I’ve already talked about how acupuncture can help women achieve a comfortable, healthy pregnancy here but I want to focus now on the final countdown, the last weeks of pregnancy, when preparing for birth is more of a priority.
What if I were to tell you that acupuncture can be effectively used to reduce first time labour by around 90 minutes*?! Sign me up, right?
Pre-birth acupuncture, undertaken from 36 weeks, is a series of weekly treatments that specifically prepare the body for birth, rather like sports therapists help their athletes stay healthy for their big game or race.
A series of points are gently needled that are known to support efficient labour, with an emphasis on affecting the cervix and pelvis and promoting the optimal position of the baby. Left in position for around 20 minutes, this is a great time to practice hypnobirthing, deep breathing, or visualization techniques that are going to help you through labour.
What acupuncture can also be brilliant for at this time is helping iron out those little niggles that can appear at this time of pregnancy, even when it has pretty been straightforward until now. Heartburn, fatigue, anxiety, constipation, swelling and difficulty sleeping are all commonly reported at this stage and whilst not in any way life threatening, they can make those final weeks that bit more uncomfortable.
Finally, women who have been working until now, or indeed still are, will have likely been using quite a bit of willpower to keep going, overriding their own body’s need for more rest. I often see women who finish work and then get ill as their body allows itself to finally succumb. Not an ideal scenario for a spontaneous and effective labour. Acupuncture can help restore some balance and access the deep reserves of energy to basically put more gas in the tank.
Still not convinced? Research undertaken in Germany, where midwives routinely administer acupuncture to their patients, showed that the mean duration of labour in a group of women giving birth for the first time was reduced from 8 hours and 2 minutes to 6 hours and 36 minutes.
What about breech babies?
Moxibustion to help turn breech babies is a technique that is quite widely known and should be done as near 34 weeks as possible. After 36 weeks, in my clinical practice I have found that also scheduling a treatment with a specialist osteopath or chiropractor offers the best chance of turning the baby and encouraging it into an optimal position.
If spontaneous labour isn’t achieved and a medical induction is scheduled a further ‘induction’ treatment can be offered by your acupuncturist, with self-administered acupressure then used prior to hospital admittance. Whilst spontaneous labour isn’t always achieved, a more efficient labour with no further intervention is a reported benefit.
The Fourth Trimester
Postpartum care is often overlooked but a one-off mother roasting treatment of moxibustion can help restore and nourish a new mum and can be self-administered at home. This ritual is said to support milk production and address depletion post birth. I offer Mother Roasting Kits (which also make a great baby shower gift) via my website.
Acupuncture can also be considered to support breast milk production, address breastfeeding issues (e.g. mastitis), treat night sweats, severe afterpains, and postnatal depression.
Completely safe in the hands of a qualified practitioner and also extremely gentle in its approach, to find a specialist practitioner local Acupuncture Childbirth Teams (e.g. ACT London) are a good place to start. They offer a register of members who have all completed approved postgraduate training in this area and have a special interest in supporting pregnancy and birth.
Claire Dabreo, aka The London Acupuncturist, has created a Birth Well Package to support mamas-to-be in the final weeks of pregnancy and into their fourth trimester. Combining weekly acupuncture sessions, support for birth partners in administering acupressure in labour and a Mother Roasting Kit to use post-partum, the Birth Well package is designed to nurture, nourish and restore.
Mother Roasting Gift Boxes are also available via www.thelondonacupuncturist.co.uk