Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help promote natural labour and many expectant mothers are now choosing it over medical induction. According to traditional Chinese medicine, a pregnant woman needs the correct balance between energy (Qi) and blood supply for labour to commence. Acupuncture is believed to move your energy and blood and therefore can encourage the onset of labour. There are very few side effects and is a relatively quick and easy process.
There are many medical reasons why induction may be recommended for you, with some of the common ones being the baby’s environment is no longer nourishing him or her adequately, low amniotic fluid or a baby with decreased movement or breathing. Other common reasons are that you have passed your due date, you are ill or that your waters have broken but contractions have not started.
There can be significant side effects with medical induction, such as infection, bleeding, slowed heart rate in the baby and stronger contractions. Medically induced labour may increase the need for further intervention such as epidural, or caesarean or assisted birth. This knowledge is leading women to the use of complementary and alternative methods.
It is important to understand a few things before considering acupuncture if you are close to giving birth. Firstly, that not everyone will go into natural labour and in cases where medical induction is required, acupuncture is an effective way to promote an efficient labour – it can still help ease labour along. You and your baby’s health is the primary priority, so keep your appointments with your doctor or midwife – discuss your desire for natural treatment with them as they can guide you as to when you and your baby are ready to begin.
Choose a reputable and experienced acupuncture clinic such as Village Remedies, who will help create an ideal environment for your baby to want to come into the world, by relaxing the mind and preparing your body for childbirth.
What Can I Expect Having Acupuncture for Induction?
Chinese medicine treats you as a whole person, promoting health and wellbeing so that your mind and body will relax and the baby will likely interpret that as a safe environment to come into. Acupuncture will naturally prepare your body for labour, by softening the cervix and triggering contractions. It can assist with correcting the position of the baby and often leads to a smoother, less painful delivery. Throughout the entire process, your practitioner will ensure you feel relaxed and comfortable.
Ideally, weekly acupuncture from 36 weeks gestation is a good place to start, as it will allow time for a gradual build-up of the necessary hormones for labour, such as oxytocin (the hormone needed to go into labour), and will keep you feeling as rested and comfortable as possible. After 40 weeks, the number of treatments can be increased to as often as every 2-3 days to give the best chance of avoiding medical induction.
Before you begin, the practitioner will ask about your pregnancy – what stage you are at, the position of the baby, feedback from your doctor or midwife and any symptoms you have.
You will be set up in a comfortable position where your breathing will be checked, and your hips and lower back monitored for any signs of tension. The acupuncture treatment will focus on specific points on your body – mostly on your feet, legs, arms and hands. Super fine needles are inserted into these acupuncture points (there should be no discomfort with the insertion or removal of needles) and you will rest for a period of time. Your practitioner will check and re-stimulate the points throughout the session.
If you are close to your due date or past it, electro-acupuncture may be used in the back. This involves points being connected to a minor electrical current. This may cause a dull, achy sensation or a gentle tapping sensation.
You may feel the baby start moving around a bit more straight away and some people may experience Braxton-Hicks contractions.
You may be offered some information on acupressure points which you can stimulate yourself at home. While not as strong as acupuncture stimulation, massaging these points can give you the best chance for natural labour and can help relieve pain during labour.
It is rare for labour to be initiated immediately following treatment, but in rare cases it may occur in a woman who is very close to going into labour naturally. Using acupuncture, labour will have the same gradual onset as if it was natural.
If you are ready to try acupuncture during pregnancy, you can find out more by speaking to a specialist. Village Remedies are a team of traditional Chinese medicine practitioners with a practical and results-based focus, using traditional Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. Congratulations and best wishes welcoming your precious baby into the world.