The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2008) guidelines state that information should be conveyed to women informing them that the most women will go into spontaneous labour by 42 weeks. It is possible for your midwife to offer you a membrane sweep . This is a vaginal examination in which the midwife attempts to separate the membranes of the amniotic sac from the cervix. It is thought that this then will release hormones to aide the cervix to open and initiate labour. If you have not spontaneously commenced labour by 40 weeks plus 12 days you will be offered a medical induction of labour. This method uses a medication which is referred to as a pessary which is inserted into the vagina and placed behind your cervix. This pessary contains hormones and it is expected that these hormones work to soften and dilate (open) the cervix. This then creates an opening in your cervix to enable your waters to be broken, called an amniotic rupture of the membranes (ARM). According to NICE (2008), this medical induction occurs in up to 20% of pregnancies

However, it is possible to use complementary therapies in an attempt to initiate labour from 40 weeks. Using a tailored package of care based on your individual circumstances. Therapies you may be able to use include aromatherapy, massage, acupressure and/or acupuncture. Some recent research using aromatherapy, acupressure and reflexology by Grabowska & Weston support complementary therapies alongside a membrane sweep with results showing 65% of first time labour and 74.5% of second or subsequent labour initiating spontaneous labour following treatment. Furthermore, in their most recent audit 16 women declined a sweep but all proceeded to spontaneous labour with the complementary therapies alone.

It is essential if you decide to try the complementary therapy route for any treatment during pregnancy, childbirth or during the post-natal period that you seek out a practitioner who is trained specifically in maternity care.

How can Complementary Therapies contribute?
By Christine Grabowska and Michelle Weston. Complementary Therapies for IOL. See here:

Cochrane Systematic Review – Acupuncture for Induction of labour.
By Helen Hall, Lisa McKenna and Debra Griffiths.
See here:

Complementary and alternative medicine for induction of labour
See here:

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