Acupuncture for Labor Promotion

What happens when your due date comes and goes without the onset of labor? If you are lucky your caregiver allows you to go two weeks past your due date but most hospital’s policy is to induce at 41 weeks. This means that the anxious couple now is given a deadline within which to produce measurable contractions or they face induction with pitocin or a caesarean section. The uterus rarely responds favorably to this extra tension and stress and many times the couple is a victim of circumstance when trying to avoid medical induction. Pitocin will begin labor no matter if the mother’s body is ready or not. While the side effects of this drug on children are not fully known, in the mother some observable side effects include intense contraction pain, nausea, vomiting, cardiac arrhythmia, pelvic hematoma, etc. This explains why most women are eager to find a different solution to the induction dilemma.

Recently the scientific research community has been paying particular attention to the beneficial effects of acupuncture on labor induction. Chapel Hill’s very own University of North Carolina is conducting a study to assess the outcomes of women who use acupuncture to induce labor. It is thought that the acupuncture may stimulate the release of prostaglandins and oxytocin, the natural hormone that pitocin mimics. The outcomes of further studies are anxiously awaited as it may help a large percentage of birthing mothers avoid the negative effects of medical induction.

What is it like and how many treatments will I need?

Generally a woman can begin treatments to stimulate labor the week of her due date. Most of the time it is recommended for the woman to receive treatments daily in order to maintain the momentum created after each session. The effects are not as instantaneous as a medical induction. Depending on how far into pre-labor the woman’s body is will dictate how many sessions will be needed.

During the acupuncture treatment the mom may notice increased movement of her baby and some contractions. Most women experience increased contractions in the evening and night after a session. Each subsequent day of treatment the mom should feel stronger contractions and like she is moving more in the direction of active labor.

For some women they may only need one treatment to put them over the edge and into labor. Many first time moms need more than one treatment and depending on how soft and dilated her cervix was at the beginning of treatment, we may suggest using other things in addition to the acupuncture. This may be nipple stimulation, walking, sex, herbs, etc.

For more information and articles on this topic you can see:

Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labor at term—a randomized controlled trial.
Rabl M, Ahner R, Bitschnau M, Zeisler H, Husslein P.
Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2001 Dec 17;113(23-24):942-6.

Smith CA, Crowther CA. Acupuncture for induction of labour.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1):CD002962

Rabl M., Ahner R., Bitschnau M., Zeisler H., Husslein P.
Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labor at term—a randomized controlled trial. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2001 Dec 17;113(23-24):942-6.
PMID: 11802511

Dunn PA, Rogers D, Halford K. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation at acupuncture points in the induction of uterine contractions.
Obstet Gynecol. 1989 Feb;73(2):286-90.
PMID: 2783481