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Exercise Balls and Castor Oil — Risks of Trying to Induce Labor at Home

Black Cohosh, Castor Oil, Exercise Ball, Induce Labor, Labor Induction

When you near the end of your pregnancy, you can experience a host of emotions. Some women feel anxious, impatient, uncomfortable, and many are feeling downright sick of being pregnant. In order to get the ball rolling, some women attempt at-home methods of labor induction. Some of these methods are harmless (and frankly do not work!), but some carry some risks that every woman should know before trying them out.

Castor Oil
There are some studies out there that suggest castor oil is a very effective way of inducing labor. One study gave 52 women castor oil and compared that to 48 women who were not given castor oil. After a 24-hour observation 30 of 52 of the women, or 57.7%, who were given castor oil went into labor while only 2 of the 48, or 4.2%, who were not given castor oil went into labor.

Be warned. Castor oil is meant to induce labor by irritating and contracting the intestines which is supposed to stimulate contractions in the uterus. Castor oil can cause severe stomach and intestinal pain and typically causes diarrhea. I have heard of at least one women who tried this and she went into labor and gave birth all while having severe diarrhea. When it comes down to it, skip the castor oil and save yourself from having a labor and delivery that no doctor or nurse in the delivery room will ever forget.

Exercise Ball
Some women try to sit and bounce on an exercise ball to get their baby to drop. While gently bouncing on the ball may not hurt your baby, do not attempt this before your due date. During my birthing class at the hospital, they warned us about the exercise ball. One patient had been using the exercise ball at around 34 or 35 weeks and accidentally broke her water. Because her water broke before her body was ready for labor, she had to be induced and gave birth to a premature baby. The nurse told me the mother felt terrible.

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Black Cohosh
Black cohosh has been used by many women in attempt to induce labor. However, there have not been enough studies about black cohosh and whether or not it is even safe for pregnant women to take. Until more research is done on black cohosh, stay far from it!

One Final Warning
Never attempt to self-induce before 39 weeks gestation because your baby still has some developing to do. In fact, one researcher discovered that babies born at 37 or 38 weeks show a higher incidence of reading and math issues later in life than babies born at 39 weeks or later.

If you do try any of these methods to induce labor or others that you have heard about, proceed with great caution.