Ask the RD: Is it necessary to take Evening Primrose Oil at the end of pregnancy?

Q: Why did my doula recommended taking Evening Primrose Oil at the end of pregnancy?

evening primrose oil
Evening Primrose Oil (

A: Oftentimes an Evening Primrose Oil supplement (2,000 mg/day) is recommended for pregnant women starting at 36 weeks of pregnancy. In my opinion this is not an intervention, but it could be a waste of money as it is not necessary for all pregnant women. Please keep in mind that I am a nutritionist, not a midwife.

Evening Primrose Oil contains an essential fat called Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA). GLA is a precurser, kindoff like an ingredient our bodies need, to synthesize prostaglandins. You may have already heard of prostaglandins which semen is famous for containing in high amounts. Prostaglandins contribute to cervical ripening and dilation- and it is believed that having a high enough prostaglandin level before/during labor could speed up the process. (In my review of the information available, there is not overwhelming amount of scientific evidence out there that supports that GLA supplementation speeds up labor.) If the theory is correct however, taking it as a supplement would not induce labor, but just help the body make prostaglandins when it is time to make them because Evening Primrose Oil contains a lot of GLA.

Hemp Seeds (

Here is where the nutrition part comes in. There are other good sources of GLA in our diets besides supplements. Like hemp seeds & hemp milk, chia seeds, walnuts, flax….

One of my personal favorites is hemp seeds by Nutiva. 3 Tablespoons added to salads, yogurt or smoothies adds 11 grams of protein and 600 mg of GLA!  I also love eating Chia Seed pudding.

A woman who eats these foods regularly probably does not need to supplement with Evening Primrose Oil.  It seems that it could helpful for women who don’t get any GLA through their diets. Personally, I am taking 1,000 mg of Evening Primrose Oil starting at 37 weeks of pregnancy on the days that I don’t eat hemp seeds.

Hope this helps! Please see my pregnancy resources page for other pregnancy related info.



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