For many women who are wanting to have a natural pregnancy, going into labor naturally is an important part of their birth plan.
Looking back over the past year of my practice, I discovered a great fact:
The majority of my pregnant clients that came for weekly acupuncture treatments from 37 weeks through their due date, went into labor naturally. (no inductions needed!)
There were exceptions where induction was necessary for medical reasons, like high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, or other medical complications.
I want to be clear that acupuncture treatments for labor preparation are not treatments to stimulate labor. Rather, they support the changes that are already happening naturally as the body prepares for labor.
The acupuncture treatments are individualized to support the woman in what her body needs. Some women need acupuncture to boost energy and strength. Some women need acupuncture to move stuck energy. Some women need support with promoting sleep or calming anxiety or other issues that come up.
The main goal is that we support the woman to be the healthiest that she can be so that she can have a healthy labor.
Many women, even women who have never had acupuncture before, feel very relaxed with the treatments. They lay on their side (or sometimes sitting up), propped with cozy pillows, and listening to relaxing music or a soothing guided meditation recording.
At this stage, we start to use specific acupuncture points that we have previously avoided during most of the pregnancy because they are specific to preparing a woman’s body for labor. The needles themselves are usually placed in the lower back, feet and ankles, and in the outer ear and lobe (no, they aren’t placed in the belly!). My needling style is very gentle and effective.
For all of the 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 women reach their due date, I gently increase the stimulation on the needles to support a downward movement of energy. It is my professional policy that I don’t start this downward stimulation until a woman reaches her due date. The last few weeks of pregnancy are important for the baby since they are still developing and it’s when they pack on fat layers to protect their little bodies.
What I have noticed over the past seven years of private practice is that even with stimulating acupuncture treatments, labor will not start until the body is ready and the baby is ready. Acupuncture may 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 women 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 still be very effective. I do find that starting weekly treatments at 37 weeks is the best way to avoid this last-minute anxiety.
If you are pregnant, you can start acupuncture at ANY time during your pregnancy to support your health naturally (learn more here). If you have friends that are pregnant, please share this information with them. I am always happy to answer your questions via email or feel free to call my office at 415-335-0238.
**Please note that I personally have no judgement of women who choose an induction. I believe that women should be educated and empowered to make the decisions that feel right for them and their family.