Evening Primrose Oil During Pregnancy - Is It Safe?
Created by Janaki Srinivasan Updated on Jun 14, 2021
Pregnancy brings with it lots of excitement but then there are anxious moments too. You start worrying what is safe and what to avoid because advice suddenly starts pouring in from all quarters. You have to take care of yourself and the baby that is slowly developing inside you. Foods have to be carefully chosen, daily exercise and rest is a must to ensure a smooth and safe delivery. Among the foods that pregnant women normally eat, there are some that are controversial—can it be consumed or should it be avoided? I say this because while some will vouch for its safety during pregnancy, others strongly oppose it. In such a situation, it is best to go by what your doctor advises. One such item is the evening primrose oil. Let’s take a look at why opinions are divided when it comes to its consumption.
What is Evening Primrose Oil?
It is a herbal oil that is extracted from a herbaceous flowering plant called evening primrose found mostly in North America.
- It is quite popular for its medicinal value, especially for treating pre-menstrual symptoms and skin disorders. It is easily found in health stores in the form of capsules. People either consume the capsule orally or split it open to use the oil for massage. Either way, it is enormously beneficial
- Native Americans used the seeds, roots and leaves as food and created poultices from the plant to heal bruises. They even made decoctions out of it to treat hemorrhoids. They leaves were used for relief from gastrointestinal issues, treat wounds and heal sore throat
- Gradually the oil was used to treat brittle hair, nails and for relief from PMS symptoms
Nutritional Value and Benefits Of Evening Primrose Oil
Nutritional Value of Evening Primrose Oil:
- Evening primrose oil is a popular dietary supplement as it is rich in an essential fatty acid, linoleic. Our bodies need essential fatty acids but cannot make it themselves and hence we need to derive them from foods
- It is also rich in gamma linoleic acid that is used by the body to make prostaglandins (hormone like chemicals) which aid several body functions
Evening Primrose Oil Benefits :
- It helps relieve breast pain, early discomfort and complications that many women experience during the first trimester
- It has extensively been used for fertility treatments
- Some believe that extracts of this oil can help relieve cervical mucus during ovulation that helps the sperm to stay viable for longer hours. This in turn improves the chances of fertilization after conception
- It prevents pre-eclampsia (High blood pressure) and delayed delivery
- It helps prepare the cervix for labor
- It prevents tearing during labor
Side Effects of Consuming Evening Primrose Oil
Some of the common side effects of consuming evening primrose oil are:
- Upset stomach and diarrhea
- Headache, nausea and abdominal cramps
- If you have a history of seizures, evening primrose oil may make it more frequent and severe
- Post-partum hemorrhage (PPH)
Is It Safe During Pregnancy?
The answer to this is yes and no. It is highly recommended by many midwives to ripen the cervix and induce labor. It is believed to be useful in the first trimester but as pregnancy progresses, it is best avoided or it must be used with extreme caution. In fact many doctors recommend that if you have been taking evening primrose oil prior to pregnancy it is best to discontinue it once your pregnancy is confirmed. For your daily recommended dose of essential fatty acids it is best to find an alternate source.
And if you must continue it, take care of the dosage:
You can start with one/two capsules of 500 mg orally and gradually increase it to 2,500 mg/day. Take care to divide the dosage throughout the day and not consume it in one go. If you want to take it vaginally, it is best to take it at night when you can be lying down for long hours at a stretch. Read the instructions on the pack and follow it strictly. If you have planned a C-section, it is best to avoid it as evening primrose oil is known to be a blood thinner.
In many women it is observed that consumption of evening primrose oil closer to delivery can lead to ‘arrest of descent’, that is, the baby does not descend into the vagina. And because it is a blood thinner, it might complicate a C-section delivery. Vacuum extractor has to be used to pull the baby out which can be quite risky.
Weighing both the sides, it is better to avoid evening primrose oil during pregnancy. There are other natural ways to induce labor which you can discuss with your doctor. Evening primrose oil is not suitable for everyone. It sometimes causes contractions and therefore should never be taken before the 34th week. Consult your doctor to understand if it is safe for you. It is best to exercise caution rather than opt for self-medication.
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