Giving birth can be both the most beautiful moment of your life, and yet seriously scary, painful and occasionally life-threatening. It’s also somewhat confusing for modern medicine, which generally acknowledges that natural childbirth is best for mother and baby, while simultaneously finding it a bit easier to manage if you just lie on a bed in a hospital ward and let them do the work.
While we can’t always foresee how childbirth will proceed, we can take certain steps to give it the best possible chance of going ahead naturally, efficiently and without complications. Some of these are well researched while others are based on the experience and observation of midwives and other practitioners.
How can I improve my chances of having a natural childbirth?
Different approaches will suit different people, depending on their temperament, the practices they normally do anyway (perhaps yoga or meditation), and what training is available in their local area. This is what I can offer:
Routine pre-birth treatments
A German research study1 demonstrated that acupuncture at certain points performed weekly for several weeks prior to the due date effectively reduced the time women spent in labour. I may modify these points and combine or replace acupuncture with massage and acupressure depending on what is most relevant for you.
I recommend weekly treatment from 37 weeks until delivery. Frequently used points are on the arms and legs, aiming to relax and soften the ligaments, aid in cervical dilation and to calm your mind, boost your energy or ease other discomforts you may experience in late pregnancy.
Treatment for breech babies and labour induction
If your baby is in breech position, it is best to begin treatment from 34 weeks2 – there’s lots more information in this article on turning breech babies with moxibustion.
If you go beyond your due date or are about to be medically induced, there are also points that can be used to help to induce labour3. Note that I will only offer induction treatments before the due date if there is a medical reason to do so and a medical induction has been planned (otherwise I will offer routine pre-birth treatments).
Acupressure classes for pain relief in childbirth
Having treated my wife during two childbirths, one with acupuncture and the second with acupressure, I found acupressure at least as effective and far easier to perform. A recent Australian study4 found that acupressure during labour, alongside other techniques like relaxation, breathing and visualisation, resulted in significantly reduced epidural use and reduced caesarean sections.
I offer classes where I teach you and your partner acupressure points and techniques to relieve pain, calm the mind and, where necessary, to help move things along. It’s great to be more involved and be able to do something to help, other than offering a bit of moral support and getting your hand squeezed really hard.
While qigong isn’t really appropriate during pregnancy, the practice includes mindfulness and breathing techniques that can certainly be beneficial and I teach those alongside acupressure during these classes. I offer these privately or for groups.
- Kubista E, Kucera H (1974). “Uber die Anwendung der Akupunktur zur Geburtsvorbereitung”, Geburtshilfe Perinatal: 178, 224-9
- Cardini F, Weixin, H (1998). “Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation”, Journal of American Medical Association, 280:1580-4
- Rabl M, Ahner R, Bitschnau M, Zeisler H, Husslein P (2001). “Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term – a randomised controlled trial”, Wien Klin Wochenschr 113(23-24):942-6
- Levett K, Smith C, Bensoussan A, Dahlen H (2016). “Complementary therapies for labour and birth study: a randomised controlled trial of antenatal integrative medicine for pain management in labour”, BMJ Open: 6(7). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27406639