Evening Primrose Oil for Preggos

Before I forget--and I almost always do these days thanks to this parasitic baby #3 who has stolen most of my gray matter--I wanted to get a post up with info that lots of women have asked me about: Using Evening Primrose Oil capsules at the end of pregnancy to prepare your cervix for labor.

*Obviously I'm no doctor, and am just sharing what I have tried and how it worked for me. I asked my OB before I started taking these and she said it was A-okay. You do the same!

With Judah's birth, my water broke first and, despite fudging 12 hours on what we told the OB about when it had happened, I took so long to progress (re: dilate) that they ended up strongly encouraging me to use pitocin to speed things along. I had super wanted to avoid this in my birth, and hated every second of the evil drug that slammed me from 5cm to 10 at an ungodly speed and intensity.

My amazing L&D nurse, Adrienne, who began that day as a stranger and ended up delivering Judah, being our biggest advocate, and becoming a dear friend, suggested Evening Primrose Oil supplements for my pregnancy with Layla to try to help me avoid slow progression this time around (i dont even really think I was slow at progressing, it was just that my clock was ticking in the minds of the OB's since my water had been broken for so long).

She basically said that in her experience women who take the supplements have incredibly "mushy" cervixes that are really eager to dilate once labor gets going and contractions start. Despite loving all things childbirth, the term "mushy cervix" still give me the shivers. 

So I started the pills after talking to my OB once I hit 36 weeks with Layla. Of course, every birth is different so i can't KNOW that the supplements made the difference, but I do know that with very little pain, and just a few contractions, I was already at 5cm when we arrived at the hospital, and Layla was out 4 hours later (going from 5 to 10 hurt like crazy in case you were wondering, but the primrose was never supposed to make birth painless!)

When Adrienne checked me for the first time (we had bonded so much after Judah's birth that she insisted on swapping her shift to be on duty for Layla's...LOVE her), she said she literally pushed me from a 5/6 to about a 7cm. Again, that's weird or whatever, but I'll take all the free cm's I can get (though, like all pelvic exams during labor, it didnt feel great).

So here's the regimen that Adrienne recommended for me and that I followed to a T to soften up ye olde cervix as much as possible in preparation for labor:

Don't use it directly on the cervix (if you can even reach it-I sure couldn't at 9 months pregnant). When it's used directly on the cervix can actually induce labor and the dosing in unpredictable. Here is the regimen my midwife prescribed: 

36 weeks pregnant: one 500mg capsule 3X a day
37 weeks pregnant: two 500mg capsules 3X a day
38 weeks pregnant: three 500mg capsules 3X a day
39 weeks pregnant until you deliver: four 500mg capsules 3X a day

It will seem like you're always downing pills but it's worth it. This will not put you into labor, but it will make your cervix so soft that when you do go into labor it will melt away (i.e. You will be at 10cm) in no time. 

Here's the other thing; if you're doing evening primrose don't be surprised if you get checked in the office and they tell you your cervix is 2-3 cm during your last few weeks. This is very common and you can walk around like that for a while (like a week or more). The reason I'm telling you this is because a lot of doctors will try and convince patients who are dilated a couple cms and term to just go in and be induced. Some doctors will say they can induce you just by breaking your water but the truth is at some point they are going to put you on pitocin. So, if you want to avoid the "devil juice" at all costs just be prepared to smile and tell your doc that you're happy to walk around with a 3cm cervix and wait for your body and God to decide when it's time for labor.

So if you deliver on your due date, that will mean about 210 pills all told, and more if you go late. Yeah, it's a lot of pillage (hahah like a pirate!), but they aren't expensive ($12 for 250 capsules) and don't have any side effects like fishy burps or anything.

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Also: full disclosure, I was a naughty bad girl and just so over being pregnant at 39 weeks that I started taking one of the capsules *vaginally* every night, just getting it as far up there as I could and then going to sleep. If you had asked me before if I would EVER do something like that I would have slapped you for a lunatic, but if you've ever been 39 weeks pregnant, you know the lengths you are willing to go to to no longer BE pregnant!

Let me know if you have any questions or if I missed something in the explanation. Have you ever used this stuff or even heard of it? Do you think it's hippie nonsense? 


  1. I used orally and vaginally around 36-37 weeks. Even pricked and shoved up to 3 pills at a time in there at night. Here's something interesting. My midwives and doula types don't recommend it anymore at all. Not sure what's up with that!

  2. My first baby had the same deal where my water broke before labor started! I managed to do the whole thing without pitocin, but I was so worn out from being up 30 plus hours and being in labor 20 some that I had an epidural which wasn't in the birth plan. I also wanted a water birth and didn't get that either!

    I seriously considered getting some primrose oil when my little boy didn't show up on his due date. I was seriously bummed as he was due on the summer solstice. Wouldn't that have been an awesome birthday? My midwives were bummed because I had mild gestational diabetes which was diet and exercise controlled but the last couple weeks my fasting blood sugar levels started to creep up. They wanted to induce me the day after I was due if I hadn't naturally gone into labor. I did the research and talked with my GP and decided to wait until the baby was a week overdue before I'd induce. At five days overdue, he arrived after just two hours in the hospital and seven hours in labor. It was so much easier, but not because of the primrose oil, but because he was my second!

    I hope the third is even easier for you! And the primrose can't hurt. I also hear rose hip tea helps strengthen the uterus for a faster delivery.