Acupuncture for Pre-Birth CareCarly Wendler, BASc, ND February 1, 2011
As your journey towards giving birth approaches, you are undoubtedly making all of the preparations necessary to gently and safely welcome your baby into the world. You’ve carefully considered and chosen a birth attendant, selected a place to birth your baby, lovingly decorated your baby’s room, and depending on your stage of pregnancy, packed your bag for a hospital birth or set up your personal space for a home birth. You’ve painstakingly prepared the outside environment for your new arrival, but have you considered preparing your body and internal environment for your baby’s birth? Although the initiation of birth rests with the hormones your baby produces closer to its birthday, you can prepare your body and positively influence the birth with pre-birth acupuncture treatments.
WHAT IS PRE-BIRTH ACUPUNCTURE?
Although Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture has been a complete and safe system of medicine for thousands of years, it was only in 1974 that the first research into pre-birth acupuncture was initiated. Although research into the effectiveness of acupuncture is lacking (according to the reductionist and allopathic medical model), it has been proven through many controlled trials, observational studies, and first person accounts to be safe and effective for a range of health issues, including birth support.
Debra Betts, a world renowned acupuncturist with a clinical focus on pregnancy and women’s health, conducted a small observational study with 169 women in 2004 in conjunction with a midwife colleague. In the group of women who received pre-birth acupuncture, there was a 35% overall reduction in the number of induced labours (for first-time mothers there was a 43% reduction), and a 32% reduction in the epidural rate. This reduction occurred regardless of whether the caregiver was a midwife, GP, or specialist. And in the group of women who received mid-wifery only, combined with pre-birth acupuncture, there was a 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery and a 9% increase in normal vaginal births.
It is recommended that you start pre-birth acupuncture during week 36-37 of your pregnancy. Treatment consists of a 30 – 45 minute weekly acupuncture visit incorporating a combination of preselected acupuncture points that have been noted to have a beneficial effect on birth, and points chosen by your practitioner to address any individual health concerns. Treatment can be enjoyed until the physiological process of birth begins (and is sometimes used during birth for its analgesic effects!).
Acupuncture points are located in or around the feet, ankles, lower legs, and hands, and you will be seated comfortably in order to foster a relaxing treatment for you and your baby.
WHY PRE-BIRTH ACUPUNCTURE?
Pre-birth acupuncture is shown to be beneficial in tonifying the body in preparation for birth. Pre-birth treatments can reduce labour time and epidural rates, promote a reduction in medical interventions, and increase blood flow to the pelvic organs to maximize oxygen, blood, and nutrient delivery.
Aside from promoting a smooth vaginal birth, your acupuncture treatments can also be individually tailored to include points that encourage rotation of a breech-presenting baby, encourage a post-date pregnancy to move forward, and calm the mind to assuage any anxieties associated with your upcoming birth (which may be associated with post-date babies).
Many women may be concerned about a risk of inducing an early labour, but pre-birth acupuncture has not been shown to do so. Acupuncture in general has been shown to be safe for mother and baby at all stages of pregnancy when treatment is with a qualified and licensed practitioner who is proficient in point selection and is aware of any contraindications for your specific needs and health status.
So as you plan and near the birth of your little one, include pre-birth treatments as a way to relax your mind and body, prepare the body for birth, and enjoy some quiet time with your baby before his or her arrival.
2. Betts D, Lennox S. Acupuncture for prebirth treatment: An observational study of its use in midwifery practice. Medical Acupuncture, 2006 May; 17(3):17-20.
3. Rabl M, Ahner R, Bitschnau M, Zeisler H, Husslein P. Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term – a randomised controlled trail. Wien Klin Wochenschr 2001; 113 (23-24): 942-6.
4. Tempfer C, Zeisler H, Mayerhofe Kr, Barrada M Husslein P. Influence of acupuncture on duration of labour. Gynecol Obstet Invest, 1998; 46:22-5.
5. Citkovitz C; Klimenko E; Bolyai M; Applewhite L; Julliard K; Weiner Z. Effects of acupuncture during labor and delivery in a U.S. hospital setting: a case-control pilot study. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 2009 May; 15 (5): 501-5.