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Induction of Labour

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Induction of Labour


The Basics

Why are so many women now turning to acupuncture to prepare for and induce labour? Acupuncture is safe and effective. It has been shown toreduce the pain of contractions and shorten labour time. It can help preparethe uterus for birth as well as reduce the need for drugs and has a highsuccess rate. Treatments include points specific for labour induction as wellas a combination specific for the patient according to her own needs.Treatments should start at around 38 weeks to prepare mothers for labour.At this time focus is directed towards ripening the cervix, increasing the mothers energy levels and relieving any muscular pain or discomfort.

At 39 weeks partners are encouraged to attend a session, to learn acupressure point’s specific for pain reduction during labour. This has shown to be extremely helpful. At 40 weeks twoappointments are beneficial to regulate the Qi (energy) of the uterus in preparation for birth. Many women find that this initial course is remarkably effective in increasing their energy levels and encourages the natural progression of labour. However some women will find they will need to be induced. This is begun at 41 weeks and treatments are given daily or twice daily until contractions are sustained and labour is imminent. Acupuncture induction can reduce the pain associated with contractions, as contractions are slowly increased, as opposed to drug induction, where contractions tend to start intensely and progress rapidly. In this case women often have le ss time to adjust to the pain mentally and physically and often require more pain relief. Research also shows that acupuncture can reduce the average length of labour and reduce recovery time.


Can Acupuncture Be Used To Induce Labor?

It is a common question in my practice, “have you induced labor with acupuncture.” The answer is a profound yes. I have induced several women and have watched other practitioners induce many more. All of the women I have seen use acupuncture induction gave birth within 48 hours. They were all slightly “over due” according to their physicians. They all sought out acupuncture as an alternative to Pitocin. The average labor time was 4 – 5 hours.

Understanding how acupuncture can induce labor:

Acupuncture is different than western induction drugs. It is an alternative to Pitocin, yet acts in a very different way. First lets look at Pitocin. Pitocin creates an immediate reaction which begins labor whether the mother’s body and baby are ready or not. Contractions start almost instantly with pitocin in labor induction, making it an extremely predictable drug. However, the effects of pitocin on children are not fully known. Possible side effects for the mother have been reported to include:

  • Anaphylactic reaction
  • Postpartum hemorrhage
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Fatal afibrinogenemia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Premature ventricular contractions
  • Pelvic hematoma

Using acupuncture to induce labor is a whole different experience. Depending on the practitioner, acupuncture needles are inserted into strategic locations in the hands, lower leg, and feet. These needles are not like what the average person thinks of when they imagine getting a shot. The needles are solid, yet extremely thin (about 5 can fit inside the hole of your average hypodermic needle). For the most part the insertion does not produce pain. The needles create a stimulation in the body which is used to reprogram the mother’s energy in such a way as to get her body ready for labor. With some women this can be a significant change, as I will describe in a minute. Labor is rarely expected to start right away, although I have been lucky enough to witness it on several occasions.

I mentioned that for some women, acupuncture induction can create a significant reaction in the women being treated. The first time I ever witnessed acupuncture to induce labor was in an acupuncture techniques class. My teacher, Daniel Diamond, was looking for a subject to discuss for the evening. One of my classmates was a day overdue for her child’s birth and decided to be the volunteer for the day’s discussion rounds. Needles were inserted in the hands and feet with electro-stimulation set to mild (many practitioners use electro-stimulation for inducing labor. I do not as I have not found it necessary, however, it is safe and effective as the levels are set to very low and the electricity is not allowed to pass through the uterus). Within five minutes my classmate, the women being treated, started to have contractions. She packed up her bags in the middle of class and left the classroom to give birth to her child within five hours of the end of class.

In summary

Acupuncture can be an effective means to induce labor. I have seen it work time and time again. When compared to the possible side effects of pitocin on children and the known potential side effects for mothers it is clear that acupuncture should be our first line of induction. Acupuncture has no known side effects and as the needles do not come close to the abdomen, there is no potential negative side effect for the child. The down side is that the induction is not always an immediate process. In hospitals, the trend is to want to get women in and out of labor. A hospital bed is expensive and so is a physician’s time. If you or a friend you know is considering using acupuncture to induce labor, you should visit the acupuncturist prior to the seventh month and expect to begin treatments to induce the labor just before or after your due date. An experienced acupuncturist will know how close you are to going into labor and can give you a clear view of how long you can expect to wait for labor to begin.

Labor is a spiritual journey. When your spirit, the spirit of your child, and the spirit of the father are ready the birth will begin. Have patients and see the experience as the most amazing passage you will most likely have as a family. You are ushering a new life into this world. Breathe and observe every second with awe, love and hope for the new life. Using acupuncture to induce labor does not push you through the experience prematurely or too quickly. Acupuncture balances you and prepares you for the passage. Take a deep breath and say hello to a new life.


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