While babies arrive when they are ready (and first time moms on average birth at 41 weeks and 1 day), giving them a little nudge is worth a shot, especially if your goal is to avoid a hospital induction, you are getting pressure from your care provider, or you are getting uncomfortable. I typically do not recommend labor induction until after 40 weeks. Prior to 40 weeks, there is a higher chance of contractions without progressing into labor. I do highly recommend receiving weekly acupuncture treatments from weeks 36-40 to balance the body and prepare the body for labor and birth.
What is it?
Acupuncture is a safe and effective means for induction. It works to support hormone balance and promote labor. Your Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner will never perform a vaginal examination. They will use tongue and pulse diagnosis as well as ask clinical questions to determine point selection.
When should I go?
From my clinical experience, I find that women go into labor within 48 hours of one acupuncture treatment. (This is only in cases wherein treatment is geared toward labor induction; regular acupuncture care throughout pregnancy will not induce labor.) Some women may need 2-3 treatments, so it is a good idea to begin treatment five days prior to a scheduled hospital induction. If a woman is showing signs of pre-labor, it is very likely that she will progress into labor prior to the 48 hour mark.
What should I expect from treatment?
As acupuncture is a less aggressive and less invasive form of induction, you may expect contractions following treatment without progressing into labor. There are no known adverse effects to the baby. If you are new to acupuncture, you may leave your treatment feeling more relaxed. Some people report soreness around the points where needles were inserted—this should go away within an hour or two.
How does treatment happen?
Your TCM practitioner will likely have you sit up or lie on your side and insert thin (hair-like) needles into points on the hands, ankles, back, and ear. Your care provider may offer ASP auriculo needles (into the ears). These semi-permanent needles are designed to stimulate the points for a few days and can be removed with tweezers if they are uncomfortable.
Stay tuned for more options for natural induction!
Candace Gesicki, DC, DABCA