Acupuncture for Labor Induction: What you can expect from your treatment.
Traditional Chinese Medicine dates back over 3000 years and has been used to stimulate labor since the beginning of time. In Traditional Chinese Medicine starting labor is likened to igniting a campfire. Occasionally getting the first few twigs to catch fire take the most effort but once they catch then you can sit back and enjoy the ride.
Before ultrasounds and dopplers women used the moon to guide their due date. Acupuncture was used on the points that have a descending action and stimulate uterine contractions. These points have been proven in numerous clinical trials to effectively efface the cervix and produce contractions. (This is why they are contraindicated before 37 weeks gestation)
In my experience, unless a baby is ready to go (engaged and the cervix effaced), then one acupuncture session isn’t the sliver bullet. Honestly, its best to get the ball rolling at 37-weeks gestation with weekly treatments until labor commences. This is an amazing protocol. I have done this treatment hundreds of times with success.
Pre-labor Acupuncture starts at 36 or 37 weeks gestation. Pre-labor acupuncture takes the edge off before it starts. Women feel more relaxed for the last few weeks of pregnancy while the treatment aims at helping the baby descend into the pelvis, loosening the pelvic girdle and easing the mind. Acupuncture can also address other pregnancy related ailments like carpal tunnel syndrome, reflux (as baby drops) and pain, etc.
Post Date Acupuncture:
This treatment here is a bit more aggressive. After 40 weeks I apply all of the pre-labor points to help descend the baby in addition to stronger points to stimulate contractions. If the cervix is soft then I typically needle the sacrum and apply e-stim or electrical stimulation to the needles, which adds a painless tapping sensation to the points.
Sometimes I add moxibustion to the points along the sacrum as well as points on the upper leg (St 36, Zu san li) for energy and amniotic fluid as well as Spleen 6 for cervical ripening. Moxibustion is the technique of burning Mugwort or Ai Ye, in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Mugwort has the ability to affect all of the twelve main meridians with additional strength towards warming the uterus.
Lastly, I place ear tacks which are very small pins on a piece of tape, along the sacral plexus as well as spleen 6 and Gallbladder 21 on the upper traps for a continued treatment as well as ear seeds on points to relax the mind.
I send them home with advice on more ways to Naturally Induce Labor.
If you still haven’t gone into labor and you are going to be medically induced you may need a subsequent treatment in the next few days. Typically pre-labor acupuncture works nicely at the weekly treatment frequency. If you coming in after 40 weeks gestation then we may need to cluster 3 treatments within the week.
A recent study showed that woman who had acupuncture sessions leading up to their labor had a 35% reduction in the number of inductions, (for first-time mothers this was a 43% reduction) and a 31% reduction in the epidural rate. Debra Betts conducted this study on pre-birth acupuncture. She is an incredible midwife/acupuncturist from New Zealand who wrote the bible on treating pregnant women, The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth.
If you go on her website: http://acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz you can find links to her studies that include acupuncture for morning sickness, routine pre-labor, cervical ripening and breech presentation.