Many women planning a natural birth are looking for ways to prepare. Acupuncture is a gentle, safe treatment that can help you have a positive, calm birth experience.
Pre-birth acupuncture is a course of balancing treatments designed to prepare your body for birth. Treatments are usually given once a week from 35 weeks, helping you to prepare physically and emotionally for the birth of your baby. Pre-birth acupuncture can also
~ Ripen the cervix and support uterine tone
~ Keep you calm and minimize anxiety
~ Encourage the baby into the optimal position for birth
~ Nourish and build your energy for labour and recovery
~ Address any specific complaints such as back pain, heartburn or constipation
In my experience, women who have had regular pre-birth acupuncture are also less likely to need medical induction if the baby is overdue.
Is Acupuncture Safe in Pregnancy?
Yes! A recent systematic review of the use of acupuncture in pregnancy found no increase in miscarriage rates or premature birth. Adverse events occurred in around 1.3% of treatments, were mild and included bruising and needling pain.
How does it work?
Treatments are aimed at preparing your body for labour, supporting and enhancing the natural processes that are already occurring. Pre-birth acupuncture treatments are balancing and gentle, and will not promote labour if your body isn’t ready. Stronger techniques to initiate labour are only used after 40 weeks gestation, unless there is a medical reason for your baby to be born earlier.
Does research support pre-birth acupuncture?
An observational study compared the birth outcomes of women who had received pre-birth acupuncture with those who received usual care.
The study identified a number of positive outcomes of acupuncture treatment including:
~ A 35% decrease in the number of inductions (for women having their first baby this was 43%)
~ A 31% reduction in the epidural rate.
~ A 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery and
~ A 9 % increase in normal vaginal births.
There was no statistical difference in the onset of early labour in those women receiving pre-birth acupuncture.
A 2016 study examining complementary therapies for labour and birth looked at the use of a range of therapies including acupressure and relaxation. The authors found that the use of this therapeutic package “significantly reduced epidural use and caesarean section”. Women in the study group also had:
~ increased rates of spontaneous vaginal birth
~ decreased length of labour
~ decreased use of oxytocin augmentation and,
~ decreased instrumental vaginal births
When should I start?
Ideally, treatments start around 35 weeks of pregnancy, however pre-birth acupuncture can still be beneficial if started after this date. If you are scheduled for an induction prior to 40 weeks you should start 6 weeks prior to your induction date.
I am hoping to have a VBAC – can pre-birth acupuncture help?
Yes! Pre-birth acupuncture is ideal for women with a previous caesarian as it can stimulate uterine activity, help to ripen the cervix naturally and support the baby into an optimal position. It is generally worth starting treatments at 34 weeks to allow the treatments more time to fully support and prepare your body for natural birth.
The births of my sons were amazing, cherished experiences – I would love to help you prepare to welcome your beautiful baby.