The Difference Between Western and Eastern Labor Preparation

Labor preparation is key. Western methods of inducing labor include manual “breaking of the water,” manual “sweeping” of the membranes around the cervix, and the administration of medications such as oxytocin (Pitocin) or hormones such as prostaglandins or relaxin. These medications are quite effective, but they can create very intense contractions and hasten the process before the baby or mother’s body is ready. 

The use of drugs frequently results in a chain reaction of additional treatments such as epidurals, episiotomies, vacuum delivery, or C-section. The medications’ side effects can include dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Furthermore, the recuperation time following a C-section and episiotomy is often longer than that of normal births.

Eastern medicine focuses on specific spots on the body that naturally prepare it for labor, such as prostaglandins, which soften the cervix, and oxytocin, which causes contractions. This natural hormone release causes a gradual commencement of labor, which generally results in a smoother, less painful, and less stressful delivery.

I am a strong believer in Western medicine, but I always urge trying the least intrusive treatment first, if possible. Acupuncture is an excellent first step in labor preparation, and it is frequently the last.

Is Acupuncture Effective in Inducing Labor?

Yes!  Acupuncture to induce labor is a subtle but effective therapy option for preparing both the baby and the mother for a safe and easy delivery. I prefer to refer to it as “labor preparation” because it naturally prepares the mother and baby for birth by relaxing the nervous system, lowering stress and anxiety, and boosting hormone release and uterine contractions.

Several of the acupuncture points that we cannot utilize during pregnancy due to their stimulating effects on the body are the same ones that we use during labor induction. Some of these spots are in locations that are already uncomfortable at this point in the pregnancy, such as the upper shoulders and low back. Because there is no harsh medication or physical technique involved, the treatment feels wonderful and is rather calming. 

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