Acupuncture for Labor Induction

"Hi, I heard that acupuncture can help with labor induction. Do you guys do that?" - This is a call we receive almost daily. At South Philly Community Acupuncture we see several patients each week looking to induce labor naturally. Although it is completely normal to go past your due date, especially as a first time mom, many care providers schedule medical inductions at 41 weeks. This can create a lot of stress and doubt that the body will go into labor on its own. 

From evidence based birth: "The traditional way of calculating the estimated due date (40 weeks after the last menstrual period) is not evidence-based. Instead, it is more accurate to give people a range of time that they will probably give birth:

  • About half of first-time mothers will give birth by 40 weeks and 5 days after the LMP, with the other half giving birth after that time point

  • About half of mothers who have given birth before will give birth by 40 weeks and 3 days after the LMP, with the other half giving birth after that."

So, how does acupuncture work for a labor induction?

Acupuncture helps to soften the cervix, stimulate the uterus to produce contractions and relax the body, which essentially gets the baby moving. We often hear patients saying, "Wow, my baby was so active during the treatment!" That's exactly what we want. The idea behind this treatment is to move baby downward. We also use something called e-stim, which literally stimulates and enhances the moving effects. The points that are done during an induction treatment are points that are contraindicated in pregnancy because they can stimulate uterine contractions. 

We normally see pregnant people who are 40 weeks 5 days or more. Although, we will take patients earlier if they are facing a medical induction. The protocol is 3x in a row, for instance Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. If that does not work, then it is suggested to let the body rest, and come back in a few days again 3x in a row. Luckily, we're open 7 days a week to make scheduling simple! While we have had patients whose water ruptured on the acupuncture table, we generally tell people to expect 3 treatments. 

Is there evidence supporting the information?

Yes! Yes, there is! While there is more research to be done, we found this information from Evidence Based Birth: "There was also a Cochrane review on acupuncture for labor induction published in 2013. In this review, the researches looked at 14 randomized control trials of acupuncture for labor induction and cervical ripening, that included more than 2,200 participants. They were mostly interested in these questions: Does acupuncture influence the cesarean rate, serious problems with the newborn, or serious health problems with the mother?

They found that people who had acupuncture were more likely to have greater cervical ripening, as evidenced by increased Bishop scores over a 24-hour period. This was compared, both to usual care, no puncture, and to what we call a sham acupuncture where they pretend to do acupuncture with needles, but they’re not actually doing it. So, the true acupuncture did have a beneficial effect on the cervical ripening, compared to both of those other treatments.

If you pull out the two best studies from that Cochrane review, one was the largest study. This was one done by Romer in the year 2000, where they assigned 553 people from Germany to acupuncture for labor induction or that kind of sham acupuncture that we were talking about earlier. They also included a usual care group that had no acupuncture of any kind. They found that the acupuncture group had shorter labors, and more cervical ripening, compared to the two other groups."

Below are photos of what a typical induction treatment looks like. While it's not your typical rejuvenating acupuncture treatment, it is certainly a way to help get things moving! If you have more questions, just give us a call 215-279-3932.

Thank you to Evidence Based Birth for this great information and resources! Please check out their site if you're interested in evidence based information related to pregnancy & birth.