In my practice, I have many clients booking their first acupuncture appointment to induce their labour. Upon meeting these women, the majority of them have not even reached their due date let alone gone past it. They are uncomfortable and ready to get on with the show. In reality, only 5% of women actually deliver on their due date, however 80% of women give birth after their due date.
It is my role to encourage women to trust their bodies, trust their babies, and educate them on the difference between preparing the body for labour and inducing labour. If a women wants to be induced just because she is uncomfortable, has hit her due date, or has plans to be some where by a certain date, it is my opinion that it is not appropriate to use acupuncture to induce labour. However, I would certainly recommend to proceed with cervical ripening treatments.
The first thing a woman needs to establish is the accuracy of her due date. The due date is based on a women having a 28 day menstrual cycle, ovulating on day 14. If the cycle is longer, for example 35 days with ovulation occurring on day 21, then your due date would be 7 days later than predicted.
It is also important to accept that each baby has its own “cooking” time. I often look at family history when mothers and sisters delivered their babies. I had a case recently that reminded me about the importance of trusting the baby to determine when they are ready to enter the world. My client was induced at 37 weeks due to complications arising from elevated liver enzymes. She was considered full term because she was at that magic number 37 weeks, however when the baby was delivered he appeared to be about 31 – 32 weeks because his lungs were not completely developed. Now this baby, if left to his own accord probably would have stayed in his mama’s belly until 42 weeks so that he could fully develop.
In the western model of care most women are allowed to go 10 days overdue, and in the midwifery model women are allowed to be 2 -3 weeks post term. There are studies that identify risks associated with being over due, therefore health care practitioners have a standard and proceed with medical inductions if need be. There are also risks involved with medical inductions, most commonly the need to perform a C- sections.
Not only does your baby need to be ready to enter the world, so does your body. If your cervix is not soft or dilated and you are induced medically and/or naturally your contractions can be ineffective and lead to a long labour. As an acupuncturist, I recommend to have cervical ripening treatments to soften and promote dilation of your cervix, this occurs between week 37 - 41 of your pregnancy. Then 2 days before your doctor or midwife recommends to be medically induced, I recommend to proceed with an acupuncture induction. Research has shown acupuncture to be very effective to promote contractions, as well to encourage a woman’s endorphins to increase as the contractions increase. Resulting in an effective and manageable birth experience. If a woman is also considering to drink the famous ” Castor Oil Cocktail” it is best to wait 24 hours after the acupuncture treatment.
Trust, Patience, and Acceptance.