Journal information

  • Title: Acupuncture for pre-birth and labour
  • Date: 08 December 2020

Acupuncture for pre-birth and labour

Recently one of my patient’s in her 60s commented on Mama Base, “We didn’t have anything like this when I was having kids, it was just the GP. Luckily for me I had a midwife, but even that was rare, and there wasn’t any support after birth.” The conversations, education, services and support that are available to our new and expecting Mums and families have come a long way.

I practice Chinese medicine, and it’s so great to place my services within the village at Mama Base. In this month’s journal I’ll share a little about how Chinese medicine can support our pregnant Mamas in the journey of birth and labour - one part in our village story and indeed one part within the vast knowledge and practices of Chinese medicine.

Pregnancy and birth can be a major transformative life journey on many levels - physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual. In supporting a woman on this journey, acupuncture and acupressure can be used in the weeks leading up to birth, and acupressure can be then used throughout the labouring.

In the weeks leading up to birth, acupuncture is a wonderful support to help prepare the mind and body. I recommend starting regular acupuncture from 36 or 37 weeks, and evidence suggests this is more helpful than only seeking acupuncture as an alternate method of induction at term. During these weeks, acupuncture promotes relaxation, reduces stress and anxiety, prepares your ligaments for the coming birth, and enhances cervical ripening. When the nervous system is in a parasympathetic (rest/relaxed) mode, blood flow is directed to the uterus, hormones are supportive (increased oxytocin and endorphins) and muscle tension and the perception of pain is reduced. This is a state of mind and body that supports the approaching birthing process. Giving yourself the dedicated “time out” for regular acupuncture sessions in the final weeks can go a long way to support this natural process.

Acupressure can be continued at home to help prepare for birth, and specifically used during labour. Evidence has shown that acupressure during labour can reduce the pain intensity and the need for pharmacological pain relief, as well as reducing the likelihood of needing a caesarean section. I also love that acupressure provides the support person (such as the woman’s partner) a valuable and central role to support her throughout the labouring; building intimacy, trust and a shared experience in the journey.

The literature suggests that greater satisfaction with childbirth is linked with a woman’s sense of agency in decision-making and participation during pregnancy and birth. For this reason, as well as for women who desire a natural birth without pharmacological analgesia, acupressure can provide a sense of empowerment and agency through the labour.

The acupressure points to use are easy to learn, and can be accessed freely online here. If a personal session is preferred, you can also book a session with me to go through the points.

Beyond birth, it is from Chinese medicine that the “Golden month” tradition of postnatal care arose – the 40 days after birth where the all needs of the new mother are taken care of so she can be nourished, be with her new baby and rebuild her strength. But that is a subject for another time…

I love working with people through the modality of Chinese medicine. If you have any questions you are welcome to contact me at any time!

Keryn Hawker
Registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner at Mama Base Illawarra