Acupuncture can be highly effective for helping folks prepare for labor. Unfortunately, it isn’t a “one and done” treatment. I wish I could just pop a few needles into some baby ejector buttons and away we go! So let’s take a few minutes to clarify how you can use acupuncture to help prepare your body for labor so that you can feel empowered about your birth and the resources available to you.
When should you start acupuncture to prepare for labor?
If patients are able, it can be nice to start coming in for acupuncture around 35-36 weeks. This is helpful for a number of reasons. If you have never had acupuncture before, it helps your acupuncturist see how your body responds to acupuncture treatment. We also get the opportunity to look into ways to optimize fetal positioning and remove obstructions due to muscle tightness, etc. that might be in the way.
At 37 weeks, we can start working on preparing the body for labor. We can add needles to help open and soften the cervix, bring babies head down, and start stirring up contractions or pressure waves.
How often should you go when you are trying to encourage labor?
This is somewhat case dependent. If I have a patient come in and she is having Braxton Hicks all day every day, once a week might be all she needs to help get things going. If there isn’t much action, I might recommend that patient come in twice a week for weeks 37-38. Then we do 2-3 appointments for weeks 39-labor starts.
Is it too late if your doctor is pushing for a medical induction and you are fast approaching your due date?
It never hurts to get in for an appointment. We just want to manage expectations. Acupuncture can be amazing and I have received numerous emails from happy couples who have had miracles happen. I have seen couples come in with the clock ticking and we do as many sessions as possible. I also teach them how to do hourly acupressure at home to up the ante. In some cases, it works. In others, patients report that they feel acupuncture helped their medical induction go more smoothly by allowing them to respond more quickly to the medication.
Can I have acupuncture during my medical induction?
I have had the opportunity to do this once for a relative. Her kiddo’s heart rate wasn’t great and they wanted to see more movement from him. I put a few needles in and by the time I left, the nurses and her midwife were calling me the baby whisperer. My relative felt like things were jump started with the time that I spent needling her while she was receiving medication and being monitored. It was, honestly, one of my very favorite experiences! Someday, perhaps, your area hospital will have acupuncturists on staff with labor and delivery nurses. One can dream!