Evening Primrose Oil, also referred to as EPO, is oil from the evening primrose plant. Evening Primrose is one of the oldest known plant remedies to be used for pregnancy and was used by Native Americans.
Not Just for Pregnancy
Evening Primrose is not just for pregnancy. It is commonly used to ease uncomfortable symptoms of menstruation, ovulation, and menopause, among other things.
Some women have found it particularly effective in boosting fertility and achieving pregnancy. It's also safe for use while breastfeeding.
How Evening Primrose Oil Works
EPO contains essential fatty acids, linolenic acid (LA), and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). The body uses GLA to produce beneficial compounds called prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins have long been known to help “ripen” the cervix, making it stretchy and aiding in dilation and effacement during labor.
Not an Induction Method
Evening Primrose doesn't technically “induce” labor, because it's not thought to start or shorten labor, but it can prepare the cervix for labor and reduce tearing. Labor is a complex event that includes many hormones and parts of the body. EPO does its part to aid the cervix in its particular job during labor.
When and How to Use EPO
Evening Primrose Oil may be taken orally or used as a vaginal suppository.
EPO should not be used before the 36th week of pregnancy because of its ability to help in cervical dilation. I recommend taking the supplement orally at 36 weeks, and waiting until 38 weeks to begin using it as a vaginal suppository.
You should speak to your doctor or midwife about using EPO, especially if you have had a previous cesarean, as the overuse of prostaglandins can cause hyper-stimulation of the uterus. Your doctor or midwife may not “recommend” its use, but if you really want to use it, ask them if it will harm you in any way; If the answer is no, it's your call.
An alternative to Evening Primrose is Borage Oil, which is also sometimes used in preparation since it contains many of the same properties.
creative commons photo by mccormacka