Acupuncture for Labour Pain - A Chinese Medicine Perspective
What is Labour Pain
The uterus is a muscular organ that contracts powerfully to squeeze the baby out, and those contractions are the primary source of labor pain. Besides intense muscle tightening throughout the abdomen and, sometimes, the entire torso and pelvic area, a woman may feel pressure on her back, perineum, bladder, and bowels these become worse if there’s anxiety and fear [1,2].
How much labor pain is experienced depends on a variety of factors, including:
- The strength of the contractions
- Whether labour inducing drugs are used, which induce labour and cause stronger contractions
- The baby’s size and position in the pelvis
- Whether the baby is faceup or facedown (the ideal birth position)
- The speed of your labour
How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view Labour Pain
Giving birth is a natural process that is associated with pain. It is not a pathology as such, however, the pain is severe and can induce fear and anxiety, which in turn increases pain during contractions.
Acupuncture has been used in China for millennia and research has demonstrated that acupuncture can reduce labour pain, promote uterine contraction, shorten birth process, and treat postpartum disorders [3,4,5,6]
Unfortunately, in Australia there is little opportunity for women to have acupuncture during labour in a hospital setting. However, leading up to labour, there is much acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can do to help prepare the mind and body of the mother to be.
At Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre we are ready to help. Simply call (02) 4573 0784 to discuss what approach is best for you.
What You Can Do to Help Yourself
You’re likely to feel more relaxed in labour and better placed to cope with the pain if you:
- learn about labour – this can make you feel more in control and less frightened about what’s going to happen; talk to your midwife or doctor, ask them questions, and go to antenatal classes
- learn how to relax, stay calm and breathe deeply
- keep moving – your position can make a difference, so try kneeling, walking around, or rocking backwards and forwards
- bring a partner, friend or relative to support you during labour, but do not worry if you do not have a partner – your midwife will give you all the support you need
- ask your partner to massage you – although you may find you do not want to be touched
- have a bath
1. Smith CA, Collins CT, Levett KM, Armour M, Dahlen HG, Tan AL, Mesgarpour B. Acupuncture or acupressure for pain management during labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2020, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD009232. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD009232.pub2
2. Labor Pain Explained: Stages, Symptoms, and Pain Relief. URL: https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/giving-birth/labor-and-delivery/understanding-labor-pain/ last visited: 13th July 2021
3. Chen, Y., Zhang, X., Fang, Y., & Yang, J. (2014). Analyzing the study of using acupuncture in delivery in the past ten years in china. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2014, 672508. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/672508
4. Schlaeger, J. M., Gabzdyl, E. M., Bussell, J. L., Takakura, N., Yajima, H., Takayama, M., & Wilkie, D. J. (2017). Acupuncture and Acupressure in Labor. Journal of midwifery & women’s health, 62(1), 12–28. https://doi.org/10.1111/jmwh.12545
5. Levett, K. M., Smith, C. A., Dahlen, H. G., & Bensoussan, A. (2014). Acupuncture and acupressure for pain management in labour and birth: a critical narrative review of current systematic review evidence. Complementary therapies in medicine, 22(3), 523–540. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2014.03.011
6. Wu, L., Yin, Y., Sun, K., Wu, L., Hou, H., Liu, X., Yi, W., & Li, S. (2017). Effectiveness of acupuncture versus spinal-epidural anesthesia on labor pain: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of traditional Chinese medicine = Chung i tsa chih ying wen pan, 37(5), 629–635.