Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to naturally promote labor in pregnant women. It can be effectively used in the weeks leading up to the due date for labor preparation and induction by preparing the cervix, uterus, and pelvis for birth. It also gives the mind and body a deep feeling of relaxation and calm, that will be helpful with your upcoming labor.
It has been observed that women who use acupuncture for labor preparation and induction have reduced rates of medical induction, decreased labor time, and need less the amount of medication than women who don't receive acupuncture. Studies show there are no adverse effects when using acupuncture for labor induction, and it is a safe, natural and viable alternative to medical induction.
Medical Labor Induction
There are a variety of reasons why a woman would be advised to have labor induced, but the most common is when she has gone past her due date, which is in the 40th week. A medical induction typically involves the use of prostaglandins and oxytocin to promote labor. Prostaglandins, which are a group of lipid compounds that have hormone-like effects on the body, are administered vaginally to act on the cervix in an attempt to ripen it. The "ripening" is where the cervix softens prior to the start of labor contractions and cervical dilation. Oxyticin is a hormone which is used to promote uterine contractions or to increases the speed of labor contractions.
If you are having a medical induction, you'll be admitted to the hospital the night before or in the morning and given a course of medication at varying intervals while being monitored for progress. If the cervix has begun to ripen, but there's still no significant progress, your membranes which contain the amniotic fluid around the baby are usually artificially ruptured. This just means they are helping to break your water. This might sound painful, but it isn't. The examination might be a little uncomfortable, but the actual rupturing is painless. Other reasons for medical inductions are usually based on the health of the mother or if the uterine environment is no longer optimal for the baby.
Acupuncture Labor induction
Acupuncture encourages the body to naturally release hormones to aid in cervical dilation and to trigger uterine contractions. Because acupuncture aids the mother’s body to produces its own hormones, the mother and baby will experience a natural, less-traumatic onset of labor. Points on the hand, shoulders, legs, and low back are typically used for this and some practitioners use electro-acupuncture to stimulate these points.
Often times a woman will only require one or two treatments before the onset of labor happens (which, by the way, is unlikely to happen in your acupuncturist's office, in case you were worried.) For others, it may take a few more. Through the initial course of pregnancy, certain points are avoided because of their ability to stimulate uterine contractions. Using these points in the final weeks helps prepare for labor. Ideally, acupuncture should be used throughout pregnancy, but week 34 is a good time to start labor preparation treatments. If you are past week 34,don't worry. It is great to come in a few days before a scheduled medical induction. You still have the possibility of labor progressing naturally.
Acupuncture will not cause labor before the baby is ready to be delivered. If baby's not ready, baby's not ready. Acupuncture simply prepares the mother’s body to be as ready and supported as possible for when the baby is ready to trigger the labor process. So why not get ready?
Acupressure During Labor
There's more! Once you have gone into labor naturally or by medical induction, acupressure can be a useful tool to help reduce pain and encourage a smoother, and shorter labor. This can be applied by your partner with proper instruction prior to the time. Applying pressure to certain points on the body is an extremely helpful way for someone to aid in the process of bringing your new little person into the world.
If you are interested in using acupuncture to help begin the onset of labor, or to help you have an easier one, Sarah Johnson L. Ac. is currently taking new patients. Call or email!