In Traditional East Asian Medicine, we support pregnant patients to prepare their bodies for labor starting with weekly treatments at 36 or 37 weeks.
Acupuncture treatments for labor preparation are not treatments to stimulate labor. Rather, they support the changes that are already happening naturally.
The acupuncture treatments are individualized to support the patient in what their body needs. Some people need acupuncture to boost energy and strength, while others may need acupuncture to move stuck energy (known as “qi stagnation”). Some pregnant patients need support with promoting sleep or calming anxiety or other issues that come up.
The main goal is that we support the pregnant patient’s health to promote a healthy labor.
Many patients, even those who have never had acupuncture before, feel very relaxed with the treatments. During the treatments, they lay on their side, propped with cozy pillows, and listen to relaxing music.
At this stage, we use specific acupuncture points that we have previously avoided during most of the pregnancy because they are specific to prepare the body for labor. The needles themselves are usually placed in the lower back, legs, feet and ankles, and in the outer ear and lobe (no, the needles aren’t placed in the belly!). My needling style is very gentle and effective.
For the entire pregnancy, the energy of the body has been an upward energy to hold the baby (or babies) in and up. Now, the body needs to transition to a downward energy for the baby to be born.
When patients reach their due date, I gently increase the stimulation on the needles to support a downward movement of energy. If it’s been advised by a birth professional for medical reasons, we can start the stimulating treatments sooner.
What I have noticed over my career is that even with stimulating acupuncture treatments, labor will not start until the body is ready and the baby is ready. Acupuncture can help move the process in a healthy direction and some of my patients go into labor 12-24 hours after their stimulating treatments.
I frequently get phone calls from patients who are at their due date or overdue and are looking to try acupuncture to move the process along. I am always happy to treat patients at this stage, and I find the treatments can be very effective.
I do find that starting weekly treatments at 36 or 37 weeks is the best way to avoid this last-minute anxiety.