I will admit to getting a little excited about the benefits of pre-birth acupuncture, a series of weekly treatments undertaken from 36 weeks to promote natural labour, having been offering this in my clinic for some time now. 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. The wonderful Debra Betts, who is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost experts on acupuncture in pregnancy and labour (and herself a former midwife) also reports from her own research that midwives using it report a reduced rate of medical intervention - including medical inductions and c-sections. Sounds good, right? So how does it work?
Pre-birth acupuncture will typically be working for the patient in two ways. The first is focused on promoting a natural, efficient labour. This is done by using a set of points (all on the lower leg) that help prepare a woman's body for birth, with an emphasis on affecting the cervix and pelvis. The needles are placed in the correct place and left for 20 minutes. These points nourish the blood, relax and soften the relevant ligaments prior to labour, aid in cervical dilation and promote the optimal position of the baby for birth. My own patients also all report feeling much calmer at the end of each session and this is really important - especially when women have been working right up to the last minute. These sessions create a calm, quiet, relaxed space for concentrating on oneself.
The second benefit of treatment at this time is to address the 'minor' issues many pregnant women are dealing with by now. Heartburn, constipation, swelling, difficulty in sleeping, etc. Whilst not in any way pregnancy or life threatening, they can make the final weeks that bit more uncomfortable, and being tired can really exacerbate anxiety.
Finally, many of the women I see work til quite late in their pregnancy as, understandably, they want to save their maternity leave for when the baby is actually here. But work stress, and the physical the strain of getting to and from work every day, can be incredibly draining - not ideal when giving birth is such a physical feat. Add a toddler into that mix and you are guaranteed one tired mumma who is going to have to dig really deep into her reserves just to get through the final weeks, let alone get through labour.
So signing up for a course of pre-birth acupuncture not only helps balance what the body needs to concentrate on with the demands of the 'in the real world' life of mums-to-be to, but also creates optimum conditions for a safe, efficient, shorter labour.
You can read more here about the research study here - http://acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/acupuncture/research/prebirth/
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