“Full term” during pregnancy is both an exciting and, oftentimes, miserable place to be! Your body is tired and swollen, you’re uncomfortable, and you’re overly anxious to meet the little one whom you have been growing over the last nine months.
Your mind may wander to thoughts of what you can do to help your baby make her arrival sooner.
You turn to Google and start looking for natural ways to induce labor at home when you stumble upon midwives brew.
What is this concoction that sounds a lot like a magic potion?
What is midwives brew? Midwives brew, which is also known as the “German labor cocktail,” is a mixture of natural ingredients including almond butter, juice, lemon verbena tea, and castor oil. Many pregnant women drink this concoction in hopes that it will induce labor more quickly.
Sounds intriguing, right? If you are considering trying midwives brew, read on to learn more about what it is, how it works, and if it really is a safe and effective way to induce labor.
Does Midwives Brew Induce Labor?
As you dig deeper into your research on midwives brew, you will find mixed reviews on its effectiveness as a source of induction. Some women will swear by it while others will encourage you to spare your tastebuds and try something else.
Several bloggers and influencers claim that 85% of women who drink midwives brew will go into labor within the next 24 hours. That’s a promising percentage!
There have also been many scientific studies that support the hypothesis that the concoction can cause uterine contractions and initiate the labor process.
Why Does Midwives Brew Work?
Why do dates, eggplant, and certain spices supposedly induce labor? Obviously, something in each of these foods gets the uterus going. Midwives brew is no different.
The main ingredient in the brew is castor oil, which has been used to induce labor since ancient Egypt. Exactly how castor oil works is not known, but there are some theories.
Castor oil is best known as a laxative that when ingested, causes spasms in the small intestine that trigger the bowels. One theory is that these spasms also irritate the uterus of pregnant women and stimulate contractions.
It is also believed that castor oil may reduce fluid absorption and electrolytes in the small intestine, which can cause gastrointestinal cramping and possibly contractions.
Additionally, castor oil might promote the production of prostaglandins, which act like hormones and begin to ripen the cervix for labor.
Midwives Brew Ingredients
The brew is made of four simple and natural ingredients:
- Almond butter
- Apricot juice
- Castor oil
- Pure lemon verbena tea
That’s it! Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Is Midwives Brew Safe?
This is the big question! As it should be. You and your baby’s health and safety are your primary concern, regardless of how miserable the end of pregnancy may be.
Most studies have concluded that using midwives brew is not a dangerous or harmful way to induce labor so long as it is not done too early in the pregnancy.
You should never try to induce labor at home before you are full term (40+ weeks) or have permission from your provider.
Your uterus is the safest place for your baby, and as long as your health is not being compromised by complications, letting her decide when she will make her arrival is ultimately the safest thing to do.
While there is not a lot of evidence of midwives brew resulting in many fetal complications after birth, there is evidence of very uncomfortable side effects for the mother such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
These side effects could result in dehydration and deprive her of the energy needed for labor.
Increased diarrhea from the mother could also be threatening for the baby and lead to an increased risk of meconium aspiration and suffocation.
Additionally, a lot of research has shown that a woman who has had a previous cesarean section should not use midwives brew as the intense cramping and contractions from the castor oil could cause a uterine rupture.
There have been many studies done on the safety of midwives brew, and there is generally nothing to be too concerned about. If done at the proper time, it does not pose a lot of threat to the baby and should not cause severe complications.
However, after reading many forums and discussing this topic with a midwife, I have found that the consensus is to use the midwives brew as a last-resort option because it is not usually the most pleasant experience for the mother.
Most midwives who use it do so based on clinical experience and after an evaluation of a client’s particular circumstances.
There are many other natural induction methods that are more comfortable and would likely be considered before opting for the midwives brew simply because it usually adds additional discomfort to an already difficult and painful process.
Midwives Brew Side Effects
Even though the brew is not likely to cause any harm to you or your little one, there are still side effects to be mindful of, including:
- Diarrhea due to castor oil’s laxative properties
- Extreme abdominal cramping
- Dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting
Each of these is very unpleasant and can make for extremely uncomfortable labor. Not all women experience all these side effects, but most will experience at least one, and it is likely to be diarrhea.
We’re just being honest. It is definitely a risk you take if you choose to ingest castor oil.
There are not any known side effects per se for babies should the mother use midwives brew.
There is, however, an increased risk of meconium mixed with amniotic fluid and, therefore, neonatal respiratory distress from meconium aspiration, which can be very harmful to your baby.
The reality is that the effects of the midwives brew are just too unpredictable. Everyone’s body responds differently, and there is no way to know exactly how your body will respond.
This is another reason why it is extremely important to only use the brew after a detailed discussion with your provider and, preferably, under their supervision.
When To Try Midwives Brew
If you’re anxious to get the baby out but are only pushing 38 weeks, you may want to put the cup of brew down. Midwives brew is best consumed when a pregnancy is overdue and the cervix has already begun dilating and is effaced.
The desired effects of labor induction will only happen if the uterus is prepared for labor, meaning the cervix has already begun to open up.
