By Mary Vincent, L.Ac., MSTOM
…(otherwise known as “Get this baby out of me!!!)

While we see a great many women at BCA for a wide variety of fertility concerns and help with conceiving, we often see these same women (and MANY others as well) at the end of their pregnancies when they are ready, or way more than ready, to get that baby OUT! Women that want to help prepare their bodies for labor or to induce their labor with acupuncture are encouraged to start coming in for treatments ideally starting around the 39th week of their pregnancy. We do see our fair share of women earlier than the 39th week in which it had been deemed medically necessary or advisable to labor earlier than the 39th week (and have been cleared by their OB/GYN or midwife), and we definitely see a huge number of women well past their due dates.

While it’s fine to wait until past your due date to come in, please try not to wait until the day before you are scheduled to be induced to come in. There definitely are women who do go into labor after one treatment, but more commonly it takes an average of 4-6 treatments in a row for most women to progress into fully active labor. In order to keep costs low and affordable for patients, BCA offers labor induction patients the option to come in twice in one day (on the days we have two shifts) for the price of one treatment. Yep, that’s right! That means Monday-Thursday you can come in once in the morning and once in the afternoon/evening for $20

Does it really work?

From personal experience as a mother who used acupuncture to induce her second child—yes, it works! As an acupuncturist in a busy clinic—yes, it works the majority of the time. From the reports we get back most women find it either initiates contractions where there were none or speeds up an already ongoing process. We also see many, many women who are able to start labor before an approaching induction date or before a partner leaves for a scheduled military deployment.

A small scale study of 56 women conducted at the University of North Carolina in 2006 showed that pregnant women (after 39 weeks) who received acupuncture for labor induction not only delivered on an average of 21 hours sooner, but that they also more likely to “labor spontaneously and less likely to deliver by cesarean section.”

What to expect from treatment

We will first needle points on the arms and legs and then attach a small electrical stimulation (Estim) to four of the points. This machine will pass a gentle current between the needles, which will continually stimulate specific acupuncture points associated with helping to initiate labor throughout your treatment. Treatment lasts about 45 minutes, and most patients read or nap during this time. Some women will experience mild cramping and possibly some contractions during treatment.

Many don’t feel anything until a few hours after treatment. Rarely ever is enough discomfort produced during treatment that you won’t be able to relax (even if the treatment leads to labor induction the first time it will be a slow progression that intensifies throughout the day). Often the first treatments will produce some discomfort and contractions throughout the day and then symptoms will cease again—this is particularly true with first pregnancies and why we suggest coming for several treatments back to back. The cumulative effect of these treatments is what finally sets off the tipping point and sends a majority of women into true labor.

References: Harper TC, Coeytaux RR, Chen W, Campbell K, Kaufman JS, Moise KJ, Thorp JM. “A randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for initiation of labor in nulliparous women,” The Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, August 2006.