Mother with newborn baby

Giving Birth – The Chinese Medicine Way

When the body goes into labour it produces natural hormones

These natural labour hormones helps ensure a smooth and painless birth.

Yes it is possible!

When labour is medically induced a combination of drugs and procedures are normally prescribed…

These drugs and procedures include:

  • Oxytocin
  • Prostaglandin
  • Cervical ripening balloon catheter
  • Artificial rupture of membranes (breaking your waters)

By the way, in pregnancies these procedures most often lead to 81% of women using an epidural… and a 43% chance of a caesarean. (1)

But there is another way.

For more than a 1000 years, Chinese medicine has been using acupuncture to induce labour.

Furthermore, the treatments are safe and effective.

More recently, acupuncture has become one of the most sought after methods for promoting and preparing natural labour.

So, bottom line, what are the benefits of acupuncture?

No doubt about it, the benefits of using acupuncture are many and here are some of them:

  • It works with the body’s natural labour hormones to induce the onset of labour
  • It reduces both the time spent in labour and the amount of pain experienced – who wouldn’t want that?
  • It promotes natural ripening of the cervix which in turn helps the baby’s head engage.
  • It helps promote calmness, reduce stress and anxiety before labour begins
  • It helps increase blood flow to the pelvic and uterine region…  promotes natural dilation of the cervix.
  • It can address other discomforts associated with pregnancy. Anything from musculoskeletal issues to poor digestion can be treated effectively with acupuncture (Morning sickness anyone?). This helps the mother achieve optimal health before going into labour.
  • It helps to keep the mothers body both calm and strong, so that the mother feels confident and ‘ready’ for labour

Don’t be fooled, we all know that gestation is a gradual process of growth for the new child.  But we also need to be aware that giving birth is also a process that starts weeks before the actual due date.

What to Expect From Week 30

First things first the child needs to turn so it’s head is facing downwards. This usually occurs around week 30 or so, but can happen as late as 36, maybe 38 weeks, or possibly even during labor!

Next the baby needs to “engage” and have its head put pressure on the pubic bone.  This usually begins around 34 to 36 weeks but usually the baby is not fully engaged until closer to the due date.  

As this happens more strongly it sends signals to the mother to prepare for labor. These signals are one of the ways contractions can be initiated.

Birth Induction-Baby in womb

For a smooth labor the cervix also needs to “ripen” and dilate.  This process usually happens in the days leading up to labour.

Acupuncture is one of the methods preferred by many women to help prepare their bodies. Acupuncture can assist with all these processes.  

There are no drugs involved.

Weekly intervention, or treatments twice a week, therapeutically assist with the natural processes… with no side effects.

Bear in mind this approach is often preferred to more immediate interventions.

It’s no secret, interventions like hormonal induction or c-section have traumatic effects on the body. The forced agenda they create does not sit in the flow of the natural rhythm of the body.

As acupuncturists in birth induction treatment our aim is to strengthen the mother.

She is about to do the hardest day’s work of her life.

Trouble is, she has been working very hard for 9 months to feed and carry a baby.

Little wonder we also need to help some things to relax.  The pelvis has been preoccupied with not letting the baby follow gravity for months.  

In a nutshell, it needs to prepare for the exact opposite to happen!  

Often the strength of holding up, is supplemented or replaced by tension… it’s no surprise,  tension involves fatigue and causes pain in the lower back and other areas.

Pregnant woman suffering tension

When should I start treatment?

In most cases we recommend commencing acupuncture during week 35 of the pregnancy… and continuing treatment once a week for the duration of the pregnancy.

Time and time again, the acupuncture treatments help encourage labour naturally. But don’t worry, it will not trigger the labour at all before the baby is ‘ready to deliver’.

Which just goes to show the human body is an amazing thing… and when we learn to work with it we can achieve fantastic outcomes.

Mark my words many mothers will prefer to have their baby at a preferred time… whether that be a little before or after their ‘due date’.

Due Date on Calendar

So, careful tailoring of the treatment plan can help the patient go into labour on a preferred week

This is something we regularly discuss with the patients we see at Sustain Health.

Timing the labour helps significantly reduce the stress associated with the whole experience.

Most women prefer to bring on labour between week 39 and 40 and we get very positive results.

Giving birth is a huge endeavour for the body. Having weekly acupuncture treatments has shown to be highly beneficial for our patients… we recommend from week 35 onwards

There are of course patients that don’t seek acupuncture until the very last stages of pregnancy.

In these cases, acupuncture can still be successful in producing a desired result.

The high success rate when completing the preparation stage proves the importance of a full treatment plan…

It’s the reason we encourage women to come in when we do.

At Sustain Health we have conducted hundreds of acupuncture sessions on pregnant women.  Our united goal is to achieve a happy and successful birth.

We have extensive experience in labour induction techniques… and we have been able to help a huge number of women prepare for and achieve labour successfully.

If you’re planning a baby or know of someone that is… ask them if they’ve considered acupuncture to help prepare for and induce labour.

They may not even be aware that it’s an option, but I’m sure they’ll be intrigued, once they see the possibilities.

(1) Klaus, Marshall H., et al. The Doula Book: How a Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth. Lifelong Books/Da Capo Press, 2012.

About the Author Dr Scott Ling

Dr. Scott Ling is the Chief Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist and the founder of Sustain Health.

His extensive qualifications also include a Master of Reproductive Medicine (western medicine).

Due to his unique medical background, Dr Ling’s approach stresses on the integration of Chinese and Western medicine to ensure patients get the greatest benefits from the best of both medical systems.