Proponents of natural birth methods and many midwives swear by using evening primrose oil to help ripen the cervix. Evening primrose oil contains prostaglandins, which are used for inducing labor. It is said to help soften and ripen the cervix to help prepare it for the birth of your baby.
Evening primrose oil is more commonly used by midwives. Very few obstetricians employ this method for softening the cervix. Most go to the medical methods of stripping the membranes or inducing labor with prostaglandins or pitocin.
There is some debate about the effectiveness of evening primrose oil. Like other natural methods, the detractors say that this method will only work if the cervix is ripening anyway. Basically, your body has to be ready for it to help.
A 1999 study conducted by the American College of Nurse Midwives looked at the effectiveness of evening primrose oil. This small study compared two groups of 54 women in each group. One group used evening primrose oil and the other did not. This study is in question, since the group of women took the capsules orally, which is not the optimal way to ripen the cervix. The American Academy of Family Practitioners notes that the results are inconclusive since large studies have not been done.
There are two methods for using evening primrose oil. It comes in capsules, which can be opened. The oil can be removed from the capsule and used in massaging the perineum. The capsules can also be inserted directly into the vagina. This is usually done at bedtime. The usual dosage is two capsules per day, increasing to three or four after the 38th week.
This method does not work over night. You should not expect to use the oil before bed and wake up in labor. It doesn’t work that way. The oil needs to be used for a few weeks to gradually ripen the cervix.
It is not recommended that pregnant women use evening primrose oil prior to the thirty sixth week of pregnancy. The baby is not ready to be born prior to this time, so to be safe, practitioners do not recommend using it before then.
If you are near or at your due date and are interested in trying a natural method, rather than medical induction methods, speak to your health care provider about using evening primrose oil. Keep in mind that midwives may be more open to this method, but your doctor may know about it and agree to try it before stripping membranes or using other methods of induction.