It’s all too often that I get a phone call from a frantic Mom-to-be or Father for that matter, desperate for labor to start. Reasons range from fear of the impending doom of a forced induction with pharmaceuticals to a scheduled C-section because they are overdue or high-risk, to just simply being ready to get the show on the road. Many people are under the assumption that by taking a few herbs or doing a couple acupuncture points that are traditionally contraindicated during pregnancy, that you can make labor happen instantly. This couldn’t be further from the truth! The fact of the matter is that there is very little known about the mechanism of birth or what makes a baby decide that it is in fact time to make his or her grand introduction into the world. Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions I get on the phone. Can acupuncture cause contractions? Yes sometimes. Can it help to make contractions more regular if they are already randomly occurring? Yes. Can you cause someone’s water to break? Probably not! Will you leave my office in labor? Highly unlikely, although the chance for naturally going into labor in the next 48 hours seems to jump significantly after you are over 40 weeks of gestation.
When I’m asked if I perform labor inductions, my answer is, “No, but I do offer the service of Labor Prep.” Labor Prep usually begins around week 37-38 depending on the woman, but can be started as late as week 41. Just like any other patient, your complete medical history is discussed; emphasis is placed on the pregnancy and any prior pregnancies, to gain a better understanding of you how your body reacts physically and emotionally. Any repetitive patterns of disharmony are noted and checked against pulse and tongue diagnosis and channel palpation. Appropriate points are then needled to help you feel your best going into labor. All fears or concerns about birth are addressed during your appointment. This is commonly a cause to delayed labor. Sometimes its “stuff” you didn’t even realize was an issue (like not wanting a relative in the room during your magic moment, but not wanting to hurt their feelings by saying no or the impending feeling of immense responsibility for the rest of your life). As with all acupuncture treatments, typically the biggest side effect is relaxation which is always helpful when trying to initiate birth. As your due date draws closer and your body is in a strong enough state to thrive in labor, points that may help to initiate descent of the fetus, dilation and softening of the cervix, or for coercion of contractions are then used. Sometimes you may be instructed to perform acupressure on yourself in between appointments to help further things along. Herbs are sometimes employed depending on the health, needs and wishes of the parents. Appointments are typically once a week from weeks 37-40 and then treatments are given in rapid succession three times in a row anywhere in the range of weeks 40-42 depending on the mother’s health and fetal measurements.
Lastly, if your partner is available, they are encouraged to attend at least one of your appointments. They will be instructed on how to perform acupressure on you during labor to help you progress in a timely manner. This is often helpful so that they feel like an active participant in the event of birth instead of standing helpless in a corner as the woman they love screams in pain. Acupressure during labor can help to ensure that contractions are strong and getting you somewhere instead of wearing you and baby out, while providing a slow release of natural endorphins that help you to manage the discomfort while remaining as relaxed as possible. Your brain has spent the last 10 months saving up endorphins for this occasion and has a finite amount to release during the labor and birth. Acupressure is a safe and non-invasive way to encourage your brain to release the appropriate amount in conjunction with the stage of labor you are in. PDF manuals and demonstration videos can also be emailed to the interested and tech-savvy partner so that they have a simple way to retrieve a short, to the point reminder during the event. No pun intended!
Click for video of acupressure points to help bring on labor.