You’re nearing the end of your journey through pregnancy and may be wondering what you can do to encourage natural labor and childbirth to bring your baby into this world. Each phase of your pregnancy had its joys and challenges. Maybe you experienced nausea early on. Aches and pains are not uncommon as your body adjusts to the growing fetus. Many women also have to deal with digestive or sleep issues, some even with gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia or other health conditions that need to be monitored by your physician or midwife. Often, women find considerable relief from these disturbances when I give them regular acupuncture treatments and educate them about other natural medicine options.
Acupuncture for labor preparation
I hope your pregnancy, so far, has been going smoothly and you’ve experienced only minor hiccups. I recommend to all my pregnant patients to come for weekly acupuncture during the last four to six weeks before their due date. Why?
The transition from pregnancy to labor and childbirth creates a profound shift in your body’s energetic state. Fortunately, your body knows intuitively how to navigate this transformative period. In most cases, women are able to deliver a healthy baby without any medical intervention. That’s thanks to our long evolution ensuring the survival of our species.
So, why would you want to use acupuncture to prepare for labor and childbirth? No matter how well you traveled through pregnancy, as the big day approaches you may feel heavy, anxious and tired. In fact, you may be looking forward to putting it all behind you. Acupuncture can help you feel more at ease physically and emotionally. You often feel more relaxed and centered, you might get a bit more much-needed sleep, and your sensations of heaviness and achiness can be alleviated with acupuncture.
Acupuncture can do more
But that’s not all. We know from extensive experience in clinical practice, as well as through research studies, that pre-labor acupuncture can have a measurable positive effect on the efficiency and duration of labor; it promotes cervical ripening; and it’s also been shown to reduce the use of pain medications. I’ve also observed in my practice that women past their due dates—and waiting to be medically induced—can go into labor spontaneously when receiving daily acupuncture at this time. Many of my colleagues specializing in perinatal care will confirm this. While I can’t guarantee this outcome, it is something I wholeheartedly recommend because acupuncture is a rather safe intervention as you approach the birth of your child. If it saves you from having a medically induced labor, I think it’s worth a try.
Overall, women who were offered acupuncture reported a significantly higher level of satisfaction with their birth experience.
You can relieve pain even during labor
In addition to treating you with acupuncture during office visits, I will also use this time to teach you and your birth partner how to use acupressure—that’s the activation of acupoints with finger pressure—to relieve pain and promote efficient contractions during labor itself. Currently, most hospitals in the US do not offer access to licensed acupuncturists at their birthing centers or labor & delivery wards, and your doula and birth partner may be the only ones permitted to accompany you.
What can acupuncture do for you in your last month of pregnancy? We use it to regulate Qi and Blood. That’s our way in Chinese medicine of describing the effects of acupuncture on your physiology. It regulates the flow of energy, helping you feel more balanced and even-keeled. If you were feeling tight and nervous, you may feel more relaxed or even sleepy. If you were feeling heavy and tired, you may feel energized and focused after your treatment. This is because in our way of looking at your health, we do not separate the physical from the psychological well-being. They are just different aspects of your health. If you feel at ease and optimistic, your body also has a better chance to prepare physiologically for the work that’s ahead. You are able to find your own rhythm and move through the stages of labor and childbirth naturally, just the way you were meant to do.
© 2020 Christiane Siebert