Acupuncture for Labor Support

by Serena Ma, ND, MS, LAc

Many times we get mamas-to-be who come in at 39....40....41+ weeks because they are approaching an induction date and want desperately to avoid a medical induction.  Acupuncture is often mentioned as something that can help speed things along - and I've seen it to be quite effective (within 24 hours of treatment even!!!!).  I've also seen it result in a quick and easy labor, even for first time mothers!

But, there are also times when acupuncture doesn't result in a natural induction.  My opinion is that acupuncture prepares the body for labor and will NOT induce or cause labor when the body/baby is not ready.  Acupuncture is a safe, gentle way to direct the body to do what it needs to do....when it's ready.

One Austrian study concludes that acupuncture supports "cervical ripening at term" and can shorten the time till delivery after the due date (Rabl 2001).  According to Western Medicine, it is thought that acupuncture with electro-stimulation may stimulate the release of prostaglandins and oxytocin.

According to Chinese Medicine, labor starts when:

  • yang energy becomes greater than yin energy
  • Qi and blood flow more freely
  • and the doors of the uterus open

Last week, I started receiving acupuncture for labor support (at week 37) where the points that were NOT to be used during pregnancy were needled with light stimulation.  And Dr. Christine and I have decided to do more aggressive needling next week at 39 weeks.

Each pregnancy is different, so here at Serenity Natural Health, we decide on a plan with each individual patient, to the patient's comfort level.  Acupuncture for labor support can start as early as week 36.  And some of our patients may want to start early with more aggressive treatments (in the case of an early induction with gestational diabetes, for instance) -- others prefer stronger treatment after the due date.

I'll definitely keep you posted on how it goes - I just know that he moves a LOT during and after treatments.  :-)

Reference

Rabl M, Ahner R, Bitschnau M, Zeisler H, Husslein P.  Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labor at term -- a randomized controlled trial.  

Wein Klin Wochenschr.   2001 Dec 17; 113(23-24):942-6.