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What Is Evening Primrose Oil and Does It Really Induce Labor?
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  • If you are pregnant and nearing your due date, you probably feel heavy and tired all the time now, along with a few other preggy discomforts. At this point, you are nervous about giving birth, but you also just really want to get it over and done with, right? 

    Your restlessness and anxiety increase when your due date finally arrives and the signs of labor seem to take forever to manifest. Many preggos in our Facebook group Smart Parenting Village have expressed worry when it happens to them, and they always ask one thing: Will evening primrose oil (EPO) help induce labor?

    What is evening primrose oil?

    Evening primrose oil comes from the evening primrose plant. It contains linolenic acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), and vitamin E, and is a popular herbal supplement for conditions like pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause, endometriosis, asthma, eczema, and psoriasis, among others. While it is commercially available in the country, there is still no hard-evidence that support EPO's effect on labor.

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    Will evening primrose oil help induce labor?

    Dr. Gergen Marie Lazaro-Dizon of the Makati Medical Center, who prescribes EPO to some of her patients, says it is incorrect to say that EPO induces labor. "It softens the cervix, but it will not induce labor. It just helps with faster labor," she explains. When the cervix softens and thins, it becomes relaxed, then dilates in response to uterus contractions. 

    She clarified during the group's first Facebook Live Chat With Experts, "There's still no hard-set evidence [to support EPO's effectiveness]. Yung mga stories are all still anecdotal, but there's no harm in using it."

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    The herbal supplement is commercially available (Lazada, Healthy Options, and The Generic Pharmacy are some of the stores that sell it) and comes in soft-gel capsules that a pregnant woman can take orally or insert vaginally. EPO is not yet proven to be safe for preggos, so don't take it without your doctor's consent.

    Dr. Lazaro-Dizon warned pregnant women to use EPO only upon the advice of their doctor. It's safe "as long as it is used when the baby is 'term' (at least 37 or 38 weeks in gestation)," she cautioned. "Don't use it prematurely." EPO is also not advisable for pregnant women who have complications and a history of premature labor.

    The herbal supplement has been associated with childbirth for almost five years, according to Dr. Lazaro-Dizon. Results of the few and small studies on EPO's effectiveness to aid labor have been mixed. For some preggos, evening primrose oil worked like a charm and shortened the hours they were in labor. Still, for other pregnant women, EPO didn't help their labor at all, and some even ended up having a C-section.

    This article was updated on March 26, 2019 at 4:08 p.m.

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