Using Chinese Medicine to prepare for natural childbirth

“… Treating dis-ease in the body once it has become manifest is like forging weapons after the war has begun, or digging a well after the drought has started … too little too late …”

(Chinese proverb)

No one has a crystal ball to predict how a labour might turn out.  What every pregnant woman has at her disposal, however, is the power to prepare herself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually for giving birth.

The philosophy of prevention through good preparation underpins pre-birth acupuncture treatment as it aims to support a woman to get into the best possible condition for an optimal labour and birth.

This article aims to provide practical information to expectant women on how best to incorporate pre-birth acupuncture into their birth plan.

The use of acupuncture for the preparation of labour involves weekly treatment from 34 weeks gestation.

All women anticipating vaginal birth are potential candidates for pre-birth acupuncture, including primigravida, multigravida, VBAC, as well as women who have experienced previous birth trauma and those who have not.

Initial consultation

Women should if possible arrange an initial consultation with their acupuncturist around week 30 of their pregnancy and then pre-book weekly appointments from week 34 onwards.

The benefit of arranging early initial consultation assists both pregnant women and their TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner.  It allows time to build a supportive therapeutic relationship and offers opportunity to explore, discuss and clarify how acupuncture might be useful in the later stages of the pregnancy.  It also opens space to evolve a working relationship with other health care providers, should there be a desire or need to do so.

Acupuncture is not usually painful although there can be some sensations associated with needling and needle phobia is very common in Western culture.

If a woman has not experienced acupuncture before then the initial consultation will expose her to the experience of needling and prepare her for what to expect once the pre-birth treatment begins.  Advance bookings mean that appointments are reserved ensuring guaranteed access for both the woman and her practitioner.

Regular weekly contact prior to the birth means that acupuncturists’ can easily evolve and adapt their care plan to track and support the unique and organic unfolding of each pregnancy.

From a practitioner’s perspective there is always a potential to miss important clinical signs and symptoms.

Our experience is that early access provides opportunity to identify deficiencies in a woman’s birth preparation and unrealistic expectations around labour.

This is usually a result of inadequate childbirth education and substandard preparation is very difficult to turn around and refer for appropriate attention in the last weeks of a pregnancy and is certainly not desirable.

Pre-birth acupuncture can serve as a springboard for acupuncture induction treatment should a woman go over her due date and wish to avoid a Western Medical induction.

Pre-birth treatment also provides a strong foundation for providing Chinese Medicine treatment and advice for recovery after birth, post-natal care and paediatric care if required.