What You Need to Know Before Using Acupuncture to Induce Labor

Using Acupuncture to Induce Labor

Using Acupuncture to Induce Labor

So, you’re finally ready to have your baby and you’re wondering what you can do to help labor start naturally? You might have heard that acupuncture can help “induce labor“. While acupuncture may help, you first need to learn how to make the most of your efforts to start labor naturally. Read on!

Induction of labor is the medical term used to describe a procedure that stimulates uterine contractions to bring on vaginal birth and delivery. In describing the role of acupuncture to induce labor, it would actually be more accurate to call it “labor preparation.”

The core principles of acupuncture and East Asian medicine instruct that we do not force the process, but simply support both mother and baby to achieve their best physical, mental and emotional state for labor to naturally occur. While acupuncture can help soften the cervix and stimulate mild uterine contractions, we always work gently with your body to ensure the safety of both you and your.

To that end, labor preparation is a process that requires planning ahead and therefore is not a one-shot deal. We recommend starting labor preparation a few weeks before the estimated due date and having sessions one to three times weekly until birth, making it an excellent addition to a birth plan. Acupressure (massaging acupuncture points) can also help both before and during labor and is also a great addition to your birth plan.

Ideally, a pregnant person would be receiving acupuncture throughout pregnancy to keep symptoms at bay and help avoid the depletion and exhaustion that sometimes occurs in later pregnancy. In this sense, “labor preparation” starts at the beginning of pregnancy. Acupuncture treatments focus on maintaining and restoring health throughout pregnancy, to help reduce uncomfortable symptoms and help support the health of mom and baby.

Pre-birth treatments focus on gradually improving circulation and supporting hormone regulation while stimulating downward movement to encourage the natural direction of labor. When done consistently at the end of pregnancy, acupuncture treatments can create an environment in the body where labor is simply the natural next step, and labor starts effortlessly.

So how much does acupuncture really help? Although there is a need for more research around acupuncture and labor, evidence has shown a reduction of labor time by an average of 20%, and an increase in cervical ripening [1]. “Ripening” of the cervix is the first, most important, step in the process of labor where your cervix becomes soft and thin for opening. A small study even showed that the likelihood of delivery by cesarean section was also reduced by about 50%[2]

Of course, we’ve all heard the stories of how medical procedures to induce labor can fail. Similarly, using acupuncture for labor preparation doesn’t always guarantee that you will avoid the need for medical induction. However, it is our frequent observation that having consistent acupuncture sessions to prepare your body for labor has both seen and unseen effects, and either labor starts spontaneously or induction will go more smoothly. All bodies are unique and, for reasons beyond our control and understanding, respond differently to various procedures.

Again, the beauty of acupuncture is that it does not force the process of labor and delivery. Instead, it works with your body to create the best conditions for labor to occur. In our many years of experience, getting regular acupuncture during pregnancy is one of the best ways to support your health, and, when it’s time, to help labor start naturally. With the help of acupuncture, you can stay healthy throughout pregnancy, and be ready to meet your baby with more calm and ease.

Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for many concerns of pregnancy and can be a great addition to your birth plan to help you prepare for a smooth labor. Be sure to ask your midwife, doula, or OB about including acupuncture as part of your pregnancy care and birth plan. At Portland Acupuncture Studio, we have decades of experience supporting people throughout pregnancy and using acupuncture to promote a natural, uncomplicated labor and birth. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support you and your baby. 

[1] https://evidencebasedbirth.com/evidence-acupuncture-to-induce-labor/

[2] https://www.webmd.com/baby/inducing-labor-naturally-can-it-be-done#1

About Lisa Tongel

We are practitioners of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine specializing in fertility, IVF support, pregnancy care, reproductive health, and pelvic pain.