Evening Primrose and Pregnancy

Beautiful pregnant woman sitting at bed and holds hands on belly in bedroom at home.
Evening Primrose and Pregnancy (Image: NataliaDeriabina/iStock/GettyImages)

Evening primrose oil (EPO) has long been used as an alternative treatment for PMS, hot flashes, endometriosis and other female-specific problems. Women from all around the world say that it may help induce labor and prevent high blood pressure during pregnancy. As with all natural remedies, these claims are subject to debate. Certain practices, such as using evening primrose oil vaginally, have raised controversy in the medical community.

Warning

Evening primrose oil is likely unsafe during pregnancy. Potential side effects include bleeding, premature birth and miscarriage.

Potential Health Benefits

This natural remedy comes from the seeds of the plant with the same name. It has a wide range of applications, from skin care to disease prevention. According to a pilot study published in the Annals of Dermatology, evening primrose oil may help prevent and relieve xerotic cheilitis in acne patients. In fact, it's been proven to be more effective than isotretinoin, a popular acne treatment.

Evening primrose oil has emerged as a natural remedy for menopause symptoms, breast pain and skin disorders. When used along with calcium and fish oil supplements, it may increase bone density and reduce bone loss. In a clinical trial, menopausal women who took EPO capsules for six weeks reported a significant reduction in the severity, frequency and duration of hot flashes.

If you suffer from cardiovascular problems, this natural oil may help. According to the International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology, EPO supports heart health and reduces bad cholesterol levels due to its anti-inflammatory properties. This plant extract is rich in linoleic acid, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and other compounds that relieve inflammation.

Using Evening Primrose Oil in Pregnancy

Traditionally, women use evening primrose oil to induce labor. It's believed that EPO acts as a cervical ripening agent and may help shorten labor duration. As the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology states, there is not enough evidence to support these claims. In a clinical trial, women who took 1,000 mg of EPO twice daily for one week experienced no significant changes in labor duration compared to the placebo group.

However, researchers say that the results may vary depending on the dosage and route of administration. Using EPO vaginally, for instance, may have different effects. If you choose this route, apply evening primrose oil vaginally before bedtime as you'll be lying down for a longer time. This will allow the oil to dissolve gradually and stimulate the release of prostaglandins, a family of lipid compounds that help ripen the cervix.

Evening primrose oil is also used as a preventive measure against preeclampsia. Pregnant women who develop this condition experience an increase in blood pressure. If left untreated, preeclampsia may cause damage to the liver and kidneys — and affect the fetus.

While EPO does lower blood pressure, it has not been proven to help with preeclampsia during pregnancy. If you're at risk for this condition, discuss your options with a medical professional. Preeclampsia can be fatal, so don't take unnecessary risks.

Is Evening Primrose Oil Safe?

The use of evening primrose oil in pregnancy is controversial. Some experts claim that it may actually increase labor duration and trigger complications. The fatty acids in EPO cause the uterine muscles to contract and relax, which may result in miscarriage or premature birth.

Since this supplement acts as a blood thinner, it may cause bleeding and hypotension, especially in people taking anticoagulants. Other potential side effects include headaches, digestive distress, stomach pain and allergic reactions. Furthermore, evening primrose oil can interact with certain drugs and supplements, including aspirin, heparin, diclofenac and phenothiazines.

Even though this remedy is safe for most people, more research is needed about its effects during pregnancy. If you decide to give it a try, start with a small dose and see how your body reacts. Using evening primrose oil vaginally may be safer than ingesting it, so consider this option too.

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