Can Acupuncture Induce Labor?


It seems now that I am pregnant many people are asking me questions about acupuncture and pregnancy.  Acupuncture is perfectly safe to do during pregnancy and can help with many ailments during a time when women are trying to avoid even over the counter medications.  Some of the things acupuncture can help pregnant women with are: back pain, sciatica, headaches, hemorrhoids, nausea and anxiety but the number one reason I have pregnant women calling my office is for labor induction.

Fewer than 10% of babies are born on their estimated due date, 50% are born within one week of the due date, and 90% are born within two weeks of the due date.  Women who have exceeded their due date by more than a week are often told that a chemical induction will be necessary if things don’t progress.  Many women prefer to avoid this route and turn to acupuncture as an alternative.  Acupuncture is a powerful but gentle medicine and although many use the term “labor induction” I prefer to think of it as labor preparation.  If you’re past 40 weeks, and the baby has “dropped” meaning you feel lots of pressure then this is usually a good sign that acupuncture can help move things along.  If you are only 38 weeks and feel huge and just want the baby out but there is no medical necessity, then I would tell you acupuncture can help your anxiety but to try and wait it out until the baby is ready.

I used acupuncture to induce my first born and I will share my experience as it seems to be pretty typical of what I see.  I was 40 weeks, the baby had dropped and while there was no real reason for me to move things along, but being an acupuncture student at the time, I wanted to see if acupuncture would do it and what it would feel like.  I went in for a treatment around one in the afternoon, during the treatment the baby was very active and I had a few small contractions (I had not had many contractions prior to the appointment).  That afternoon I went for a walk and had a few more contractions, they were pretty mild in nature but they weren’t stopping and this continued through the night.  By the next day I was in actual labor and my son was born the following day.  The treatment nudged my body to start preparing, loosening and opening for labor.

This pattern is one I see often in pregnancy patients, the babies are active during treatment with a few contractions but it is often the next day that things ramp up.  If the next day following treatment things are not moving I usually suggest another treatment that day to build on the last treatment.  If after three treatments labor is not progressing then the baby is not ready or there is some structural issue that is preventing the progression and a more conventional medical approach is usually recommended.


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