In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is said that there are three factors that are needed to start labour; a) activity (yang) Replace growth (yin) b) qi must move freely and move blood c) the uterus must open. I would add a fouth, the baby’s spirit must be ready.
After all Babies come in their own time. But there are so many factors that can make us feel like they aren’t coming at the right time, our nervousness about labour, our desire to meet our babies, our sore achy bodies, medical practitioners talking about big babies and the risks of going overdue, family and friends saying “are you still pregnant, when is that baby coming, wow you look huge”
So how do we help these three factors come together and promote a healthy natural start to labour? Prebirth Acupuncture (aka cervical ripening Acupuncture). Prebirth Acupuncture begins at 36-37 weeks gestation and continues each week until labour begins. In each treatment we discuss how the birthing person is feeling, addressing their concerns, hopes, fears, dreams and desires and based on this a unique combination of points is developed with the help of some special points that move qi and blood, ripen the cervix, relax the tendons and strengthen the body. This time spent each week allows mom to prepare herself, her body and her baby. I am a big advocate of talking to your body and baby and this is a great time to do it. Fears are released, anxiety dissolves, worries disappear, resilience and strength are built and trust in our power and knowledge is developed. All of these things help make stronger mamas and babies and promote more effective labour and birth. It strongly helps mitigate the need to medical interventions and if an induction is required it can make it that much more effective.
Sometimes Inductions happen and hopefully it is for an important reason. Acupuncture is one tool amongst many that can be used for induction or help medical inductions be more effective and prevent further interventions. However, if baby isn’t ready or the three factors that start labour aren’t completed then acupuncture or any other natural induction method will not work. In those cases, only medical interventions will get that baby out, so that mom and baby are both healthy and safe.
Studies show that those women who receive pre birth acupuncture had a shortened labour(1), improved cervical ripening(2,3), a 35% reduction in medical inductions (43%. For first baby), 31% reduction in epidurals and 32% reduction in emergency c-sections(4). While the 2013 Cochrane review of acupuncture for labour induction only found some evidence of cervical maturation in those who received acupuncture(5).
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1 Kubista E Kucera H. 1974. Geburtshilfe Perinatol; 178 224-9
2 Rabl M, Ahner R, Bitschnau M, Zeisler H, Husslein P. 2001. Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term – a randomised controlled trail. Wien Klin Wochenschr; 113 (23-24): 942-6
3 Tempfer C, Zeisler H, Mayerhofe Kr, Barrada M Husslein P. 1998. Influence of acupuncture on duration of labour Gynecol Obstet Invest; 46:22-5
4 Betts D, Lennox S. 2006. Acupuncture for prebirth treatment: An observational study of its use in midwifery practice. Medical acupuncture May; 17(3):17-20
5 Smith Ca. Crowther CA. Grant SJ. 2013. Acupuncture for induction of labour. Cochrane Database System Review.