Throughout the second and most of the third trimester, I typically see my patients fairly sporadically. They’ll pop in every 3-6 weeks for pregnancy maintenance or as various symptoms arise. However, I always tell them to make sure they come back more regularly later in the third trimester for cervical ripening and labour prep, which consists of weekly acupuncture treatments starting around week 36 until birth.
During these sessions, specific acupuncture points are chosen that open up the channels surrounding the uterus, relax the nervous system, balance pregnancy hormones, and encourage healthy blood circulation. This helps the cervix begin to soft (ripe), open (dilate), and thin (efface). It will also help get the baby in a better position, for example in the cases of breach of posterior presentation. The better the baby’s position and the more effaced your cervix is when labour begins, the faster and easier the labour tends to be. This can also reduce your need for pain medication, medical intervention, and the risk of needing a cesarean section.
A study from New Zealand (Betts & Lennox, 2006) showed that women getting acupuncture before birth had a 35% reduction in medical inductions (43% reduction when it was their first baby), 31% reduction in epidurals, a 32% reduction in emergency cesarean delivery, and a 9% increase in normal vaginal births.
Acupuncture can also help calm anxiety and fears leading up to the birth to get you in a more empowered headspace along with helping other things like hip or back pain, digestive upset (heartburn, constipation), insomnia, or other common third trimester symptoms.
Along with acupuncture, other things you can do to support a healthy labour and delivery are: to get enough rest and sleep, make sure you are taking enough iron, vitamin c, and zinc, drink a few cups of raspberry leaf tea throughout the day, consume enough magnesium and calcium-rich foods which can help strengthen the muscles needed for contractions, and have a good support team in place. I even teach my patients some acupressure points that you and/or your partner can utilize leading up to and during labour to help keep things moving.