Labor induction involves artificially or prematurely starting the birth process through medical intervention. Induction is typically performed between 39 and 42 weeks, when medically necessary, and when the benefits outweigh the risks. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 16% of expectant mothers are induced in the US.
Possible reasons for labor induction:
- Postdate pregnancy
- Complications such as hypertension, pre-eclampsia, heart disease, gestational diabetes, or bleeding, that threaten the safety of continued pregnancy
- Placental problems
- The amniotic sac has ruptured and labor has not started within 24 to 48 hours
- The baby is small for gestational age
- There is an infection inside the uterus (chorioamnionitis)
- Scheduling concerns
- Fetal death or premature termination of pregnancy
Acupuncture for labor induction
Acupuncture for labor induction is a safe and effective alternative to medical induction in the majority of non-emergent cases. It avoids the higher levels of pain experienced by most women undergoing medical induction and the tendency toward greater levels of medical intervention during labor (studies report increased use of analgesics and higher rate of cesarian section with medical induction). Acupuncture for labor induction is most effective when treatments begin on or before the week of the due date. Research has shown the release of prostaglandins and oxytocin following acupuncture treatments, and the inhibition of stress hormones may also contribute to its overall effectiveness. Patients are taught massage techniques and point stimulation that they can perform at home to enhance the effect of their acupuncture treatments.
Natural methods to induce labor
Sex to induce labor — semen contains prostaglandins, which cause the cervix to “ripen”, or soften and prepare to open. Orgasm promotes the release of oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions.
Nipple stimulation causes the release of oxytocin, thus enhancing uterine contractions.
Walking or climbing stairs.
Relaxation — mental, physical, and emotional. This prevents the release of adrenaline, which can stall or delay labor.
Uterine stimulating herbs — blue and black cohosh, goldenseal, motherwort, and wild ginger are infrequently used and should never be self-prescribed.
Western treatment for labor induction
Western medical doctors will use the following medications or methods when inducing labor:
Prostaglandins: Suppositories are inserted vaginally to stimulate uterine contractions. Oxytocin: stimulates contractions. Pitocin and Syntocinon are usually given via IV at lose dose.
Misoprostol (Cytotec): A synthetic PGE1 analog that has been found to be a safe and inexpensive agent for cervical ripening.
Mifepristone (Mifeprex): An antiprogesterone agent. Progesterone inhibits contractions of the uterus, while mifepristone counteracts this action.
Relaxin: Promotes cervical ripening.
Artificial rupture of the membranes: When the bag of water (amniotic sac) breaks or ruptures, prostaglandin production increases, speeding up contractions.