• Labor and spicy food: Some women eat spicy foods at the end of pregnancy, hoping it will bring on labor, though there is no scientific proof that it works. But a pilot study published in the journal Anesthesiology suggests that applying an extract of red chili peppers called capsaicin directly to the cervix may help shorten the time to delivery and reduce the pain of laboring.
Experiments at Columbia University were conducted on four groups of pregnant mice three days before they were due to deliver.
Two groups received either a low or high dose of morphine by injection, plus lidocaine applied to the cervix.
One group received saline injections, plus cervical lidocaine and 0.1% capsaicin cream. Lidocaine was used to limit any acute discomfort related to capsaicin, researchers said. A control group received a saline solution and lidocaine.
The mice were videotaped during labor and four behaviors associated with labor pain in rodents were assessed. Both capsaicin and morphine significantly reduced the incidence of all four pain-related behaviors compared with controls, the results showed.
On average, laboring mice treated with high and low doses of morphine exhibited 34.6 and 46.4 pain behaviors per hour respectively while 38.9 behaviors were recorded per hour in capsaicin-treated mice. Pain behaviors in control mice averaged 55 per hour.
Capsaicin-treated mice delivered each pup in under 15 minutes, compared with over 16 minutes in controls. Capsaicin had no negative effects on the offspring.
Capsaicin may desensitize pain receptors on the cervix and trigger the release of protein-like molecules that orchestrate a series of biological events that lead to the start of labor, researchers said.
Caveat: The optimum dose of capsaicin isn’t known, researchers said. The research hasn’t been tested on pregnant women.
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