Evening Primrose Oil

Definition - What does Evening Primrose Oil mean?

Evening primrose oil, or EPO, is herbal oil extracted by cold pressed seeds of the evening primrose plant (scientifically known as Oenothera biennis). The plant is so named because it blossoms in the evening. It is Native to North and South Americas and has been used as a traditional remedy for a myriad of women's health conditions including cervical ripening, and labor induction or augmentation.

Though a number of natural health websites rave about the positive effects of EPO on improving amount and quality of fertile cervical mucus, there's no scientific evidence supporting this claim.

EPO is known by several names such as tree primrose, sundrops, fever plant, evening star, sun cups, night willow-herb, and king's cure-all.

FertilitySmarts explains Evening Primrose Oil

The effects of evening primrose oil on cervical ripening are a bit controversial. Cervical ripening is the softening and dilation of the cervix that paves a way for active labor. The EPO has been used by midwives since the medieval periods.

How might EPO promote cervical ripening? EPO contains a highly active fatty acid. This fatty acid is a precursor to compounds called prostaglandins that prime the cervix for vaginal delivery and reduce the duration of labor. EPO may also hasten cervical ripening by prompting the baby’s body to produce a hormone called cortisol that boosts estrogen production in the mother, which in turn, can drive the formation of prostaglandins by the cervix.

However, recent scientific studies show that taking evening primrose oil from the 37th week of pregnancy until birth may not shorten the length of labor. Instead, taking this oil at a higher dose may delay the rupture of the water bag and the resultant vaginal delivery, arrest the baby's descent, and may even put the child at risk of vacuum extraction. Using evening primrose oil in the appropriate dose may help reap its cervical ripening benefits without incurring the side effects.

The oil is generally well tolerated, with minor side effects, including stomach, upset and headaches.

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