Inducing with castor oil isn’t safe. Once swallowed the castor oil is hydrolized by intestinal lipases to recinoleic acid which stimulates intestinal secretion, decreases glucose absorption and increases intestinal motility. Castor oil is used in lipsticks, too. Many women who can tolerate the oil quite well on their lips get a reaction on their mouths if the oil converts to recinoleic acid. My question to a midwife who says castor oil is not absorbed is ‘Would you please provide me with references for that statement’.
It’s not so long ago that birthing women were given soap suds enemas (high, hot and a helluva lot) because someone started a rumor that soap was not absorbed through the colon. We know this is not true and that this black page in Obstetric history is best forgotten. Too many women have turned from saying ‘My doctor says’ to saying ‘My midwife says’. Take responsibility for your and your family’s health. It is fine to respect professionals but ask for references on everything you’re not l00 % sure of and use your internet to scope things out. There is so much crap that passes for science without anyone questioning it.
On the subject of all the women in a hurry to get their babies born: I was 3 weeks ‘overdue’ with my oldest daughter. What really helped me was that I had lunch with a friend at about 8 months pregnancy. Her son had been born 6 months before. When she saw me walk in the restaurant all hugely pregnant she said ‘Oh, Gloria, when I see you I miss my pregnancy so much’. I knew that one day I’d be saying that, too, so I made up my mind to enjoy it as long as possible and I’m so glad I did. Six months from now you’ll be wondering what the rush was. I worry about women taking castor oil because you also give your baby castor oil when you take it through the gut. This means the baby will get diarrhea and pass meconium, too. Then you’re into all the transports for meconium.
— Gloria Lemay
Feedback to Midwifery Today Magazine:
Thank you for including Gloria Lemay’s comments about castor oil [Issue 4:26]. We all want to see women empowered to make truly informed choices about their care. Unfortunately, most birthing women tend to simply trust that their birth attendant will know what is best for them. The danger of this occurring in a homebirth environment is no less than in a hospital setting and may in fact be more insidious, because while so many of us distrust the obstetrician’s medicalized approach, the homebirth midwife is regarded as especially wise in the ways of birth, as well as unintrusive and noninterventive. The definitions of these last two terms are of course relative, and midwifery, just like obstetrics, is based in traditions that are not always safe or beneficial.
I came to understand this first from experience. My labor was not difficult, but it was longer than average. My midwife encouraged me to drink castor oil to speed up the process. Eager to escape the tedium of labor and to see my baby, I agreed. It was a huge mistake. The stomach cramping was severe and compounded the pain from my contractions, which were now coming fast and furious. Back labor was very painful [in subsequent births], yes, but do-able; my castor oil labor was a tortured hell. Now I know that I was putting my baby at risk as well. I would have much preferred the tedium of a long labor.