Acupuncture for Labor Induction
You've waited over 9 months for your big day - the due date for the arrival of your baby. However, a due date is just an estimate, and babies don't always arrive on schedule. As an expectant mother, you're feeling happy and excited, but also nervous about the labor process, anxious about going past your due date, and most likely uncomfortable and ready to get through the birthing process smoothly and uneventfully. There may be risks to mother and/or baby, such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, etc that may warrant a labor induction shortly after or even before a due date. The use of the drug pitocin or a Cesarian section are reliable methods of hastening delivery. However, these options do not come without riskss. Medically induced labor can be very intense and traumatic to the body and healing from a Cesarian section is generally longer and more complicated than from natural childbirth. Increasingly, women are turning to acupuncture as a natural means to promote labor and ease the birthing process. In many cases, the use of acupuncture and electro-acupuncture may help avoid medically induced labor or a Cesarian section and help to prepare the body for and ease labor.
How Can Acupuncture Help with Labor Induction?
Acupuncture can help with labor induction and with easing the actual labor process in several ways. Firstly, it helps to relax the mind and body of the mother. Underlying emotional stress can actually cause labor to be stalled or slowed down. The rise in stress hormones like cortisol can interfere with your body's release of hormones that progress the labor process, like oxytocin. Without these labor inducing hormones, delivery can become delayed and take longer. Acupuncture can help reduce the stress hormones that can interfere with a smooth delivery.
Acupuncture can increase the body's production of labor inducing hormones, like postaglandins. Postaglandins are released naturally by the body to encourage uterine contractions and ripen the cervix in preparation for labor. By encouraging the release of more hormones like postaglandins, acupuncture helps to induce uterine contrations, soften, and dilate the cervix.
From a Chinese Medicine persepctive, certain acupuncture points have energetic functions of promoting labor by causing the downward flow of energy and freeing up the flow of blood and energy in the uterus and cervix (encouraging uterine contractions and ripening of the cervix). In fact, an acupuncturist will specifically avoid these points in pregnant women up until the woman has reached full term in order to prevent premature delivery. This is why it is so important to see a licensed acupunturist who is experienced in treating pregnant women!
When Should You Start Acupuncture for Labor Induction?
We typically recommend starting to get acupuncture to prepare for labor around week 36 of pregnancy. However, if the baby is still in breech position at week 33, we do recommend starting acupuncture treatments at that time to try to turn the baby into a head down position. Treatments will generally become more frequent and more aggressive the closer the expectant mother is to the due date. Electro-acupuncture may also be used, especially if the patient is past her due date.
Acupuncture Points for Labor Induction
Acupuncture treatments at our Chicago acupuncture clinic are always individualized for each patient. However, there are some commonly used acupuncture points for labor induction. Some of the points that our licensed acupuncturists might use include:
- LI4 - This acupuncture point is located on the fleshy part of the hand between the index finger and thumb. This point promotes uterine contractions and reduces pain.
- SP6 - This acupuncture point is on the inside of the lower leg about 3 inches above the highest part of the inner ankle bone. This point is often used for gynecological issues and can promote uterine contractions and help free up blood and energy flow in the uterus.
- GB21 - This acupuncture point is located on the top part of the shoulder directly above the midpoint of your collar bone. This point has a descending energetic function, which can help hasten delivery.
- UB32 - This acupuncture point is located over the sacrum at the second posterior foramen. The sacrum is located directly below the lumbar vertabrae of the spine. This point is important for opening up blood and energy flow to the reproductive organs, and therefore can help promote uterine contractions and hasten delivery.
Acupressure for Labor Induction
Using acupressure can be a great way to encourage labor between acupuncture visits. Use your thumb or index finger to apply gentle but firm pressure to the points listed above. Each point can be stimulated a few times a day for 1 or 2 minutes each. Ideally, have someone else do the acupressure for you for a total of 5 to 10 minutes per session. You should not start acupressure for labor induction until you have reached full term or around week 38.
Our Chicago acupuncture clinic specializes in treating patients for infertility, pregnancy support, and labor induction. Our acupuncture treatments can provide a natural way to promote labor and ease the labor process. Contact our Chicago acupuncture office to make an appointment with us today!
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