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Acupuncture: for more than just labour induction!

By Laura Kaufer, Acupuncturist

Most of us have heard of acupuncture at some point, and you may have a friend that found acupuncture effective to GET THAT BABY OUT when they were just over being pregnant, and ready for baby to arrive. Yes, it’s true, acupuncture can be super effective for this – but if we’re being really honest, we think that’s not always the best approach. We generally prefer to prepare the body for a “natural induction” over time.

One ‘induction’ acupuncture session may help initiate uterine contractions, but the issue is that inducing contractions doesn’t take into account a key part of a birthing person’s anatomy: the CERVIX! If the cervix isn’t ready to go (or “ripe”, as we say), no matter what you do to try to get that baby to make an appearance, labour will simply not progress. The cervix needs to be soft and open for baby to enter the world; this takes time.

Acupuncture provides a gateway to both the uterus and cervix. Treatments can produce an effect on blood flow to the uterus, cervical dilation, movement of the baby, the release of endorphins, as well as helping mother to relax. All these things can encourage a spontaneous labour.

Labour preparation acupuncture is individualized and should begin weeks before the due date – ideally we start “labour prep” treatments at week 36.

During these sessions, the key areas that will be addressed are:

  • Is the baby in the best position for birth? Acupuncture can improve fetal positioning. Optimal fetal positioning will assist baby’s descent and engagement, making labour more efficient (we want efficient labours!) and decreasing the likelihood of back labour.
  • Are you emotionally prepared for labour? Acupuncture can be very relaxing, helping you to feel more in control, and less fearful.
  • Are you physically prepared for labour? Acupuncture can help reduce pain, reduce hemorroids, and improve sleep – all things that will give you a better chance making it through a marathon labour.
  • Is the baby really past-due? While you may feel like you are 150% done with pregnancy at week 38, the reality is that most babies are born past their due date – first time moms deliver on average at 40 weeks and 5 days! Knowing this can help you manage your expectations – it also means that you may have more time available for labour prep (vs. induction) than you originally thought.

What do we recommend?

Several studies have found that acupuncture treatments can promote cervical ripening/maturation and can shorten the interval between estimated due date and actual time of delivery, though more rigorous studies are needed. We recommend a labour prep schedule of weekly treatments starting at week 36 until your baby is born.

If you have a medical induction planned, an acupuncture-based labour induction can be useful 2 days before the scheduled induction date. The focus of this treatment is to promote uterine contractions. This would be followed by regular acupressure done at home, ideally by the birthing support person.

At West End Mamas we recommend weekly acupuncture treatments starting at 36 weeks for optimal labour preparation, along with regular chiropractic and pelvic floor care and other support treatments as needed.

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