Preparing for Labor & Delivery: Start Now, Don't Wait!
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
There is so much you can do to prepare for labor and delivery that will significantly increase your likelihood of having an optimal birth!
Those last few weeks of pregnancy are often full of emotional ups and downs, excitement and anticipation, sometimes anxiety, and more times than not - a bit of physical discomfort as well. Most spend this time preparing for the new baby - gathering diapers, baby cloths, a crib, and thinking through ways to be ready for their soon-to-be new arrival. But, what about you? Are you getting yourself ready?
From 34 weeks on forward marks the critical labor and delivery preparation-window for parents-to-be. All too often people don't think to call me, the Doula / Acupuncturist specializing in Labor and Delivery support, until 40 weeks+ when facing impending induction, or worse - they are fighting the clock on a scheduled cesarean section.
While acupuncture can most definitely help at 40+ weeks, consider seeing your local Acupuncturist earlier. Starting regular acupuncture treatments at 34 weeks can significantly improve labor and delivery outcomes. The research evidence on Labor and Delivery Acupuncture is pretty overwhelming - with higher rates of successful vaginal births and greatly reduced medical interventions - i.e. fewer episiotomies, much less use of vacuum-extractors or forceps, fewer medical inductions with Pitocin, and far fewer cesarean surgeries.
We have more than Acupuncture to support your labor and delivery preparation! Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioners have a multitude tools in our wheelhouse: Nutritional guidance, Herbal Medicine, Therapeutic Bodywork, TCM Therapeutics such as cupping, electro-stimulation, gua sha, etc. We are trained to consider both your emotional and physical health from a whole-person perspective, and in the context of your everyday lives.
From 34 through 36 weeks, we focus on ensuring optimal positioning of the baby (head down), relieving tight muscles in the pelvic girdle (hips, buttocks, lower back), and mitigating the uptick in stress hormones which rev up about this time. In cases where the baby is mal-positioned (breech) we employ evidence-based protocols to encourage repositioning - something acupuncture is famously successful for.
AT 37 WEEKS PREGNANT
By 37 weeks, we start treatment to initiate the softening of the body's tendons and ligaments, and to encourage the natural process of cervical ripening and effacement. This is a gentle and relaxing process - with acupuncture and other Chinese Medical therapies integrated into each session, along with the continual emotional support and treatment to mitigate stress hormones so the body receives the message that it's "safe" to go into labor when ready.
EMOTIONAL HEALTH & LABOR & DELIVERY PREPAREDNESS
In my experience - supporting the emotional readiness of the pregnant parent is equally as important in these pivotal weeks as treating the physical body. Lots of things come up when you're pregnant - excitement, fear, anticipation, anxiety, sometimes past birth-experience trauma, issues around being a good / bad parent, the list goes on. Each parent is entering their own "rebirth" of sorts, as their lives will be forever changed with the coming child. It's a lot to prepare for, on top of the physical marathon of pregnancy itself - and then, oh yeah . . . then there's labor and delivery!
PRENATAL DOULA SUPPORT
As I am also a Doula, from day one in working with patients, I field questions and share information about "what to expect in upcoming weeks" as their body moves towards a labor-ready state. We review the hormones abundant in this stage of pregnancy, and how they will evolve and manifest in the weeks to come - i.e. cravings, emotional highs and lows, waves of fatigue and energy, cleaning binges (yep, that's also hormonal!), hot flashes, nausea, fluid retention, etc.
I find that pregnant people are much more at ease when they have touchstones and markers to keep an eye out for. This way, when new symptoms come up (normal in the course of those last weeks), they can contextualize them as normal, "positive" markers of their body getting ready for delivery. Then the brain tells the body that: "All is well! I recognize this pathway! Let's have a baby!"
By the 39th week through delivery - we focus more intently on encouraging cervical ripening and effacement, continuing to open and relax the pelvis and to mitigate anxiety. Treatment sessions at this point are more frequent, usually twice weekly until birth.
So, start earlier if you can. We will always welcome you at 40+ weeks if that's when you need us - but know that an earlier start with acupuncture can significantly improve your preparedness and comfort along the labor and delivery journey!
Seven Point Wellness is an Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Clinic, located at 187 Millburn Ave., Suite #101 in Millburn, NJ, in the Trader Joe / CVS Business Complex.
We are an easy drive from Maplewood, South Orange, Short Hills, Livingston and most cities in Union, Morris and Essex County, NJ. We are also an easy walk from the New Jersey Transit via bus or train. Give us a call if you have any questions!
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Links and Resources:
Carr, D. J. (2015). The safety of obstetric acupuncture: forbidden points revisited. Acupunct Med, 33(5), 413-419.
Neri, I., Monari, F., Midwife, C. S., & Facchinetti, F. (2014). Acupuncture in post-date pregnancy: a pilot study. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med, 27(9), 874-878.
Schlaeger, J. M., Gabzdyl, E. M., Bussell, J. L., Takakura, N., Yajima, H., Takayama, M., & Wilkie, D. J. (2017). Acupuncture and Acupressure in Labor. J Midwifery Womens Health, 62(1), 12-28.
Smith, C. A., Crowther, C. A., & Grant, S. J. (2013). Acupuncture for induction of labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev(8), CD002962.
Acupuncture for Birth Preparation and Delivery: How Investigating Mechanisms of Action Can Generate Research
Peter Curtis MD, MRCP Remy R. Coeytaux, MD, PhD Patrice Hapke, MAc, LAc.
Complementary Health Practice Review, Vol. 11 No. 3, October 2006 176-192 DOI: 10.1177/1533210106298060 © 2006 Sage Publications
Acupuncture in Postdate Pregnancy Management
Volume 11, Issue 5, October 2018, Pages 332-336
7 February 2020
Authors: Smith CA, Collins CT, Levett KM, Armour M, Dahlen HG, Tan AL, Mesgarpour B