“Wherever and however you intend to give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body and your spirit for the rest of your life” Ina May Gaskin
Giving birth to a baby is an amazing, transformative event. It is a huge feat of creativity and a profound experience in a woman’s life. I love that idea that it is simultaneously a common, everyday event and yet totally miraculous. Because it is such a profound event, I believe it is one worth putting in some preparation. Most people are familiar with many of the activities commonly associated with preparing for a birth, like prenatal yoga, vitamins, good nutrition, birth preparation classes, reading and being informed of common birth practices, finding a doula or the right birth support team. It perhaps isn’t the first thing that springs to mind, but acupuncture can be a fantastic adjunct to help prepare body and mind for the journey of childbirth.
Prebirth acupuncture refers to a series of treatments given weekly from 36 weeks gestation until a baby makes its entrance earth side. This is a gentle and relaxing treatment designed to help promote the normal hormonal cascade, assist cervical ripening, assist the pelvis to align and open, and calm the mind. By using specific acupuncture points we encourage the flow of oxytocin and an increase in oxytocin receptors, promote relaxing, soothe the nervous system to reduce cortisol levels and allow the flow of natural endorphins to aid in pain relief. Research that has shown pre-birth acupuncture to have several positive outcomes, including lower rates of inductions, epidurals, cesarean section, forceps and ventouse delivery and reduced average labor time by 90 mins in first-time mothers. While shorter is not necessarily better, these outcomes indicate that having pre-birth acupuncture can help to create an efficient labour. I also view this time as an opportunity to nurture and nourish the woman, and therefore her baby, while also preparing her body. Late pregnancy is a time of profound change, excitement, anticipation and surrender, so soothing of the nervous system is often helpful and can aid a woman to feel relaxed and calm. It is also a window where we can assist with optimal fetal positioning if required (you can find more info on acupuncture for breech and optimal positioning here).
Labour is often exactly what the name implies; it can be a lot of hard work, with a pretty phenomenal reward at the end. My teacher and mentor, Rhea Dempsey, compares giving birth to running a marathon. As with many major life transitions, we have to push ourselves to our limit and step well out of our comfort zone during this transformative process. Just as you wouldn’t expect to run a marathon without preparation, we equally need to prepare ourselves for birthing a baby. In the words of Marcie Marcari, “Birth is an opportunity to transcend. To rise above what we are accustomed to, reach deeper inside ourselves than we are familiar with, and to see not only what we are truly made of, but the strength we can access in and through Birth.”
1. Betts, D. & Lennox S. http://www.familyacupunctureandwellness.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Acupuncture-For-Prebirth-Treatment.pdf
2. Kubista E, Kucera H. On the use of acupuncture in the preparation for delivery. Geburtshilfe Perinatol. 1974;178:224-229.