Chinese Acupuncture for Antenatal Wellbeing and Pre-birth Preparation
Acupuncture is often sought out by women trying to naturally improve their hormonal cycle, whether to optimise their natural fertility or to enhance their response to the drugs used in assisted fertility treatment or IVF. Acupuncture has an important role to play for women undergoing IVF; not only can it enhance their response to IVF hormones, it can also help them to manage the high stress level which often accompanies IVF. The cost and psychological pressure of IVF can cause a significant level of stress to many patients; stress is known to interfere with hormone production and to increase the risk of miscarriage so anything that helps reduce stress is highly beneficial.
There is now a growing awareness of the important contribution acupuncture can make throughout pregnancy; acupuncture offers a non-pharmaceutical treatment option for many conditions that arise during pregnancy, conditions such as painful symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), bleeding in pregnancy, insomnia, antenatal depression or anxiety. There is evidence to show that pre-birth acupuncture in the final few weeks of pregnancy significantly reduces the need for pain relief through labour and reduces the risk of requiring a caesarean section.
Pre-birth acupuncture is widely used in antenatal units in Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand; this simple point protocol can be used weekly after the 36th week of pregnancy to help prepare the pelvis for labour and ripen the cervix. A considerable amount of evidence from midwife teams and from scientific studies indicates that the use of the prebirth acupuncture protocol reduces the likelihood of complications such as caesarean or assisted delivery and reduces the need for epidural pain relief.
Acupuncture has a reputation for use in induction, but it more appropriate to treat to encourage the body to prepare for birth rather than to kick start the onset of contractions and trigger labour before the body has had time to prepare. There is growing evidence the development of the brain of the baby is timed to fit with the onset of labour, indeed the brain grows by as much as a third between the 35th and 39th week; forcing the body into labour before it has had time to prepare may not be such a good idea. Even during the 40th week it is more advisable to work with a pre-birth acupuncture protocol to encourage the body to initiate labour of its own accord than to try to trigger labour unless there is a clear medical reason to do so.
Acupressure can be used during labour to help support the process, you could invite your licensed acupuncturist to come to your antenatal group to help familiarise you with the points, show you how to locate them and when and how to use them; if you are going for prebirth acupuncture ask your acupuncturist if you can bring your birth partner along to one of your appointments so they can be shown how to use the acupressure points too.
Alexandra O’Connor LicAc MBAcC
Holicty Acupuncture, Maldon & Burnham Osteopathic Clinic
facebook: Holicity Acupuncture
 Betts D, Lennox S. Acupuncture for prebirth treatment: An observational study of its use in midwifery practice. Medical acupuncture 2006 May; 17(3):17-20