A Proactive Approach to a Happy and Healthy Labour!
By Jonathan Handel
Acupuncture is a great tool for many concerns that women have during their pregnancies. In recent years acupuncture has been gaining more and more recognition for its ability to help expectant mothers maintain optimal health and quality of life in a way that is both drug free and safe.
It is widely known that acupuncture can help deal with nausea, pain, breech presentation and the inducting of labour. But perhaps acupuncture’s best kept secret is that having regular treatments leading up to the birth, starting at week 36, can promote a safe, efficient and natural labour — including shorter time in labour.
In Chinese Medicine there are many sayings which promote prevention over intervention:
“Do not dig a well when you are already thirsty”
“Don’t start making weapons when the war has already begun”
This is true in terms of having a efficient and easy labour as well. The more work you do beforehand, the more prepared your body will be. In being more prepared the experience will be easier on you and the baby.
How does acupuncture make for an easier labour? A few ways. Through activating points on the arms and legs, acupuncture promotes blood flow to the pelvis, helps relax muscles (allowing for easier passage for the baby in labour), aids in cervical dilation, and helps keep the mother in a relaxed and energized state leading up to the labour.
Acupuncture has been shown in studies to to promote a natural birth and even reduce labour times. In 1974, a study by researchers Kubista and Kucera calculated that women who had acupuncture starting in the final weeks of pregnancy on average took 4 hours and 57 minutes between when they were 3-4 cm dilated to when they delivered. This is compared to 5 hours and 54 minutes in the control (non-acupuncture) group. They also measured the time between the onset of 10-15 minute contraction and delivery, and by that measure the acupuncture group averaged 6 hours 36 minutes, versus 8 hours and 2 minutes in the control group.
In 2004, acupuncturist Debra Betts and midwife Sue Lennox conducted an observations study of 169 women who received pre-birth acupuncture and compared their births statistics to those of the local population. They found that there was a 35% reduction in medical inductions (up to 44% for women having their first baby) for the women that received pre-birth acupuncture. Comparing to regular midwife care, they found a 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery and a 9 % increase in normal vaginal births.
These studies show how being proactive leading up to birthing, using acupuncture, can help reduce labour times and decrease the chances of needed medical interventions during labour.
Having regular acupuncture starting at week 36 at weekly intervals, also allows for regular visits to address any other concerns that may arise at the end of the pregnancy. At this stage, many women are dealing with discomfort from carrying extra weight. There might be fatigue, edema, poor sleep, heartburn, acid reflux, hemorrhoids, as well as stress leading up to the labour. Acupuncture can help address these concerns as well so that the final weeks of pregnancy can be more enjoyable and allow for a better quality of life.
As an acupuncturist who sees many pre-natal clients, I can attest to the how acupuncture facilitates an efficient birth. My clients enjoy taking charge of their health at a time when it might feel like things are out of their control. Many mothers have even told me that the time they set aside for acupuncture, a time to relax and do something for themselves, is in and of itself valuable.
If you would like to learn more about how acupuncture can help you during your pregnancy and the benefits of pre-birth acupuncture, come check out my seminar Acupuncture During Pregnancy: Why Acupuncture is a Mother’s Best Tool for Health and Happiness this Thursday July 21st at IHI.
Jonathan Handel, R.Ac R.TCMP
Jonathan is a acupuncturist and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. He values a holistic approach, and seeks to treat the root causes of illness and provide symptomatic relief for people seeking to better their health and quality of life. As a practitioner, Jonathan seeks to create a positive healing environment, where patients can step away from their daily stresses. Through creating a safe and comfortable space, patients can look forward to coming in for treatment as an opportunity to seek relief and get the support they need.