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Labour Induction Acupuncture: Naturopathic Medicine in Ottawa

labour induction acupuncture in ottawa naturopathic medicine pregnancy clinic

What is Labour Induction Acupuncture?

Acupuncture can be used to both help you conceive and to help you go in to labour. The acupuncture points used are different from fertility acupuncture and have a different impact on the body. Labour induction acupuncture is done starting week 32 of gestation and is ideally done on a regular basis right until you go in to labour. It is used to help stimulate labour and prepare the body for labour.

How Does Labour Induction Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture points for labour induction acupuncture are focused on the parasympathetic nerves from the sacrum. The acupuncture treatment helps by helping to activate these nerves and help start the process of labour. The acupuncture treatments before labour have also been show to increase the secretion of oxytocin, the main hormone which stimulates uterine muscle contractions.​

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How can Labour Induction Acupuncture Help During Pregnancy?

Labour induction acupuncture has been shown to reduce the need for medical induction by a modest amount. It has also been shown to help reduce the amount of oxytocin needed during labour induction to stimulate labour. The labour induction acupuncture treatments work well with patients seeing midwives who will often suggest it to their clients themselves, along with other at-home therapies.

Evaluating the Scientific Research on Supporting Labour


Supporting labour induction has long been a popular research topic. If you do a search online, you will find lots of suggestions and recommendations from others or healthcare providers. It is important, however, if you decide to incorporate a particular therapy in to your treatment, you understand well what is actually being done, why it is being done, and how it is expected to help you. This is true always, but especially when pregnant as health decisions affect both you and the baby.


A popular alternative therapy recommended online is Acupuncture to support labour induction. For many Women that come in to the clinic, they are new to this treatment and usually have a lot of good questions before starting this treatment. It is important to share the most recent clinical research from studies to understand what the benefits and/or potential risks of the therapy are. When we evaluate scientific research, a lot more weight is given to a particular kind of paper called a “systematic review.” These papers are very important because they take all of the available evidence on a the topic at hand and compile the results to have a larger summary of the data. Essentially, it allows us to evaluate all of the studies together and determine what the collective outcome/conclusion is for the topic being investigated. The most recent research systematic review that looked at labour induction acupuncture to support conventional therapies (published in 2017).


The finings of this research compared different types of acupuncture to help Women go in to labour: electroacupuncture (the use of acupuncture needles with electrodes), manual acupuncture (acupuncture needles alone), and acupressure (manual pressure applied by patient at home at the acupressure points). The research evaluated for the effects (positive and negative) of the three types of acupuncture in patients during labour. 

Mother and Baby

Acupressure to Induce Labour


This was quite expected, but nonetheless it is great to have research confirm that acupressure made no difference whatsoever. Using acupressure to help induce labour did not result in any change in chances of a caesarean section compared to patients that did not receive the acupressure therapy. It also did not reduce the chances of requiring more oxytocin for labour induction, nor increase chances of spontaneous vaginal birth. It didn’t change the chances of requiring analgesia, nor improving the Apgar score at 5 minutes after birth.


Manual Acupuncture versus Electroacupuncture to Induce Labour 


Both types of acupuncture have been shown to increase the Bishop Score within 24 hours of treatment compared to no treatment or sham treatment. This is important as a better bishop score indicated improved cervical ripening and readiness for labour. Manual acupuncture did not change in requirement for epidural, oxytocin, Apgar score, chances of a spontaneous vaginal birth, or the actual length of labour. However, electroacupuncture demonstrated significantly better results. Electroacupuncture to help induce labour was shown to improve cervical ripening (improved Bishop Score within 24 hours of treatment). It also reduced the chances of requiring a caesarean section by about 46% compared to patients that did not receive the electroacupuncture treatment. It increased the chances of a vaginal birth with instrument assistance (2.5x more likely) when compared to patients that did not receive the electroacupuncture and increased the chances of a spontaneous vaginal birth (2x more likely) compared to patients that did not receive the treatment. This is an important trend as the role of electroacupuncture has demonstrated a significant advantage over manual acupuncture in not only labour induction acupuncture, but also fertility acupuncture for in vitro fertilization


How Does Acupuncture help Induce Labour in Pregnancy

Stimulation of acupuncture points has been shown to increase neuronal activity in the thalamus and the hypothalamic anterior pituitary system in the Brain. This area of the brain is point of convergence between the neuronal system and the hormone/endocrine systems of the body. The stimulation of these glands increases the production of hormones, and potentially potentially including oxytocin. This may increase the contractions in the uterus. A second mechanism by which labour induction acupuncture may exert its effect is the stimulation of the parasympathetic system (the part of the nervous system that is dominant when at rest), which can directly help to stimulate labour as well. These mechanisms are early hypotheses based on animal studies and the observed benefits from clinical trials mentioned above. 

This information is presented for educational and informative purposes only. This is not a replacement or substitute for medical advice from your fertility doctor or physician. If you have any questions or concerns regarding fertility drugs, please follow-up with your fertility

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