As uncomfortable and miserable as those last few weeks are, it is best to hold out until you have permission from your doctor to begin trying methods to induce labor.
If you are pushing week 41 and the baby still isn’t showing signs of coming on her own, then you can certainly ask your provider or midwife about using a midwives brew or other at-home induction method.
How Long Does It Take the Midwives Brew To Work?
How quickly the brew gets things stirring is also unpredictable and varies from woman to woman. However, the majority of reports claim that the brew will initiate labor within 24 hours.
In one particular study done in Egypt, where castor oil is used regularly to induce labor, 44% of the women in the study began to feel contractions within 2 hours of drinking the mixture.
Midwives Brew Taste
The chances of you finding someone who likes the taste of the brew are slim to none. The taste is far from pleasant, and it is not uncommon to throw it right back up.
The juice and tea in the recipe are meant to help with the taste, but castor oil is too potent to hide completely.
Some women have said drinking it with ice helps them to keep it down. So, do what you must do, but don’t set your expectations too high.
Midwives Brew Success Rate
Just as the side effects are unpredictable, so is the likelihood of the brew actually initiating and advancing labor.
If you search on blogs and discussion forums, you will find a mixture of experiences ranging from going into labor within an hour of drinking the mixture to not having any side effects even after drinking it for days.
Some studies will confirm that there is no significant difference in labor time between women who drink the brew and those who do not. Others conclude that there is a difference. It is just one of those things!
However, there is a lot more scientific evidence that midwives brew, or castor oil more specifically, does help a woman go into labor more quickly.
Most bloggers and influencers will say that midwives brew is generally 85% successful. This is likely an average percentage based on the different studies that have been done on the method.
In this 2009 study, they concluded that 57% of women went into labor quicker after receiving castor oil compared to those who did not receive the oil.
A more recent study in 2018 showed that 91% of women who consumed castor oil gave birth vaginally within 24 hours with no issues or complications. The women in these studies were all full term or overdue in their pregnancies.
So, do with that what you will, but it is likely that the odds are in your favor if you choose to use the brew to get things going.
Midwives Brew Success at 37 Weeks
You may be wondering when is the earliest time you can use the midwives brew in hopes of inducing labor. Unfortunately, the likelihood of the brew inducing labor when the body is not quite ready for it is pretty slim.
Unless your cervix has already begun preparing for labor, the castor oil will not be as effective of a catalyst for labor.
You will probably just experience very bad abdominal cramps and will be spending a lot of time on the toilet if you take the brew too soon.
Most midwives and doctors would not recommend inducing labor until you are full term or there is an urgent need to do so. At 37 weeks, most babies still need that extra time.
Regardless of how uncomfortable you are, do not try to naturally induce labor until after you have discussed it with your provider.
Midwives Brew Recipe
There are several different recipes for the midwives brew, and it is unlikely that two midwives will give you the same recipe. Let’s take a look at one of the most popular recipes, but please remember to consult with your doctor first.
- 2 tbsp. castor oil
- 2 tbsp. almond butter
- 1 cup pure lemon verbena tea
- 1 1/4 cups apricot juice
Preparing the brew is simple. First, brew the tea, and make it strong. Let the tea bag sit for at least 10 minutes.
Then, throw all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Once blended well, pour it into a cup, and drink it on an empty stomach.
You may drink it warm; however, a lot of women prefer it over ice to make the flavor more tolerable.
Midwives Brew Recipe Without Castor Oil
Castor oil is the main ingredient in midwives brew. All of the other ingredients are simply flavor enhancers or aids for the nausea that is likely to follow.
Therefore, there is no recipe for midwives brew that does not contain castor oil as that is the main ingredient that is said to induce labor.
However, in theory, any other contraction stimulant would work. If castor oil isn’t your cup of tea, you could try alternative natural labor-inducing foods or beverages, such as raspberry tea, cayenne, eggplant, or spicy foods.
Can I Use a Different Juice in Midwives Brew?
Absolutely! The main purpose of the juice in the mixture is to enhance the flavor and try to make it easier to swallow.
Any strong-flavored juice will work. Pineapple, apricot, and orange are all great juices and will not have an impact on the effectiveness of the brew.
Can I Use Peanut Butter Instead of Almond Butter in Midwives Brew?
Yes! The almond butter is said to help the contents of the mixture stick to your small intestine better; therefore, peanut butter will also suffice.
Midwives Brew Recipe Substitute
With castor oil being the only exception, any of the ingredients in the recipe can be substituted for something different.
- Instead of apricot juice, you can use pineapple or orange juice.
- Almond butter can be switched out for any other nut butter as long as it has the same sticky texture.
- The tea can be switched with mango nectar; however, the lemon is used to ease the nausea that is likely to accompany drinking the mixture.
There comes a time when you’re just done and desperate to try anything to get that baby moving out! We get it!
Midwives brew is one option that has proven to be pretty effective for a lot of women. If you have consulted with your provider and your taste buds are willing, we say give it a shot.
Charlynn is an educator and mom to fraternal boy/girl twins. She loves learning through the experiences she has with her littles and using her knowledge to help other moms as they embark on the journey of motherhood.