In the late stages of pregnancy, many expectant mothers turn to borage oil for cervical ripening. Using borage oil for this purpose may be a natural option to prepare the way for a shorter, less painful labor.
What Is Borage Oil
Borage oil is an oil that comes from the seeds of the Borago officinalis plant. The plant, also known as borage, has blue, star-shaped flowers and can be found in Europe, North America and North Africa.
Borage oil contains gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is a fatty acid that can be converted by the body into a prostaglandin. It is used to treat a number of health conditions, including skin conditions, inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis and to improve heart health. Many people also feel it has applications in pregnancy and delivery, and that expectant mothers can use borage oil for cervical ripening.
What Is Cervical Ripening
Cervical ripening is a process that occurs naturally as the uterus readies for labor and delivery. During cervical ripening, the cervix becomes shorter and softer. Without cervical ripening, labor and delivery can be quite difficult.
Many obstetricians and midwives use a number of natural and pharmaceutical methods to ripen the cervix pre-childbirth. They do this in order to ease the expectant mother's way into labor. Natural methods include use substances high in GLA and prostaglandins such as borage oil or evening primrose oil in either oral preparations or using perneal massage, oral administration of homeopathic agents such as pusatilla, oral administration of herbal agents such as black cohosh, and mechanical methods such as sexual intercourse or nipple stimulation.
It is important to note that in most cases, the cervix ripens on its own as a natural part of the process of labor and delivery; however, in some cases, midwives and obstetricians may deem it appropriate to use one of the above methods (or other available methods) to enhance the body's natural processes.
The Difference Between Cervical Ripening and Labor Induction
Many people confuse cervical ripening with labor induction. While enhancing cervical ripening using natural methods may, indeed, lead to labor, it is generally believed that using natural methods of cervical ripening will only induce labor if the body is ready for labor to begin.
Labor induction is usually performed in a medical setting, and typically involves the use of labor inducing medications such as pitocin. Most physicians won't induce labor unless they feel that it is absolutely necessary. Borage oil may also be administered intravaginally by inserting one 500 mg capsule of borage oil in the vagina twice a day. After labor has begun, your midwife may also use borage oil to massage the perineum to further soften and ripen the cervix.
Using Borage Oil for Cervical Ripening
Borage oil can be used for cervical ripening in two ways. First, it can be taken orally starting at about 38 weeks. The recommended dosage of borage oil for cervical ripening is 500 mg twice a day, taken orally.
Safety and Efficacy
All of the above described methods of ripening the cervix using borage oil are generally considered safe. As previously stated, it is commonly believed that natural methods of cervical ripening such as using borage oil only ripen the cervix to the extent that it is ready to be ripened. The effectiveness of this treatment has not been evaluated by the FDA. This means that no scientific studies have been done to show the efficacy of this technique, although it is a commonly used technique amongst midwives. All evidence for the effectiveness of ripening the cervix using borage oil is anecdotal.
Caveats and Cautions
- Because borage oil may have properties that cause uterine contractions, it is essential that you do not take it before 38 weeks of pregnancy.
- The information contained in this article is in no way intended to provide medical diagnosis or recommend treatment. Consult with your personal health care provider, midwife or obstetrician before taking any supplements or medications either orally or vaginally while pregnant.
- Self-treatment is never recommended. Only use borage oil under the advice and supervision of your midwife or obstetrician.
Where to Find Borage Oil
Borage oil comes in capsules and can be found at your local health food store. Some drug stores and grocery stores also have borage oil available in their vitamin section.