Acupuncture for induction of labour
Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment to encourage the natural onset of labour for post-term babies. It works harmoniously with the delicate hormonal balance of late pregnancy, stimulates uterine contractions, dilates the cervix and aims to promote an efficient labour by invigorating and descending a woman’s energy to allow her baby to be born. A small observational study of 14 midwives over four months indicated acupuncture treatment before labour was beneficial in reducing medical interventions, compared midwifery care without acupuncture.1
Women often come to the clinic close to or past their due date to receive acupuncture. From 40 weeks onwards, we recommend having treatment every second day, ideally allowing some time before any medical induction is scheduled. Acupuncture treatment can often facilitate the initiation of contractions. In some cases women will only require one treatment, but more commonly two or three treatments are required to sustain contractions. This will depend on how far beyond term the pregnancy is and the health and readiness of the mother and baby. Everyone is different in terms of how they respond and no two pregnancies are ever the same.
Your practitioner will address the underlying reasons why labour may be delayed, and help you feel more calm and in control in preparation for labour. Aspects such as the position of the baby, the presentation of the cervix and whether the woman is emotionally and physically prepared for labour will be taken into consideration. For example, if the patient is particularly stressed (adrenalin tends to have an inhibitory effect on oxytocin secretion and therefore inhibits contractions2) acupuncture can help to balance the emotions, therefore aiding oxytocin release and facilitating contractions
- Betts, D., Lennox, S. (2006). “Acupuncture For Prebirth Treatment: An Observational Study Of Its Use In Midwifery Practice”, Medical Acupuncture, Vol 17, No.3.
- Henderson, C. Macdonald, S. Mayes (2004). Midwifery A Text for Midwives. 13th edition Bailliere Tindal, p.414.
Sally came to the clinic feeling anxious about the prospect of being medically induced. She was also exhausted as she hadn’t been sleeping well and was busy trying to look after her two-year-old son. During her consultation, we talked through her previous birth experience, where she had been induced with prostaglandin. Her labour hadn’t progressed and she was later given syntocinon which intensified the contractions to the point where labour was so painful she had to resort to an epidural to cope, and her baby was boy was delivered with forceps. This was far from the birth experience Sally had hoped for and she wanted to feel better prepared the second time round.
Sally started having pre-birth acupuncture at 36 weeks into her pregnancy. By the time she got to her due date she felt in good shape for labour, adequately rested and more relaxed. She had her final session four days past her due date. This time, rather than panic, she felt confident and relaxed that the baby would come when it was ready and that she still had time. She went into labour spontaneously the following evening, and gave birth to her little girl in the birthing center eight hours later, with no pain relief or medical intervention.