Many women seek out acupuncture or Chinese herbs during pregnancy to treat active problems like nausea, heart burn, insomnia, back pain etc, but acupuncture can also do a brilliant job of preparing you for the labour ahead.
Pre-birth acupuncture is acupuncture applied in the final weeks of pregnancy to prepare a woman for labour. There are a number of studies, from around the world, showing the benefits of acupuncture as a pre-labour preparation tool.
Research has shown pre-birth acupuncture to:
- Reduce time in labour,
- Reduce the rate of inductions,
- Reduce the epidural rate, and
- Reduce the rate of emergency caesareans.
The first notable ‘Western’ study goes back to 1974, when they demonstrated that pre-birth acupuncture can reduced the time in labour. In women giving birth for the first time, of those receiving acupuncture there was a mean labour time (from the onset of established contractions) of 6 hours and 36 minutes, compared with 8 hours and 2 minutes for those not having acupuncture. From 3-4 cm cervical dilation, a mean labour time of 4 hours 57 minutes versus 5 hours 54 minutes was reported.
A more recent study from New Zealand, involving the practices of 14 midwives, showed that women undergoing acupuncture treatment in the weeks prior to giving birth, were far more likely to experience a trouble-free labour.
This study found that when compared with the local population rates, there was an overall 35% reduction in the number of inductions (for women giving birth for the first time, this was a 43% reduction); 31% reduction in the epidural rate; and a 32% reduction in emergency caesarean deliveries.
In another study, 57 women were given pre-birth acupuncture and 63 were not (control group). The length of the first stage of labour was reduced from 321 minutes in the control group to 196 minutes in the acupuncture group. The duration of the second stage of labour was the same for both groups, 57 minutes.
In the same study, women receiving acupuncture received significantly less oxytocin (to stimulate contractions) in the first stage of labour (15%), compared with the control group (85%). In the second stage, only 28% of the acupuncture group received oxytocin versus 72% in the control group.
In clinical practice we see many benefits beyond those reported in clinical trials. We are able to modify treatment to address ‘minor’ issues as they arise along the way, like back-pain, or fatigue, or anxiety regarding labour. Our aim is to give as smooth and efficient and intervention-free a labour as is possible.
We generally suggest weekly acupuncture treatments from week 36, through until labour. Some of the main treatment focuses are to relax the tendons and ligaments of the pelvis, prepare (soften) the cervix, and provide some extra energy at this late stage in the pregnancy.
Chinese medicine can offer support through your entire pregnancy, and into the first few months of motherhood, however, pre-labour acupuncture is recommended regardless. It is safe, well tolerated, drug-free, and effective.
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact Chris directly. For appointments, please call 02 6361 8429.
Kubist E &Kucera H (1974). Uber die Anwendung der AkupunkturzurGeburtsvorbereitung. GeburtshilfePerinatol, 178, 224-9
Betts D, Lennox S. “Acupuncture ForPrebirth Treatment: An Observational Study of its use in Midwifery practice.” Medical Acupuncture 2006 May; 17(3): pp 17-20
Tempfer C, Zeisler H, Mayerhofe Kr, Barrada M &Husslein P (1998). Influence of acupuncture on duration of labour. Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, 46, 22-5