What is Cervical Ripening?
As the end of pregnancy nears, your cervix normally becomes soft (ripe) and begins to open (dilate) and thin (efface), preparing for the birth. Baby also starts to move further into the pelvis and into position. The better the baby's position and the more effaced your cervix is when you go into labour, the faster and easier your labour tends to be. A ripe cervix facilitates a better birth, reduces your need for pain medication and lowers your risk of needing a caesarean section.
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Cervical ripening treatments ideally start at 36 weeks and continue weekly until the birth. The focus is primarily on ripening the cervix and preparing the body for the labour, but each treatment also focuses on other aspects of preparing for your birth. Diet, acupressure, labour positions, emotions and postpartum care are some of the topics addressed, as well as treatment of any concerns or complaints you may have.
How Chinese Medicine can Help
A clinical study in New Zealand (Betts& Lennox, 2006) showed that giving women pre-birth acupuncture resulted in:
- 35% reduction in medical inductions (43% reduction in women having their first baby)
- 31% reduction in the epidurals
- 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery
- 9 % increase in normal vaginal births
To promote cervical dilation and to ease birth, you should:
- Go to bed early and rest throughout the day.
- Take vitamin C and zinc, both necessary for hormone production, prior to delivery.
- Increase your intake of raspberry leaf tea to four cups a day.
- Eat plenty of magnesium- and calcium-rich foods to strengthen muscles needed for contractions during labour.
- Eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin K, which is vital for blood clotting in you and the baby.
- Start taking the homeopathic remedy Arnica 6C to prevent bruising after birth and to support healing.
- Have in place a support team (doctors, midwives, and/or doulas) who understand your values and desires towards your birth experience.