by Patricia Kowal, MAOM, Licensed Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbal Practitioner
Acupuncture may be used to help your baby in encouraging the process of labour induction if the baby has been slow in initiating the labour process. Midwives initially became interested in labour induction with acupuncture when they observed beneficial changes in pregnant women following acupuncture treatment (changes in the cervix, the position of the baby and shifts in stress levels and emotions).
When do you start acupuncture for labour induction?
Ideally acupuncture treatments commence as a pre-birth treatment and may be started from 36 weeks. This helps to prepare the body physically and emotionally. If you are getting close to your 40 week due date, then you may be switched to a labour induction treatment. If there is a medical condition or concern that presents potential harm or danger to you or your baby, acupuncture may be initiated earlier than your due date (as advised by your medical doctor). If your water breaks but your body has not yet begun the labour process, acupuncture may be used to help induce the labour process (as advised by your medical doctor). Even if you did not receive acupuncture throughout your pregnancy, acupuncture can still be used to help induce labour as you approach, or are beyond, your due date.
How does acupuncture help with labour induction?
Acupuncture for labour induction is a gentle treatment that stimulates the body’s circulation, especially the downward flow. Certain acupuncture points are used to gently stimulate movement both in your body and in the activity of the baby.
Advantages of acupuncture treatments for labour induction may include:
Helping in relaxing of muscle groups
Helping to ease tension that comes with an overdue pregnancy
Preparing and encourage your body for labour
Offers a natural alternative to chemical inductions
Helping to calm the mind of stresses associated with the birthing process
How many acupuncture treatments do I need for a labour induction?
The number of treatments required to induce labour with acupuncture depends on your body and how far passed your due date you are. Some women have required just one treatment (based on my clinical experience), while others did use two or three different acupuncture sessions.
How long after an acupuncture treatment will I being labour?
Each woman is different, and every woman has had a different set of circumstances and medical situations during their pregnancy. It is possible for a labour to begin from six to twenty four hours after your acupuncture treatment.
What to expect from an acupuncture labour induction?
In acupuncture to labour induction, acupuncture needles are used in specific areas of your body that stimulate circulation, encourage downward movement and encourage increased activity of your baby. Four or five acupuncture points (depending on your body) are inserted and gentle pulsing of electric stimulation is used. You will lay down for approximately fifteen or twenty minutes with the needles in place. Women have reported to me they felt relaxed, calm and some have even fallen asleep during their treatment.
Posterior baby position and acupuncture labour induction
If the baby is in a posterior position, this presents the woman with an added challenge in labour, as the head is not properly pushing on the cervix in order for it to dilate. In this case utilitizing acupuncture for labour induction without addressing the issue of the baby’s position may prove to be counterproductive. Acupuncture and moxibustion may then be used in attempt to affect the position of the baby to an anterior position in order to then commence the labour.
Emotional stress related to an overdue pregnancy
Another advantage of acupuncture before having your baby is giving yourself the chance to calm your mind and address your muscle tension. It is common to feel stress and fear as you approach your due date. Being overdue in your pregnancy may cause stress related symptoms such as: muscle tension, emotional worry and over thinking and fear. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, tension and stress can cause our circulation to constrict and not move as freely as it wants to. Helping to calm your mind and body may help to prepare you for the birthing process and help with addressing your anxiety or other fears that are commonly related to giving birth. Chinese medicine has the ability to differentiate between different types of emotional states and therefore can tailor acupuncture points specifically to your presentation.
Acupuncture as a natural labour induction
Acupuncture may be your natural method to help induce your labour. Using diagnostic processes like pulse taking and symptom differentiation, acupuncturists are able to tailor their acupuncture treatments to your body and what is presenting for you as you progress towards your labour. There is no physical manipulation of your belly or other part of your body. I encourage you to speak with your midwife and/or medical doctor about this option.
For more information on how many treatments you need or when you should start your induction process, contact me via phone or email.
Patricia Kowal is an AHPRA Licensed Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbal Practitioner in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.
Lyttleton, Jane, Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine
Betts, Debra, “Inducing Labour with Acupuncture – Critical Considerations”, Journal of Chinese Medicine, June 2009