Acupuncture & Pregnancy

Inducing Labor Naturally with Acupuncture

Labor Induction

What is Labor Induction?

Labor Induction

Labor induction is the stimulation of uterine contractions before labor begins on its own. There are a number of reasons why one would need to be induced. If a woman is two weeks past her due date, she will most likely need to be induced. Also, if a woman’s water has broken, but hasn’t started labor, it is up to the doctor and the patient to decide the next best step. However, if your water breaks, you are at an increased chance of infection, which means no sex, no baths, and nothing inserted into the vagina.
An infection in your uterus, having diabetes, and having high blood pressure are also reasons a woman would want to induce labor. The amniotic sac around the baby also has to have a certain amount of fluid for it to be safe for the baby. If the fluid levels are too low, it may be safer to induce labor instead of risking complications for the baby.
Women who do not need an induction for medical reasons, but for convenience, may request an elective induction. This can only happen once confirmed that you have made it to 39 weeks of pregnancy, for the safety of the baby. However, just because you request one, does not always mean that you will get it. If you live far from your hospital or you are known to have quick deliveries, this may be an appropriate option.  

While sometimes inducing labor is necessary, it does come with risks. Such risks are:

  • Low heart rate
  • Infection
  • Bleeding after delivery
  • Uterine Rupture
  • Failed induction

Pitocin

Inducing Labor with Medications: The Benefits & Drawbacks

Most inductions are done with Pitocin. Pitocin is used through an IV to begin or jumpstart labor. Pitocin may work quickly or may take a little bit, all depending on how much the cervix is dilated and it can vary from person to person. Like any medication, Pitocin comes with possible side effects. Uterine rupture, which is a tear in the uterine wall, can occur if contractions are too intense. Retention of fluid is another possible side effect, but in a hospital setting it can be managed. The worst side effect that people complain of most is painful contractions. Without anesthesia, the pain of contractions is a lot to handle, especially with Pitocin.
Benefits of Pitocin:
  • Jumpstarts labor
  • Lessens risk of a c-section
Drawbacks of Pitocin:
  • Overstimulation of the uterus 
  • Infection
  • Rupture of the uterus 
  • Fetal distress
  • Drop in fetal heart rate
  • Fetal death 
One blogger, Jennifer Thurston, shared her positive pitocin story on her blog, The Belly Blog. Her and her doctor had already scheduled her to be induced. She went into the hospital the night before and was immediately started on Cervadil to soften her cervix. In the morning, she was given Pitocin after her Cervadil was removed and she was able to get a shower. By 4PM, she dilated to 9cm and shortly after was ready to push. After an hour of pushing, the baby finally arrived. Thurston was able to have a vaginal birth and the babies heart rate was normal during the entire labor. 
Another mother on a separate blog wrote about her own labor story. At over 40 weeks, she was able to schedule an induction for the next week. She wanted a natural birth with no epidural. She also was given Cervadil to soften her cervix. While she was having contractions, they were not strong enough to jumpstart labor. They began her pitocin around 11 AM and she began having much stronger contractions. As the contractions got stronger, she noticed her daughter’s heart rate was slowly dropping. The staff immediately turned off the pitocin and the baby’s heart rate did return to normal. The doctors wanted her to get back on the Pitocin, break her water, and place internal monitors. 
Luckily, this mother stayed true to her birth plan and denied anymore Pitocin.  She waited to naturally give birth. The medical team ended up breaking her water and she began having strong contractions until the baby was born. If she had stayed on Pitocin, there was a strong possibility that the baby’s heart beat would have continued to drop, which would’ve resulted in a c-section, the complete opposite of what the mother wanted. 

Other Medications Used to Induce Labor

Another medication that can be used to induce labor is Prepidil. Prepidil is used to relax the muscles of the cervix. It is given in the form of a gel and it is placed onto the woman’s cervix. Just as with pitocin, you and the baby will both be monitored while using this medication. Side effects are chest pain, bleeding, intense pain between contractions, nausea and stomach pain, and slow heartbeats in the baby.
We mentioned Cervidil in the above stories regarding Pitocin. It is inserted, much like a tampon, to help soften the cervix. It has similar side effects to Pitocin and Prepidil, so the patient will be closely monitored to make sure it is not affecting the baby’s heart beat.

Natural Ways to Induce Labor

Pregnant Exercise Ball

There are so many natural ways that people say you can induce labor without medication. While it’s not 100% proven that any of these will work, it doesn’t hurt to try.
  • Sex: Having sex may be a good way to induce labor. Dr. Terry Harper tells her patients to try sex all the time. According to her, sex releases prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that are similar to medications that are used to induce labor. Also, semen contains prostaglandins which can stimulate the cervix and hopefully lead to contractions
  • Exercise: Walking can help the baby engage in the pelvis, as does an exercise ball.
  • Spicy Foods: While there is no evidence to support this, people believe that eating spicy foods will irritate your bowel, which will irritate the uterus.
  • Castor Oil: There has been a recent study supporting the use of castor oil, but most doctors still recommend that you don’t use it to induce labor. Castor oil aggravates your GI tract and can cause stronger contractions, which will be less oxygen to the baby.
  • Evening primrose oil: Again, there is no real proof that is can induce labor, evening primrose oil does have a substance that our bodies change into prostaglandins. This, in turn, softens your cervix to prepare it for labor.

Labor with Acupuncture

Acupuncture Pregnancy

How does it work?
When woman are having trouble going into labor and they want to avoid medications, acupuncture is a helpful, medication free way to do so. Acupuncture helps to induce labor by softening the cervix, relaxing the body, and also stimulates the uterus, which produces contractions. Electro-acupuncture may also be used to enhance the treatment. 
Acupuncture/Acupressure: An acupuncturist by the name of Chad Dupuis has his own practice where he receives calls of women who want to induce labor, but do not want to be medically induced. According to Dupuis, 95% of his patients will go into labor 4-26 hours after their visit. The small percentage who do not go into labor, Dupuis says, could benefit from more frequent visits. While it is hard to fit the necessary visits in at the office, acupressure points at home may help.
References:
Dekker, R. 2017. Natural Labor Induction Series: Acupuncture. Evidence Based Birth
Could Labor Be Induced Naturally? WebMD. 
Inducing Labor: When to wait when to induce. Mayo Clinic
Morris, R. 2017. How to Induce Labor Naturally: Truths & Myths. The Bump. 
Wilson, D. 2017. Natural Ways to Induce Labor. Healthline.
Duryea, E. 2017. The Truth About “Natural” Ways to Induce Labor. UT Southwestern Medical Center.
2017. Inducing Labor. Baby Center.
Dupuis, C. Yin Yang House.
Mena, K. 2016. Pitocin Induction: The Risks and Benefits. Healthline.
Thurston, J. 2013. Birth Story: A Positive Induction Story. The Belly Blog.
2016. Rose’s Crazy Birth Story! (A positive induction story). BabyBumps.
Roman, A. What is Cervidil? the BUMP.
Medications for Labor Induction. Drugs.com
2018. Acupuncture for Labor Induction. South Philadelphia Community Acupuncture.
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