Cervical ripening vs. Labour Induction: a comparison

Community Acupuncture & Preparation for Child Birth

Community Acupuncture is extremely helpful for supporting pre and post-natal conditions. It is natural, drug-free, minimally invasive and focuses on preventative care to ensure optimally positive outcomes, not to mention being accessible, affordable and community-based!

Acupuncture can do SO MUCH MORE than Labour Induction! The objective is to promote positive outcomes in the weeks leading UP TO childbirth as well as decreasing pain and complications during and after childbirth. Acupuncture can support and prepare the body for a more effective, natural vaginal birth. It has also been shown to decrease the incidence of complications such as the need for medical induction and/or cesarian section.

We hope this article provides some useful information comparing and contrasting the definition, timing and benefits of Cervical Ripening vs Labour Induction. For more information about how Community Acupuncture can be useful throughout earlier stages of pregnancy, check out, Pokes For Pregnancy: Community Acupuncture For Happy, Healthy Mothers & Babies

Christina Chan, R.Ac. & Sarah Strohan, R.Ac.,R.TCMP.

What is cervical ripening?

Cervical ripening is the softening/ripening/dilation of the cervix to prepare for the birthing process. The cervix is stiff, long and closed for most of the pregnancy to secure the fetus in the uterus. In order for the baby to pass through the cervix during labour, the cervix must be soft, thin and open. Cervical ripening often happens on its own naturally, but many people benefit from assisting the body through this process. 

Multiple studies have shown the benefits of acupuncture in preparing the body for birth and assisting the cervix to ripen. Cervical ripening Acupuncture can begin safely at 35-36 weeks (approx 4 weeks prior to the expected due date) and is used to encourage beneficial hormonal responses for labour preparation and encourage the baby to move into an optimal position. 

Cervical ripening treatments can be done weekly until you reach your due date, you can then discuss increasing frequency. Studies and clinical experience have shown us that cervical ripening treatments help to shorten the period between the due date and the actual delivery date as well as to decrease the need for invasive medical induction treatments. 

Why is cervical ripening is important?

Cervical readiness is an important factor in labour induction. That is because induction, regardless of the method (medical, acupuncture/pressure, herbal), can cause uterine contractions. However, if your cervix isn’t adequately dilated and thinned, and your baby hasn’t moved downward, then the contractions may not result in efficient labour progression. This may make having a vaginal delivery more difficult. Hence, the importance of receiving 3-4 weeks of preparatory acupuncture sessions to soften and ready the cervix for this process.

For the past decade, from our experience of providing prenatal acupuncture at Heart & Hands, we have found that clients (and their midwives) who receive treatment for cervical ripening report going into labour more readily and labour progresses more effectively. Therefore, our preference is to encourage clients to schedule sessions weeks in advance before their due date.

Common Reasons for Labour induction?

  • You are past your due date
  • Labor hasn’t progressed after your water has broken
  • There isn’t sufficient amniotic fluid surrounding your baby
  • Your baby is very underweight
  • Maternal health issues, such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, or pre-eclampsia
  • Your placenta has pulled away from the inner wall of your uterus
  • Other medical conditions that have put your health and/or your baby at risk

What is Cervical Ripening?

Commencing around 35-36 weeks

  • Generally treatment commences at 35-36 weeks & transitioning to labour induction around 38-39 weeks

  • Cervical Ripening prepares the body for labour as well as encouraging and promoting more effective labour, increasing chances of natural vaginal birth and enhancing post-partum recovery.

  • We commonly recommend cervical ripening sessions once / week.
    Sessions are also intended as an opportunity for rest and relaxation.

  • Supports and promotes the hormonal and physical progression as the body prepares for childbirth including:
    > Cervical softening, thinning and dilation
    > Optimal positioning of the baby
    > Promoting the release of hormones such as prolactin and oxytocin

  • Addresses many of the late stage symptoms of pregnancy such as:
    > Lower back and pelvic pain
    > Heart burn and nausea
    > Edema and carpal tunnel
    > Metabolic conditions such as gestational diabetes
    > Hemorrhoids and varicose veins
    > Regulating blood pressure

  • Supporting anything emotional and/or spiritual that may arise during the final leg of the pregnancy journey

  • Our community space can accommodate for family or care givers to also receive acupuncture alongside the the expectant parent

  • We can provide instructions for ACUPRESSURE for labour induction, which can be used at home as well as during the birthing process

What is Labour Induction?

Commencing around 38-39 weeks

  • Commencing around 38-39 weeks, following previous few weeks of preparation with cervical ripening

  • Labour Induction is intended as a drug-free method encourage the body to begin entering the early stages of labour. Labour Induction is more effective if a client has received previous weeks of Cervical Ripening in preparation

  • Treatment frequency is assessed on a case-by-case basis depending on how the expectant parent presents.
    Sessions providing labour induction tend to be more intense as the client will hopefully feel more physical symptoms of early labour

  • Supports positive birth outcomes, promoting more effective labour and increases chances of natural vaginal birth

  • Can enhance post-partum recovery, mitigate post-partum depression as well as supporting lactation/breastfeeding

  • Similar to Cervical Ripening, we can also address the various physical/emotional symptoms associated with the final weeks of the pregnancy journey in combination with the points used for Labour Induction

  • Our community space can accommodate for family or care givers to also receive acupuncture alongside the the expectant parent

  • We can provide instructions for ACUPRESSURE for labour induction, which can be used at home as well as during the birthing process

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