Cervical Ripening

Cervical ripening is the process through which the cervix prepares for the birth of a baby. The cervix, located at the lower end of the uterus, is normally thick and closed. Before birth, it must soften, efface (thin out) and dilate (open) in order to allow passage of the baby’s head into the birth canal.

This process is a highly variable one. Some women begin to efface and slightly dilate many weeks before they go into labor. Other women have a tight, closed cervix until early labor begins. Either of these scenarios can result in a successful vaginal birth. In other cases, however, the cervix does not ripen, in which case it may be necessary to induce birth using medications that ripen the cervix. If that is unsuccessful, a C-section is another option. 

At TCRA, we offer treatments that can gently encourage the cervix to ripen naturally. These usually begin at week 36-37, assuming there are no complications with the pregnancy. Acupuncture treatments focus on easing any imbalances seen in the Chinese medical system, as well as encouraging the baby to descend, relaxing muscles and tendons through the midsection and pelvis, and calming any anxieties about birth.

These treatments have been found to encourage labor to occur naturally at full-term as well as to reduce the duration of the labor itself. A study published in 2006 reported the findings of a group of midwives observing 169 women who all received acupuncture for cervical ripening. The midwives then compared the data they recorded to other women in the same region who did not receive acupuncture. This study found the following among women who received weekly acupuncture in the 4 weeks prior to birth:

  • A 35% reduction in the number of medical inductions

  • A 31% reduction in epidural use

  • A 32% reduction in emergency C-section rate

  • A 9% increase in normal vaginal births

Acupuncture in late pregnancy to achieve cervical ripening is relaxing and safe for both mother and baby. Contact our specialists at TCRA to help you achieve a smooth, healthy birth.


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