Preparing for Labor with Acupuncture

Pre-Birth Treatments.

Acupuncture can be used in two main ways in the later stages of pregnancy. Firstly, specific pre-birth treatments, in the form of a standard set of points, can help prepare a woman’s body for birth, with an emphasis on preparing the cervix and pelvis for labor and ensuring the correct positioning of the baby.

Secondly, treatment can be given to deal with medical conditions such as pregnancy induced hypertension (preeclampsia), and symptoms such as heartburn, hemorrhoids, constipation, leg cramps, nasal congestion, swelling of hands/feet, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and tiredness.

Pre-birth acupuncture refers to a series of treatments in the final weeks of pregnancy to prepare women for childbirth. This is an accepted practice in German hospitals where acupuncture is practiced. Research has demonstrated that the mean duration of labor in a group of women giving birth for the first time was reduced from 8 hours and 2 minutes in the control group (70 women) to 6 hours and 36 minutes in the group of 70 women who had received pre-birth acupuncture. In clinical practice acupuncture is an ideal method to help women prepare themselves to have the most efficient labor possible.

Additionally, this is a time to help boost the mother’s resources.  Much will be expended during labor and much blood lost.  Chinese Medicine can help bolster up the mother’s reserves prior to labor and help restore what’s lost after delivery.

Acupuncture During Labour Reduces Need for Analgesics

Swedish researchers say women who receive acupuncture during labour may be less likely to ask for an epidural to relieve their pain than those who go without the ancient Chinese treatment. The researchers, from Orebro University Hospital, found that there were no negative effects on women who received acupuncture in these circumstances. The research is reported in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. (Reuters 25/07/02).

First-time mothers who have their labor induced may face a greater risk of needing a cesarean section.

In a study of 7,800 first-time mothers who gave birth at one U.S. medical center, researchers found that those who had their labor induced were twice as likely to ultimately need a C-section.  (Obstetrics & Gynecology, July 2010, Volume 116, Issue 1, pp35-42)

Acupuncture Facilitates Natural Birth

A study randomized 200 women with spontaneous rupture of membranes at term to either acupuncture or no acupuncture.  Treatment was individualized on the basis of traditional Chinese medical diagnosis and used three points per patient from a pool of nine possible choices.  Treatment principles applied were to increase energy, soften the cervix and open the Conception vessel.  Although time from membrane rupture to delivery did not differ significantly between the groups, length of active labour was significantly reduced in the acupuncture group.  In addition, significantly fewer patients in the acupuncture group required oxytocin for longer than two hours.  Medical induction of labour was eventually necessary in 15 acupuncture patients and 20 controls.  When induction was carried, women assigned to acupuncture completed the active phase of labour in half the time compared to controls, a statistically significant difference.  ( Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2006;85(11):1348-53).