By Trudi Rumball, RAc.
I really wish that we were given a ‘birth month’ rather than a ‘due date’ from medical professionals. If the pregnancy is not deemed a high-risk pregnancy, and baby is doing well, there is no need to rush things. Our bodies will go into natural labour (in most cases), and usually babies will come when they are ready. That looks different for everyone, depending on a few different factors, like genetics, body type, pre-existing medical conditions, etc. Both of my babies came ‘early’ at 39 weeks, and I have had clients go into natural labor anywhere from at 34 to 43 weeks gestation. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and in some cases medical induction is absolutely necessary, but it is becoming more and more frequent when not for a diagnostic reason.
We get emails and calls to the clinic (weekly) from expectant mothers, seeking information about induction massage and acupuncture. Is this a thing? Does it actually work?
The answer is yes……and no.
Technically speaking, there are acupuncture points that are contraindicated in pregnancy and can cause the uterus to contract, the cervix to ripen, and other labour-friendly indications. These points are safe to use after a certain gestation time to help encourage labour to begin. This, however, does not guarantee that your body is going to respond. Although, I have found that when my clients start prebirth acupuncture treatments at 36 weeks, they go into labor closer to their ‘due date’ and have ‘shorter’ labors (4-8 hours on average). There have also been studies to support this:
I often see great success with my clients doing ‘induction acupuncture’. Does this mean I am magic and can make babies come out? Maybe! Probably a closer truth is that acupuncture is very relaxing. And during the stress of wondering when your baby is going to come (and have western medical professionals suggesting induction or setting a date for it) tends to make the body and mind extremely tense. When you come for an acupuncture session, it is in a safe and relaxing atmosphere, which tends to relax your whole system, and facilitate things (that are already happening) to happen as the body unwinds.
Also, in my opinion and from what I have experienced, birth is about 95% mental. The headspace you are in during your estimated ‘due period’ is pivotal in the process of birth. I remember when I was pregnant with my son, I really wanted my mother to be there with me. I was ‘due’ early January and she couldn’t fly out here till after Christmas. As soon as she got on the plane on Dec. 27th my body responded. My baby was born on Dec. 28th.
I’ll share another amazing story to support my theory (with permission from my client):
I had a doula/acupuncture client who was due with her second baby. Her first birth was an early induction, due to high blood pressure, and she had a very traumatic overall experience. She was very fortunate to get a midwife for her second birth, but was still apprehensive about the process. She opted for a homebirth and had an amazing team. We picked a ‘due date’ for Jan. 6th for intention-setting purposes. Closer to the end of her pregnancy, her blood pressure started to rise again, and her midwife collaborated with an OB to keep a close eye on her. When she went for her 39 week check-up, her blood pressure was high and there was protein in her urine. This was on a Friday. She was told by her OB that she had the weekend for her home birth to happen, but they were strongly suggesting a transfer of care and induction. She went to her midwife to request a membrane sweep, obviously concerned and saddened by this change in plan. Her midwife attempted a sweep but could not reach her cervix, because it was still high and closed. She suggested to try an acupuncture session and to try the sweep again tomorrow.
My client arrived at 7pm for her acupuncture appointment. She was disheartened by the potential change of plans, but was clearly still determined to have her baby at home. While the needles were in, she said various mantras and visualized change in her body. When she stood up (off the table) after her treatment, her water broke!
She started having contractions on the way home and her baby was born 4 hours later, at 12:22 am January 7th. This is one of the most amazing and inspirational experiences I have ever the pleasure of being a part of, and reminds me on a daily basis that anything is possible.