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Why do midwives recommend using evening primrose oil to help ripen the cervix?

I'm a 25 year old pregnant wife, with a family history of over due mothers. I am currently 40 weeks pregnant and have been told to use evening primrose oil as a perineal massage oil to help stimulate and ripen the cervix in preparation for labor. Why is this? What is the reasoning behind this method of labor inducement?
Evening primrose oil is a commonly used herbal supplement that is thought to help ripen the cervix by some people. While many such supplements do not have to have a reason for why they are thought to work (that is, their anecdotal use and success is such that people are told to use them without any scientific basis), there is a potential theory behind the utility of this specific supplement. Primrose oil contains a high concentration of certain fatty acids that are necessary to create certain prostaglandins. As prostaglandins are thought to be important in the thinning and ripening of the cervix, the thought process would likely be that a direct application of the building blocks necessary for these prostaglandins might be efficacious in stimulating their creation and subsequent activity. That being said, there is no medical evidence that they are effective, and so your specific midwife would be best able to answer why he or she believes that evening primrose oil will be effective for you. There are also medical therapies that have been proven to be successful in some cases, although they are not appropriate for all. Please continue to work closely with your health care provider to maintain the optimal health of both you and your baby.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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