Thursday, December 24, 2009

Supporting Childbirth With Acupuncture

By Joshua Herr, L.Ac.

A documentary on the state of childbirth in the United States was released this year. “The Business of Being Born” was produced by Ricki Lake and directed by Abby Epstein. In 2006, CNN reported, “The US has the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world.” In all other countries, midwives attend 70-80% of births. In 2003, midwives attended approximately 8% of births in the United States.

The rate of cesarean section has increased as a result of the majority of births occurring in hospitals instead of birthing centers or homes. The pharmaceutical pitocin is often used in the hospital to speed the process of labor by increasing the strength and frequency of contractions. This induction of labor can be too soon or too strong for the mother or child and lead to cesarean as the next intervention. To help prevent this cascade of events, choose a care provider who induces labor only for medical reasons.

In 1998, the journal Gynecologic and Obstetrics Investigation published a study titled, “Influence of Acupuncture on Duration of Labor.” Beginning at week 36 of pregnancy, they gave 4 treatments once per week with acupuncture. The comparison group consisted of women who delivered closely before or after the women who were receiving acupuncture.

What they found was that the acupuncture group had a significantly shorter time of first stage of labor, which they defined as 3-cm dilation to full dilation. The average time of the first stage of labor for the acupuncture group was 196 minutes, which is a little over 3 hours. The average time of the first stage of labor in the group that did not receive acupuncture was 300 minutes, which is a little over 5 hours. There was no change in the duration of the second stage of labor, full dilation to delivery. This study suggests that acupuncture is useful in preparation for childbirth and can shorten Stage l of the laboring process.

We are grateful for many of the advancements in science and technology that have saved the lives of premature babies and mothers of high-risk pregnancies. However, the advancements in scientific knowledge do not replace the inherit knowing of the woman’s body.

Midwives recognize this inherit ability of the mother and know how to encourage it emotionally and spiritually during the process of labor. They are also trained on how to assess the need for medical intervention to ensure that the mother and newborn are not in danger during the birth process.

In Germany, many midwives are trained to perform acupuncture in the context of pregnancy and childbirth, because they recognize the benefits.

The practitioners at CAC are well equipped to work with pregnant patients and have many resources to offer including relieving pain during pregnancy, labor induction, assisting with turning a breech baby, and late stage acupuncture for preparation for child birth.