So many people I talk to are completely unaware that Acupuncture is used very commonly to induce a natural labour. The looks of distain and comments like ‘If only I’d known’ has spurred me on to write this piece. If there was ever a time females deserve as much dignity as possible and the least amount of additional pain brought their way LABOUR is it! So lets first look at:
1. Why it may be deemed necessary to have an induction
2. What a medical induction consists of
3. How Acupuncture can induce you.

Reasons for induction:
• Post term babies: a pregnancy is deemed full term if it lasts anywhere between 38-40 weeks long. However there is generally an imposed limit on the amount of days post 40 weeks that the pregnancy will be allowed to continue due to the fear that the uterine environment may start to become less favourable to the foetus. In some cases ten days over is the maximum allowed but many will be brought in before that to initiate the process.

• If the waters break and labour doesn’t commence soon after you are going to be monitored very closely as there is a risk of infection getting into the damaged amniotic sack – Group B Streptococcal infection to be exact. For this reason the time limit is between 24-72 hours from rupture of waters to being brought in for an induction.

• Women with health problems such as gestational diabetes, chronic kidney problems, blood conditions to name a few will be advised to come in early for a controlled medical pregnancy induction.

• If the baby isn’t thriving at the expected rate it should be an induction will be advised. These may be babies that are small for their due date, a pregnancy with twins, babies of diabetic mothers or if the placenta isn’t providing adequate nourishment.

• Other reasons may be women who have had a previous still birth, women who are in severe pain with other related pregnancy issues etc.

What does a medical pregnancy induction look like?
A medical induction will usually start with a hormonal gel made up of prostaglandins and maybe some oxytocin combined. This is used to encourage cervical ripening i.e. a softening of the cervix which makes it more distensible. If this works but labour is still not progressing (cervix not dilating) the membrane containing the waters are broken. This encourages the foetus to move down into the pelvic cavity putting pressure on the cervix to dilate. If labor still isn’t progressing another hormone called Syntocinon may be given intravenously.

Thankfully we have these back up mechanisms to hand should they be required but they don’t come at no cost either. Medical inductions tend to be quite long which can sap up the energy of the expecting mother well before her peak input is required. Hormonally induced labours tend to consist of very intense contractions which can lead to extra pain and discomfort. When your energy is now low with contractions coming fast and very intense most will opt for intervention such as the epidural. Again, we are grateful to have this option if required but it does further increase the risk of further interventions such as forceps or caesarean deliveries.

How can Acupuncture help?
As nature would have it our bodies are primed to give birth naturally. By attending an Acupuncturist from at least 36 weeks on they can build up that natural female strength working at both a physiological and emotional level. Points will be used on the channels that flow through the uterus ensuring there is ample blood flow to the area eradicating any sluggishness. If the baby isn’t in the desired position or is breech there is a specific approach to take also from 36/37 weeks on. A lot of the time females experience fear and hesitation about labour which can contribute to delayed labour and most likely lead to intervention. By addressing this early on through treatments that tap into the female strength and will power, acupuncture will have you emotionally ready which can more than half the battle over with.

At 38 weeks I will use certain point combinations which directly work on relaxing the muscles around the uterus and cervix leading to dilation of the cervix. This facilitates the onset of labour. If for some reason, such as those mentioned above, you are advised to have an induction before 38 weeks let your Acupuncturist know and they will arrange treatments accordingly. Research shows that receiving Acupuncture treatments several weeks prior to labour results in quicker labour times with less intervention.

Acupuncture is a service which should be provided in all maternity hospitals. There are many hospitals in the UK which do provide the service and are generating good data regarding its benefit. Irish obstetricians are well aware of the benefits Acupuncture allows their patients but find themselves up against the big HSE wall! We need to keep the pressure on and give Irish mothers the best experience possible while they perform the absolute miracle that is birth.