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Understanding Labor Induction
Labor induction is the initiation of the birth process when there is an abnormal delay in delivery or when there are complications to the pregnancy. Such conditions can include hypertension, diabetes, or fetal danger due to amniotic rupture without appropriate cervical dilation or uterine contractions. Labor induction can begin safely after 39 weeks and should only be done under the supervision of trained professionals who can monitor the health of the mother and baby.
How Chinese Medicine Induces Labor
Chinese medicine and acupuncture have a long tradition of assisting in the initiation of labor. Pregnancy can be stressful and when delivery is overdue, the body can become more tense and essentially delay labor further by falling into a sympathetic loop, where adrenalin (a fight or flight hormone which inhibits labor) is released. Not only can acupuncture relax the body from this tense state, but research postulates that certain points, when stimulated, can also strongly trigger the release of oxytocin from the post pituitary gland which leads to uterine contraction. By using continual monitored stimulation, either manual or electrical, the contractions can be controlled more easily than with synthetic doses of pharmaceutical oxytocin. Once contractions have begun, points on the ear can be used to help maintain a continual healthy delivery, lessening pain and increasing fetal motility.
Reproductive organ massage can help by allowing the woman to relax, deepen her breath and open her diaphragm. As these muscles release, the body will find itself in a place where labor will feel “safe” and can naturally begin.
Pregnancy Massage can relax the muscles to allow more blood flow and open the channels for a more efficient labor. Pressure points are used and taught to the patient to increase the frequency and strength of contractions.
Chinese herbs should be taken only through the direction of a licensed herbalist. An herbal formula is often more suitable then single herbs as it can be catered to each individual case. Composition often includes herbs to soften the uterus, invigorate blood to help dissolve stagnations, calm the fetus, and stimulate uterine contractions. Such traditions as walking and squatting generally encourage labor, as does sex, which releases prostaglandin into the uterus via the sperm, softening the cervix and aiding in dilation.
How Western Medicine Induces Labor
In Western medicine, the doctor will schedule a time for you to come to the hospital. Depending on your medical and pregnancy history, labor may be induced by using a medication that is inserted into the vagina to “ripen” or soften it. When the cervix is “ripe,” another medication (oxytocin or Pitocin) can be started via your IV to help bring on contractions. The medication would be increased until contractions are about every 40-60 seconds apart and labor is well underway. If medications are not used, your doctor can also manually rupture the bag of water (amniotic sac). As the sac breaks or ruptures, production of the hormone prostaglandin increases, and therefore speeds up contractions.
Research and Related Articles on Labor Induction
Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labor at term—a randomized controlled trial
Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2001 Dec 17; 113(23-24):942-6.
The influence of acupuncture stimulation during pregnancy: the induction and inhibition of labor
PMID: 11802511 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] / Obstet Gynecol. 1989 Feb; 73(2):286-90.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation at acupuncture points in the induction of uterine contractions
PMID: 2783481 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]