For the next blog in our series that explores the benefits of acupuncture during the various stages of pregnancy, we are taking a look at how both acupressure and acupuncture can assist when it comes to those final few weeks, labour and induction. In terms of preparing the body for birth and additional or alternate options for induction, situation depending of course, acupressure and acupuncture for labour have both been shown through empirical evidence to have beneficial results.

35 weeks

When it comes to my pregnant clients, ideally they have been having acupuncture throughout the entire pregnancy. But honestly, don’t worry it is never too late to begin if you are new to acupuncture. If you are nearing the end of your third trimester, I like to see my clients again on a weekly basis from about the 35-week mark. This is when I work on calming the nervous system and softening the tendons, ligaments and cervix, as well as promoting blood flow to all areas of the body. Calming and boosting mum’s energy is a top priority to prepare her physically and mentally for birth. By working to soften and calm the body it allows the baby to begin to drop down into the ideal birthing position. By 35- 36 weeks we hope baby’s head is facing down and beginning to engage. If the baby is breech, I will consult with the obstetrician and birthing team, as moxibustion on specific points has been shown to sometimes be beneficial in assisting to turn baby. Moxibustion on point Bladder 67, which is on the little toe is a point I will often use to help soften the ligaments in the pelvic girdle area, which can allow and assist the body in helping baby to turn into the right birthing position. In the ideal scenario we would like baby to turn before the 36-week mark and begin to engage.

38-42 weeks- labour and induction

A woman can go up to 42 weeks as long as there is no medical reason or contraindications hindering her own health or that of her baby’s. When women are told they require a medical induction, many seek alternate holistic options such as acupressure and acupuncture, as a first point of call for inducing labour. 

With clients where this might be the case I will liaise with the midwife and obstetrician to get verbal consent to use both acupressure and acupuncture methods to support the body’s natural mechanisms of birth to begin. It is also important for me to know if baby is in the right position as well. When it comes to medical inductions the process often first involves a stretch and sweep of the cervical opening. Whether this is the case or not if medical induction has been suggested and I have permission to treat my client, ideally I like to do three appointments on consecutive days. These can also be timed around the stretch and sweep if this will also be conducted. During these appointments it is about using key acupressure points to not only help all the muscles in the body to soften, but to provide it with extra energy with the hope that the natural mechanisms of birth will kick in. I also work with my client’s partners if they are willing and show them how to use specific acupressure points at home to continue to assist and support their partners during this time and encourage the onset of labour. Acupuncture and acupressure are both gentle, non-invasive treatments that can often help give the body a gentle nudge in the right direction, and if the body is willing and able the process of labour can and will often begin. 

Labour and birth

Whether you are having a caesarean or natural birth, if you are requiring medical induction or not, regular acupuncture treatments leading up to labour can be extremely beneficial in supporting the body during this time. By increasing the flow of oxygen and allowing everything to soften and relax so that mum can go into labour in the most ideal scenario. When the body is ready, prepared and supported through acupuncture and acupressure, labour may be also be less intensive and shorter in duration.

As with any stage throughout the pregnancy and beyond I always teach my clients to trust their own bodies. If labour isn’t progressing sometimes medical intervention is needed and it is about surrendering to the process and knowing that you have done all that you can. I work with the women I treat to tap into their subconscious mind and be able to focus and listen to their own intuition to guide them throughout this time of labour and birthing. I will be continuing to expand on this with further education I am undertaking in the art of hypnobirthing, which I cannot wait to begin to offer as part of my services. 

Below is also a great link to a fantastic handout by Deborah Betts, a leading expert whom I always refer to when it comes to acupressure for labour and birth preparation. No matter where you may be at within your pregnancy journey or if you would like to find out more, get in touch. As you can see helping women on their journey to motherhood is such a huge passion of mine. Also, to note if this topic is of interest you can view the previous blog post in the series here which takes a look at the role acupuncture can play during pregnancy.

Deborah Betts

https://acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/media/cms_page_media/151/Acupressure%20for%20labour%20preperation%20and%20medical%20induction%20.pdf

References

Ee, C.C., Manheimer, E., Pirotta, M.V and White, A.R. (2008). Acupuncture for pelvis and back pain in pregnancy; a systematic review. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, [online] 198(3), pp.254-259. Available at: htts://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.giv/18313444.

Smith, C.A, Armour, M., & Dahlen, H.G. (2017). Acupuncture or acupressure for induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 10, Article No. CD002962. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002962.pub4.

Zhang, J., Yancey, M.K, & Henderson, C.E. (2002). U.S. National trends in labour induction, 1989-1998. Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 47(2), 120-124.