Using Acupuncture to Induce Labor
I can’t tell you how many women I’ve talked to over the years who fully intended to have a natural, medication free birth only to end up with an epidural or worse, a C-section, when their labor was late getting started.
This happens because obstetricians typically get really antsy when pregnancies go past their due date. Women prefer to induce labor naturally, but practitioners sometimes offer only drug based solutions. Since up to 10% of all pregnancies are late, this is a very common challenge women can potentially face.
Even when a pregnant woman is only a few days late, the nagging about getting labor induced usually begins along with all the fear based reasons why she should agree to pitocin right away.
“Your baby could be stillborn!”
“The placenta could fail and your baby be brain damaged!”
“The baby could get too big and you would have to have a C-section (OBs say this without ever telling the patient that accepting pitocin is itself a big risk factor for C-section!)”
Fear is a very effective strategy to get a patient to do what they want, and knowingly or not, many doctors use this to their advantage.
The problem is, once a woman accepts one intervention, in this case, pitocin, she has perhaps unwittingly boarded the freight train to a completely medicated, interventionist birth.
Do OBs know this when they are pushing for pitocin?
Of course they do.
It is well known that pitocin induced labor contractions are much more painful than natural contractions and very few women are able to withstand the pain without medication such as an epidural.
Pitocin = Epidural = C-Section
This is a common progression of events once a woman makes the first mistake and accepts just a little pitocin “to nudge things along”.
It is imperative for women seeking a natural birth to avoid induction at all costs as pitocin is a dangerous drug which has the very real chance of putting your baby in distress greatly increasing the risk of a C-section. Making the decision whether or not to induce is in no way insignificant.
This from the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA):
Pitocin can cause a tumultuous, difficult labor and tetanic contractions, rupture of the uterus and dehiscence of a uterine scar, lacerations of the cervix, retained placenta, or postpartum hemorrhage. Postpartum perineal and pelvic floor pain is increased as a result of augmented uterine contractions. Fetal complications might include fetal asphyxia and neonatal hypoxia, physical injury, and neonatal jaundice. The use of Pitocin also might be a factor in cerebral palsy, due to oxygen deprivation, and autism in the child.
Avoiding Pitocin with Acupuncture
My first pregnancy went past the 42 week mark so I know firsthand the stress that an overdue pregnancy can cause.
I was very much concerned that I would have to be induced and I was well aware of the dangers of pitocin.
Even though I was receiving prenatal care from midwives at a birthcenter who in no way pressured me to induce, they did tell me that the law in my state would require me to be seen by an OB and possibly admitted to the hospital for induction, labor and delivery if I went much past the 42 week mark.
Using the typical, natural methods to get labor started such as herbs, evening primrose oil, lots of walking etc was not working quickly enough and using castor oil as a last ditch effort was not very appealing to me.
Fortunately, my family doctor at the time was an MD as well as a doctor of Chinese medicine and she suggested I use acupuncture to induce.
Acupuncture to induce labor? What a great idea!
This is apparently a pretty common thing in China.
I immediately knew that this was absolutely the right way to go, so I made an appointment with the acupuncturist my doctor recommended who made house calls to come over that evening.
If I recall correctly, the acupuncturist used only 4 needles. I don’t remember exactly where he put the needles but of course it didn’t hurt at all and I was completely relaxed during the entire procedure.
He told me that the treatment would stimulate oxytocin to be produced, which is the natural hormone that initiates labor.
He also told me that labor should begin within 48 hours.
Shortly after the treatment I noticed that the spot at the top of the bridge of my nose between my eyebrows was quite tender if I pressed it. This is the spot also known as the third eye where Indian women frequently wear an identifying mark.
I found it very curious that this spot was tender as it had never been tender ever before. I pressed it lightly with my fingers and noticed that when I did so, I had a painless Braxton-Hicks contraction.
Figuring that this spot must be an important acupressure point of some kind that would faciliate labor, I continued to lightly press this tender spot periodically over the next 24 hours and continued to notice contractions occurring shortly after.
The next afternoon I went in to be checked by my midwife to see how things were progressing if at all.
She discovered that I was a full 4cm dilated!
She told me that labor would be starting shortly and to go home and make sure everything was ready to go.
Sure enough, that night labor started and my first child was born 9 hours later with no medication or intervention required. What’s really interesting is that the third eye acupressure spot was no longer tender immediately after my son was born.
What’s even more interesting is that with my subsequent 2 pregnancies, that third eye spot always got tender right before and during labor and delivery even though my second and third children were born pretty much on their due dates and I never needed to use acupuncture again.
Despite the effectiveness of using acupuncture to induce labor, it seems that this method is not typically considered or even well known at least in the United States.
My hope is that more women will come to know about the use of acupuncture as a safe, natural, and effective method to induce labor and forgo dangerous intervention with pitocin.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Source: The Truth About Pitocin
Since 2002, Sarah has been a Health and Nutrition Educator dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah received a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, her work has been covered by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.