Castor oil as a natural alternative to labor induction: A retrospective descriptive study

Women Birth. 2018 Apr;31(2):e99-e104. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2017.08.001. Epub 2017 Aug 31.


Aim: To describe birthing outcomes among women who consumed castor oil cocktail as part of a freestanding birth center labor induction protocol.

Methods: De-identified data from birth logs and electronic medical records were entered into SPSS Statistics 22.0 for analysis for all women who received the castor oil cocktail (n=323) to induce labor between January 2008 and May 2015 at a birth center in the United States. Descriptive statistics were analyzed for trends in safety and birthing outcomes.

Results: Of the women who utilized the castor oil cocktail to stimulate labor, 293 (90.7%) birthed vaginally at the birth center or hospital. The incidence of maternal adverse effects (e.g., nausea, vomiting, extreme diarrhea) was less than 7%, and adverse effects of any kind were reported in less than 15% of births. An independent sample t-test revealed that parous women were more likely to birth vaginally at the birth center after using the castor oil cocktail than their nulliparous counterparts (p<.010), while gestational age (p=.26), woman's age (p=.23), and body mass index (p=.28) were not significantly associated.

Conclusions: Nearly 91% of women in the study who consumed the castor oil cocktail to induce labor were able to give birth vaginally with little to no maternal or fetal complications. Findings indicate further research is needed to compare the safety and effectiveness of natural labor induction methodologies, including castor oil, to commonly used labor induction techniques in a prospective study or clinical trial.

Keywords: Castor oil; Labor induction; Labor support; Obstetric complications; Patient education.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Birthing Centers
  • Castor Oil / administration & dosage*
  • Castor Oil / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Labor Onset / drug effects*
  • Labor, Induced / methods*
  • Labor, Obstetric / drug effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prenatal Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States


  • Castor Oil