by Rachel Volp August 18, 2017

Acupuncture for the Induction of Labour

To us at Vyne Health - Birth really matters. 

By helping you through the process of allowing your baby to be born into this world, has an impact on us and on you - for the rest of your life. Being able to help you with this transition is an honour to us. 

Induction of Labour is an intervention to end the pregnancy journey by achieving a vaginal birth before the spontaneous onset of labour if complications are a risk to the mother or baby (1,2). Term pregnancy is defined at 37 – 42 weeks, dating by a women’s last monthly period in order to provide a reasonably accurate length of gestation (3).

If a foetus is born either earlier or later than this timeframe the infant or mother may experience complications. 

In China, acupuncture for labour has been used for centuries, with mention throughout ancient classical Chinese texts particularly Jia Yi Jing (282 CE) specifying that acupuncture was used in cases of absent or prolonged labour (4). Compared to Syntocinon (oxytocin infusion) and its possible side effects of rupturing the uterus with abnormally strong contractions - acupuncture has very few side effects and helps to assist the woman with relaxation, stress reduction and increased energy to assist with labour initiation naturally.

In saying so, it is important to note that Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is one of the leading and most progressive forms of complimentary medicine in Australia (8). Although the "word of Acupuncture" may only just be getting out, it has been used for over 2000 years. With records dating back to the Jin Dynasty (AD 246 - 420) to help assist with prolonged and over due pregnancies (7). 

Studies

Research has shown that a mean duration of labour in a group of women giving birth for the first time was reduced from 8 hours and 2 minutes in the control group of 70 women to 6 hours and 36 minutes in women who received pre-birth acupuncture treatments (6). Other research reveals that the average time from acupuncture induction until delivery was 13.1 hours and the success rate of acupuncture to induce overdue labour to be between 68-83% (9).

Other research articles suggest that acupuncture may help alleviate symptoms associated with pregnancy and the labour journey. For example, acupuncture may initiate the onset of labour, prepare the uterus, pelvis and cervix for labour, reduce recovery time and significantly decrease the need for medical intervention (8, 6). 

Even though scientific evidence for the efficacy of Acupuncture for the induction of labour appears to be positive yet weak and unclear (5). We must not discount that the process of pregnancy is multifactorial. Meaning, that you may experience extra pressure form your surrounding family, friends or colleagues. Or worry from your midwives or obstetricians with unknown due dates or induction dates. These scenarios may increase your stress levels, which potentially may "disrupt" your hormones and interfere with your labour initiation. With this being said, the emotional wellbeing of each mother is very important to us and your acupuncturist will select specific acupoints to target your emotional status to help enhance relaxation.  

How Acupuncture Can Be a Pre Birth Technique

Pre Birth treatments mean a series of acupuncture treatments in the final weeks of pregnancy to help prepare the mother for childbirth. This is usually started once a gestation age of 36-37 weeks has been reached. Upon confirmation from your midwife that the health of yourself and the baby is okay. Ruling out any complications like gestational diabetes, pregnancy induced hypertension, oedema or protein found in the urine etc. Then your Acupuncturist can deliver individualised gentle treatments in the later stages of pregnancy. This can provide you with a safe and effective option to enhance relaxation and encourage your own body's natural progression towards the onset of labour (6).

What your Acupuncturist may Focus on during Your Treatment:

  • Regulating the mothers Qi (energy), Blood, Yin and Yang prior to delivery.
  • Cervical ripening.
  • Correct positioning of the baby.
  • Increasing energy levels.
  • Decreasing stress levels.  

Symptoms Acupuncture may be able to assist during Pregnancy (6):

  • Back ache. 
  • Swelling of the hands and feet.
  • Leg cramps.
  • Heartburn / indigestion.
  • Hypertension.
  • Constipation.
  • Haemorrhoids.
  • Bleeding gums.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Difficulty sleeping / insomnia.
  • Anxiety.
  • Tiredness.

Medical Induction

Medical Induction methods are done when the mother or baby might be at risk of complications due to a prolonged labour. The most common methods are listed below.  

  • Sweeping the membranes.
  • Artificial Rupture of the Membranes (ARM).
  • Use of prostaglandins (PEG2) gel applied to the cervix.
  • Intravenous synthetic oxytocin (syntocinon).

Complications that may Require Medical Induction

  • Diabetes.
  • Pre-eclampsia.
  • High Blood Pressure. 
  • Heart conditions.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Cholestasis in pregnancy.
  • Bleeding in late pregnancy.
  • Rupture of membranes without the commencement of labour. 
  • Pregnancy over 42 weeks. 

Once we have ensured you are at your optimum health. Acupuncture pre birth treatments can be performed to help encourage your own body's natural progression towards the onset of labour. 

When you arrive in our clinic you will find that our atmosphere is calming and the lighting is dim with soothing music. All to help comfort your visit. Once we have you comfortably lying on your side supported by pillows - or sitting comfortably - your treatment will last for about 30 - 45 minutes. You are most welcome to bring your partner to support you through the process. Your acupuncturist may also explain some acupressure techniques to continue at home to enhance treatment results, labour initiation and to help you through painful contractions. 

If you would like to know more information about the treatments we offer, please contact our clinic so we can help answer any questions on (07) 5515 0409 or write to us from our contact page. 

We look forward to helping you through your final stages of pregnancy. 

Schedule your appointment 

 References: 

(1). Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2013, National Core     Maternity Indicators, The University of New South Wales.

(2). Queensland Clinical Guidelines: Induction of Labour 2011, Queensland Government Department of Health.

(3). Yates, S 2010, Pregnancy and Childbirth: A holistic approach to massage and bodywork,Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, China.

(4). Yelland, S 2005, Acupuncture in Midwifery,2nd Edition, Butterworth Heinemann Elsevier, China.

(5). McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (Revised Edition). Brisbane: Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd; 2017.

(6). Betts, D 2006, The Essential Guide in Pregnancy & Childbirth, The Journal of Chinese Medicine Ltd. England

(7). Maciocia, G 2007, Obstetrics & Gynaecology in Chinese Medicine, Churchhill Livingstone, Edinburgh, UK. 

(8). Smith CA, 2004 Acupuncture for Induction of Labour, The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

(9). Tseui JT, L. Y. 1974, Induction of Labour by Acupuncture and Electrical Stimulation, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 43(3), p. 337-342. 

 

Rachel Volp
Rachel Volp