Flower essences for labor induction? Can it be?
Flower essences on their own? No, probably not. But while flower essences and Traditional Chinese Medicine are two separate systems, TCM theory opens the door to using flower essences as part of a natural birth plan.
Many births are delayed and labors prolonged because of the emotional and hormonal state of the mother. Birth can be stressful and scary, and sometimes we’re carried away by the hormones tearing their way through our systems. Flower essences can help bring us back into harmony, and anchor us in a place where we can trust the process, relax into the flow and enjoy the beauty of our graduation from mom-to-be to mama (or even, multi-mama).
Where do we begin? Flower essences?
For a quick run down on flower essences, check out last week’s blog post.
As a quick reminder, flower essences are the memory of a flower stored in water with the intent to help us move through and heal spiritual and emotional issues.
Labor from a Traditional Chinese Medical perspective
According to Traditional Chinese Medical theory, three things must be true for labor to begin:
- The yin accumulation of the baby is replaced by yang activity and movement
- Qi moves freely and can move blood
- The door to the uterus opens
This means that there must be sufficient yin, yang, qi and blood for the body to begin the labor process. Once labor begins, the cervix must continue to open, qi pushes the blood to where it needs to go and yang chases away the yin, “chasing” the baby out of the birth canal.
Therefore, according to Chinese medicine labor is delayed for two reasons:
- Either there isn’t enough qi, blood or yang for the labor to progress
- Or there is an emotional imbalance that must be corrected
The first issue can be addressed with rest, a good meal, moxa and some acupuncture. All of these things can help with emotional imbalance as well, but this is exactly the sort of situation that flower essences are made for.
If you would like a refreshed for Traditional Chinese Medical terms, please revisit my blog post: Acupuncture 101 – How to Talk to an Acupuncturist.
According to Debra Betts, there are two main reasons for women to have post-date pregnancies or pregnancies that extend past 40 weeks, and they’re both emotional. In my experience, once a baby drops and a mom has more room to eat and is able to sleep better, her qi and blood increase. Even if she was tired throughout the pregnancy she starts to feel better. Some moms do continue to feel tired, but qi and blood deficiency tends to be less of an issue for post-date pregnancies than it is for failure to progress (see below.)
The first pattern is liver qi stagnation. If you remember from my example in the Acupuncture 101 post, this pattern can be roughly translated as “stress”. A mom with this pattern may present with frustration, irritability or even depression.
This is also the mom who comes into clinic at 41 weeks and everything is “Fine.” Just, “Fine.” One-word answers to any questions regarding emotional states. “Good.” “Yep.” This is a mom who has her emotions on lock-down and isn’t letting them move – they’re stagnant.
The other pattern Debra Betts sees in post-date moms is Kidney and Heart Disharmony. Disharmony is not a pattern I discussed in my acupuncture 101 post so I’ll be brief:
Disharmony is when two systems that are supposed to function together are out of sync.
In this case, the cooling water of the kidneys isn’t keeping the fire of the heart in check. This mom presents with “mental restlessness” or racing thoughts and insomnia. This is a mom that is better described as anxious, rather than stressed.
Most moms are a combination of these two patterns and figuring out the root cause is the ticket to an effective labor induction.
Failure to progress
“Failure to progress” describes a situation in which the birthing person:
- Has started active labor
- The labor has been going for an extended time
- There have been no changes that would mark progress – cervical dilation or descent of baby through the birth canal
This can happen for many reasons, some of which are medical emergencies such as a baby too big for the pelvic outlet or breech positioning. Others are concerning but can possibly be dealt with naturally (if under the guidance of the mother’s primary birth care provider) and these are:
- contractions that don’t have enough oomph and
- a baby that’s not quite in position to put pressure on the cervix.
Most of these are physical or are due to insufficient qi, blood or yang. But there is one case related to emotional blockages, and it is one many midwives talk about:
Liver qi stagnation can lead to “unfavorable cervical dilation and effacement.” It is incredibly common for a mother to stop dilating or even, lose progress when moving from home to a birth center or from home to a hospital. The function or qi of the cervix is to open, and its function is interrupted – stagnated – when the liver can’t move the qi.
Using Ina May Gaskin’s description of the Sphincter Law:
When a person’s sphincter is in the process of opening, it may suddenly close down if that person becomes upset, frightened, humiliated or self-conscious. Why? High levels of adrenaline in the bloodstream do not favor (sometimes, they actually prevent) the opening of sphincters.Guide to Childbirth, P 170
Gaskin often talks about the importance of staying calm and relaxed for the cervix to dilate, and that is exactly where flower essences can come in.
Disclaimer: Before we move on, I want to be clear – flower essences can be useful in prolonged pregnancies and labors, but they aren’t meant to be used on their own. Make sure that you discuss the use of flower essences with you primary birth care provider, your doula and your birth partner.
