You’ve worked hard your whole pregnancy feeding and growing your baby.
You’ve taken your prenatal vitamins
You’ve done your prenatal yoga
You’ve taken your little bean to all of their doctors’ appointments
You’ve meditated on your labour and delivery birth plan
And you’ve come to acupuncture to ensure your body is changing in the most harmonious way possible
The focus for 9 months has been on growing your little one into the best possible babe they can be!
It’s now time to shift focus and ensure you, the birthing momma is ready to embark on this labour and delivery journey.
But before we dive into the nitty gritty of the scientific studies done on pre-birth acupuncture, it’s important to note many of these studies are done in the UK where midwives are trained to practice acupuncture as a part of their support for their soon to be mommas. These studies give us a unique glimpse into the world of labour and delivery as these midwives see you prior, during and after birth making their finding invaluable.
Now back to the fun!
As 36 weeks approaches it’s time for your body to start setting the stage for the delivery of your little one. This is where acupuncture can continue to support you through your pregnancy journey including to help promote cervical ripening.
Weekly appointments from 36 weeks on can help to ensure you have a safer and more efficient birth. An efficient birth is defined as a labour that doesn’t stall and requires minimal if any medical interventions.
In a study done on 140 women, 70 in a control sham acupuncture group and 70 in an acupuncture group were treated from 36 weeks onwards until delivery. For first time moms, the average birth time in the control group was 8 hours and 2 minutes in comparison to the acupuncture group who had on average births of 6 hours and 36 minutes (Betts, 2006, pg. 139). In particular it was concluded that the overall time spent in the first stage of labour was reduced which thus contributed to a shorter overall duration of labour (Betts & Lenox, 2006, pg. 16).
Although a shorter labour is a selling point for most moms to be – this isn’t the only reason to consider labour prep acupuncture. A review on acupuncture found the acupuncture points used in prenatal acupuncture help to ripen the cervix, prepare the pelvis, release endogenous oxytocin and helps to relive pain (Lokugamage, 2022, Pg 1).
Additionally women who received acupuncture required less medical interventions such as caesarian births, and used less medical induction techniques (Lokugamage, 2022, Pg 1). A 2006 study suggests pre-birth acupuncture helped to reduce the need for medical inductions by 43% in comparison to the average rate of inductions in the area and 82% of the women in that study went into spontaneous labour prior to needing any medical induction techniques (Betts & Lenox, 2006, pg. 18).
Important to note, in the pre-birth acupuncture group 3% of women went into labour prior to 38 weeks, 26% before 39 week and as such the midwifes confirmed this is in line with the onset of labour rates for non-acupuncture mothers as well, meaning acupuncture does not induce early labour (Betts & Lenox, 2006, pg. 18). However this does highlight that pre-birth acupuncture does reduce inductions and helps set the stage for natural and spontaneous labour to occur.
Due to the nature of the job, midwives have a unique lens of perception when it comes to labour. Especially in the UK where their care is given prior to birth, during and after birth. The midwives in this case are able to administer acupuncture in the weeks prior to labour, as well as during labour. Their anecdotal experience was mentioned in the discussion of this study suggesting they saw the most noticeable results during labour, when a mother had pre-birth acupuncture and not just acupuncture at the time of labour (Betts & Lenox, 2006, pg. 18).
If you are curious about pre-birth acupuncture and want to find out more, please reach out and we would be more than happy to discuss the treatment protocols with you!
Betts, D., Deadman, P., & Heese, I. (2006). The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in pregnancy & childbirth. Journal of Chinese Medicine.
Betts, D., & Lennox, S. (2006). Acupuncture for prebirth treatment: An observational study of its use in midwifery practice. Medical acupuncture, 17(3), 16-19.
Lokugamage AU, Eftime VAI, Porter D, Ahillan T, Ke SX. Birth preparation acupuncture for normalising birth: An analysis of NHS service routine data and proof of concept. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2020 Nov;40(8):1096-1101. doi: 10.1080/01443615.2019.1694878. Epub 2020 Jan 23. PMID: 31971456.