Studies show that women who receive regular acupuncture during the third trimester typically have shorter and more productive labour.
Acupuncture for labour induction is safe for both the mother and baby as long as there are no serious complications with the pregnancy. It is most effective starting the week of the baby’s due date. Several studies show a success rate of over 70%.
The most common Western method of labour induction uses synthetic Pitocin to jump-start labour. Pitocin will start contractions whether the mother’s body is ready or not. Because the mother’s body is not always ready, labour fails to progress 40-50% of the time, starting a chain of events that can lead to a caesarean section. Synthetic Pitocin also has other risks, including foetal distress and cardiac arrhythmia. In addition, most women find that Pitocin causes very intense and painful labour.
labour induction with acupuncture stimulates uterine contractions and softens the cervix. The treatment starts a hormonal process which stimulates the mother’s body to release prostaglandins and oxytocin, the natural hormone that Pitocin mimics. As a result, it is a much more gentle and natural process than Western induction. Because of this, the effects are not instantaneous, as they are in Western induction. Depending on how far into pre-labour the mother’s body is determines the number of treatments needed.
Many women only need one or two treatments, while others may need several treatments for real labour to start.
Research -September 27, 2008
“If a natural birth is important to you, consider Pre-birth acupuncture to increase your chances of having the birthing experience that you want.”
Initially midwives were interested in using acupuncture during labour to help with pain relief. What they found is that women receiving acupuncture in the last few weeks leading up to delivery had better outcomes during childbirth. As Debra Betts writes in her research study on Pre-birth Acupuncture, Feedback from midwives using acupuncture has consistently been that within their practices, it reduces the length of time women spend in labour, especially women having their 1st birth, and there is a noticeable reduction in medical intervention, including induction of labour, use of epidural anesthesia, and caesarean delivery (Betts 2006).
Research on Pre-birth Acupuncture
In 2004 Betts completed an observational study involved 169 women receiving pre-birth acupuncture. The acupuncture was performed by 14 midwives in the Wellington region of New Zealand. The midwives found that mean labour time was reduced. For women having their first labour, mean labour time was 9 hours with 59% of women delivering within 10 hours. Mean labour time was 4.7 hours for women having their second birth or more, with 60.5% delivering within 5 hours. Just as important, the study authors compared labour results of women receiving acupuncture to an audit group from the same region of New Zealand and observed the following results:
- 35% reduction in medical inductions
- (43% for women having their first birth)
- 31% reduction in epidural anesthesia
- 32% reduction in caesarean deliveries
- 9% increase in normal vaginal birth