Echinacea is not one of the original Bach flower essences, but if you remember from the last blog post people all over the world have made flower essences from what they have around them.
When you look at Echinacea, you see a strong, sturdy cone of spines. In wild varieties of Echinacea, the cone was so strong and the spines were so long, women who lived on the American prairie would use them as hair combs. Maybe that is why Echinacea helps us have a strong core, even when things are difficult. It’s for a shattered sense of self, that feeling of “I am becoming a whole new person, and that person is a stranger.”
When we go through labor, we are in transition from being a woman to a mother, or a mother of one to a mother of two, etc. Every time we go through labor, we come out the other side a different woman. Echinacea helps us through this transition, either helping us to maintain our core or helping us integrate our new selves.
Impatiens is one of the original 38 Bach essences and is indicated for impatience. This is a classic liver qi stagnation sort of impatience that is wrapped up in irritability. Maybe you’re irritable because the labor hasn’t started. Maybe you’re irritable because it has, but the nurse keeps moving rooms and distracting you. Any one of a million things can lead to this stagnant irritability.
Deborah Craydon and Warren Bellows, the creators of floral acupuncture, use impatiens with the liver and gallbladder organ pairing. The point they choose to use impatiens with smooths out the stagnant liver qi, which can help you focus on the tasks at hand where the gallbladder meridian centers you, bringing you back to the person you are in this moment.
If you tend to be irritable, impatiens might be one for your birth bag.
Yarrow has been known as a healing herb for centuries and is in many home apothecaries to help stop bleeding. But a yarrow flower essence is more for your own spiritual boundaries and feeling protected. Giving birth is a vulnerable time, and for some it can be scary.
Yarrow helps build that strong core, like Echinacea, but does it with the reminder that protection and safety come from within. If we take yarrow before the birth, it can help us craft our birth plan according to our own needs and boundaries. And if we can take it or use it during the birth, it may help us feel safe throughout the process, or even during a physical transition from one space to another. This supports relaxing and allowing the Sphincter Law to work in our favor.
Mimulus is another of the original 38 Bach essences and is indicated for fears we understand. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re afraid of, we just have an omnipresent feeling of anxiety or fear. This is not the case for mimulus.
But when we know we’re afraid we won’t get the birthing suite we feel comfortable in, or that our mother-in-law is going to insist on being in the room, or that we are afraid of the birth itself – that’s where mimulus can help. This is for labors that tend to be delayed by the kidney heart disharmony pattern.
Maybe that’s why Craydon and Bellows use this essence with the kidney meridian, above the heart – to connect you with your inner strength and to reconnect you with your spirit so that you can move forward with confidence.
You can almost guess daffodil’s use by looking at pictures of the flower. Daffodil is used for hope. Daffodil is one of the first flowers in spring after the cold darkness of winter. It’s a sign of happiness and warmth. And it’s a sign of beautiful things to come.
Sometimes at the end of pregnancy, we just want it to be over because we’re in pain and we feel like it’s going to go on forever. These are constricting emotions that may contribute to liver qi stagnation. Pain is a sign of stagnated qi and most often pain felt in late pregnancy is either felt in the liver and gallbladder meridians (for women with emotionally dominated pregnancies) or the kidney and urinary bladder meridians (for women who need support through tonification.)
Having hope can move qi, bring cheer and prepare you for the good things to come.
Daffodil may also be useful for your birth bag. If your labor is prolonged or you start to lose hope, it can be a good boost to stay relaxed.
This is just the beginning
These five flower essences are just the tip of the iceberg. Flower essences can help prepare you for birth and help you through the labor process, and there are literally hundreds out there for you to look at and thousands of combinations.
If you have any questions about flower essences, shoot me a message or leave a comment below.
Are you interested in flower essences being part of your birth plan? Schedule an appointment today!
Disclaimer: I am an acupuncturist in the state of Minnesota, and the information falls within my scope of practice in my state. However, unless I have directed you here as your homework I am probably not your acupuncturist. The information in this post is for general purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As always, check with your own acupuncturist or primary care provider before making any lifestyle changes. This post does not create a patient-practitioner relationship and I am not liable for any losses or damages resulting or relating to the content in this post.
Resources and links
Last week’s blog post – What are flower essences?
Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth
Deborah Craydon and Warren Bellows – Floral Acupuncture: Applying the Flower Essences of Dr. Bach to Acupuncture Sites
Jessica Gustafson is a licensed acupuncturist in St Paul, MN specializing in women’s health and fertility. She loves working with patients through the Health Foundations Birth Center on Grand Avenue in St Paul as well as doing home visits in the Twin Cities area. Check out the services page for more information!
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