Labor Induction Acupuncture
written by Allie Machen, LAc
Here at Willow Tree, we often get folks coming in at the end of pregnancy asking for induction acupuncture. Often times these people are 40+ weeks pregnant and they already have a medical induction with their medical provider on the calendar.
What is Induction Acupuncture Anyway?
More and more folks are learning that acupuncture can help bring about labor. Thus, this type of acupuncture treatment at 40+ weeks pregnant has come to be known as induction acupuncture.
Wait, isn’t an induction a medical procedure?
Yes, an induction is a medical procedure that an obstetrician or midwife may recommend to start labor. Depending on your body, they may recommend specific medications or procedures to help soften and dilate the cervix and promote steady contractions. Your provider may recommend a medical induction if you are nearing 42 weeks gestation, if your water has broken but contractions have not begun, and in the case of infection, restricted fetal growth, low amniotic fluid, placental abruption, pre-eclampsia, or gestational diabetes.
So how can acupuncture help start labor?
Here at Willow Tree we recommend a series of labor preparation treatments beginning at 35 weeks in pregnancy. From 35 weeks forward we recommend weekly acupuncture visits increasing to twice weekly after 38 weeks. During these sessions we focus on preparing the body and mind for a positive birth experience. Acupuncture works with your body to help prepare the cervix, remove painful obstructions, optimize fetal position and reduce stress. Acupuncture offers you a quiet moment to connect with your body and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed. During these sessions we can also address any other issues you may be experiencing such as heartburn, back pain, headaches, or constipation. Acupuncture works on cumulative level with each session becoming more powerful. If you start labor preparation acupuncture at 35 weeks and find yourself at 41 weeks still pregnant, there is a greater chance that acupuncture will be effective at starting labor than if you come in for your first session at 41 weeks. Research supports that people who have received regular acupuncture in late pregnancy tend to have shorter active labor stages and tend to deliver closer to their due dates.
I have an induction scheduled in 3 days. I’ve never had acupuncture, is it worth trying?
Yes, acupuncture can still help. Going into labor is complex process with factors dependent on signals from the baby, baby’s position, your cervix, and your own mental and emotional state. Even at the end of pregnancy acupuncture is effective in encouraging fetal movement. Babies that are struggling to find the right position to put pressure on the cervix may respond quickly to a gentle acupuncture session. As the famous midwife Ina May Gaskin says, the cervix is a sphincter and stress can prevent dilation just as many people experience trying to have a bowel movement in a public restroom. Just a few acupuncture needles can help your body transition from fight or flight mode into a more relaxed state. Sometimes that is all a person needs to get labor started.
Do I need to see an Acupuncturist who Specializes in Pregnancy?
It is recommended that you see an acupuncturist with expertise in pregnancy. Folks with only general training are more likely to focus on getting contractions started rather than optimizing baby’s position and helping you feel confident in your body’s abilities. If baby isn’t in the right position, it is not appropriate to try to stimulate contractions as that would result in more pain without progress. If baby settles into the right position and your cervix and mind are prepared, then contractions will start on their own and be productive from the start.
Can I get Acupuncture before 35 weeks of pregnancy?
Yes, absolutely. Many folks begin regular acupuncture sessions at 20 weeks or at the beginning of their third trimester because they enjoy getting acupuncture. Acupuncture is effective at soothing many pregnancy related conditions as well as a safe way to alleviate pain, anxiety and depression in pregnancy. An acupuncturist with expertise in pregnancy will help you determine the appropriate treatment plan for you.
Our mission is to help women feel their best, call us!
Willow Tree Acupuncturists have worked with many of Portland’s best midwives and OB/GYN’s, providing adjunct prenatal care to ensure that women feel their best during pregnancy. We would be happy to work with you at any stage of your pregnancy! If you are considering acupuncture to gently prepare your body for labor, please give us a call around 35 weeks for the most effective treatment series. (503) 281-0030