If you are past your due date and hoping to avoid labor induction, acupuncture could be the labor preparation therapy you are looking for.
Labor induction is indicated when you have gone too far past your due date, because your placenta may begin to degrade—putting your baby at risk—and the increasing size of the baby can make the passage through the birth canal more difficult. Induction may also be indicated earlier than your due date if you are experiencing a complication with your pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, intrauterine growth restriction, preeclampsia, or placental abruption.
If you are approaching the date of a planned induction, you might want to consider acupuncture. Acupuncture for labor preparation is different from acupuncture for pregnancy wellness, and it can be used as an effective treatment to stimulate the body’s natural labor processes like cervical ripening and uterine contractions. Like any acupuncture treatment, it also relieves stress and relaxes tension in the body, which facilitates a smoother labor and delivery.
Labor Induction Methods
Prostaglandins: synthetic prostaglandins may be inserted vaginally or taken orally for the purpose of encouraging cervical ripening
Laminaria: a catheter with a balloon on the end is inserted in your vagina, helping the cervix to ripen and expand in response to the pressure of the balloon
Membrane stripping: a practitioner will swipe gloved fingers against the membranes connecting your anmiotic sac to your uterus in the hopes that the body will respond by releasing prostaglandins, which will then trigger cervical ripening
Amniotomy: the amniotic sac is ruptured in order to trigger uterine contractions
Pitocin: Pitocin is the synthetic form of oxytocin, the chemical in your body that triggers labor. Pitocin is given through an IV to stimulate uterine contractions.
Risks of Induction
It is important to be aware that there are risks associated with some of these induction methods, including infection in mother and baby, excessive contractions resulting in fetal distress, and prolonged, excessive bleeding after delivery.
Sometimes women don’t have much time to prepare before a scheduled labor induction, because it occurs very soon after the decision is made. But if you do have time to prepare, research demonstrates that acupuncture may reduce the level of intervention required to induce your labor or, better yet, help you go into labor spontaneously so that you avoid induction altogether.
That means fewer risks for you and your baby.
The Effect of AcupuncturE On Labor Induction Rates
A study published in October of 2018 examined induction rates among 375 women who were past their due dates and received either acupuncture or standard care (the control group). Labor induction for all study participants was planned to begin 11 days past their due date (41 weeks plus 5 days). The women in the acupuncture group received an acupuncture every other day starting two days after their due date (40 weeks plus 2 days).
Rates of induction were significantly lower in the acupuncture group: 19.6% in the acupuncture group vs. 38% in the control group
Spontaneous delivery was much more likely in the acupuncture group: 75% in the acupuncture group vs. 52.8% in the control group
Furthermore, among the women who required labor induction, there were differences observed in the type and number of interventions required to induce labor.
Prostaglandins: No difference: 8.9% of women in the acupuncture group were given prostaglandins only vs. 8.7% of women in the control group
Pitocin: Significant difference: 8.9% of the women in the acupuncture group required Pitocin vs. 16.7% of the women in the control group
Prostaglandins + Pitocin: Significant difference: 1.8% of the women in the acupuncture group required both prostaglandins and Pitocin vs. 12.5% of the women in the control group
Support Your Timely Labor Naturally
Acupuncture is a safe, effective, and relaxing therapy that can increase your chances of avoiding unnecessary labor induction interventions.
Ideal treatment schedules will vary from person to person depending upon the situation, but here is my general recommendations:
Weekly treatments starting around Week 34
Treatments every other day starting 12 days before your scheduled induction
Acupuncture is also a wonderful therapy throughout pregnancy that helps support healthy placental development, reduce morning sickness, boost energy, alleviate hip pain, and more, so you can start experiencing the benefits of acupuncture at any point during your pregnancy.
Best Wishes to you
Congratulations to you as you approach the end of your pregnancy and prepare for the coming transition. I wish you a smooth labor and delivery and all the joy in the world when you finally get to meet your little one!
Julie Johnson is a licensed acupuncturist, board certified herbalist, and the owner of Seven Seeds Acupuncture. She is an NCCAOM Diplomate of Oriental Medicine and a Fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine. She specializes in women’s health and fertility, and she is passionate about self-care and eco-friendly living. She loves combining these passions to help her clients get healthy and stay healthy for a lifetime.
Neri, Isabella et al. (2018). Acupuncture in Postdate Pregnancy Management. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, 11(5), 332 - 336.