocin, the bonding hormone we release naturally when nursing or schtupping. It kicks off contractions -- I don’t know what they do about the cervix, frankly, but I’ll ask my doctor tomorrow -- and a lot of people say the pitocin-induced contractions are much more intense and painful. But my sister had no pitocin for her second kid and said, “I thought it was the pitocin. Turns out labor just really sucks for me.” Agh!

Anyway! Obviously I have all this on my mind because … I am just really pregnant and wondering if I’m going to need induction. All those awesome false alarms are a thing of the past; the past few days I have gotten much more sleep, felt downright peppy during the day, and just sorta wonder if this kid has decided she’s in there for the long haul. My only symptom at this point is that I’m super-heavy and it’s hard to lug around this big belly. I feel so bad for John Goodman!

Monitoring tomorrow, and that meeting of my moms' group, so see you soon...


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