Trying to get oneself into labour can be exciting. It can also be stressful, especially if you have to “meet a deadline” i.e try to avoid an induction.
We see lots of late-stage pregnant women who want acupuncture to try and encourage their labour’s to start. They will often ask what else can I do or try to help get labour started?
Usually they are trying (or have tried) everything anyway.
They’ve been taking Raspberry leaf tea/Raspberry leaf tincture and have been seeing a chiro.
They’ve tried meditating, walking and bouncing on a fit ball
Some women have agreed to a stretch and sweep.
They’ve had reflexology, a relaxing massage and doused themselves in clary sage oil.
They’ve eaten all the spicy food and their weight in pineapple and dates!
Some might even be brave enough to try castor oil.
And they’ve had lots and lots of sex.
Wow, it sounds exhausting!!!
And so, when I see a pregnant woman, and she is so obviously exhausted, because she’s trying ALL THE THINGS, I often tell her the best thing she can do, is to try and do……nothing.
Ok, maybe not exactly nothing, but things that don’t require any real output of energy.
When we see a patient, for any reason, we often feel their pulses as a way of diagnosing. It’s one of our methods for knowing what acupuncture points are appropriate to use. We are assessing, not the rate of the pulse, but rather the strength. Essentially, how strong or weak is the pulse? Is it a full, surging strong pulse that we can feel without much effort? Or, is it a weak deficient pulse that I have to press quite firmly to feel anything at all?
A weak pulse at the end stage of pregnancy is significant in terms of treatment, because the strength, or lack thereof, in the pulse (in our medicine) is a gauge of how much (or little) Qi, or energy, a patient has to use and utilise, to perform certain functions. In the case of late-stage pregnancy, ideally we want a strong pulse, indicating abundant Qi, to perform the function of labour.
Labour is called “labour” for a reason.
Birthing a baby is hard work.
The uterus has a huge job to do.
The uterus and the brain work in a wonderful symbiotic relationship, the woman just needs to get her conscious thinking brain out of the way to let it flourish.
What the woman also needs is a lot of Qi in order for her body to carry out this amazingly-wonderful-monumental-hard-work!
She also needs lots of Qi so that she has some reserves to recover from birth.
If we see a late-stage pregnant woman with a weak pulse, then the acupuncture treatment we give to encourage labour is not one that is highly stimulating. She doesn’t have enough Qi to get herself into labour so trying to encourage it forcefully will have a negative effect. We would instead, in this instance, use acupuncture, and maybe some moxibustion, to build, nourish, strengthen and support Qi production. It is a gentle treatment and the acupuncture also has the added benefit of aiding relaxation.
Some pregnant women that we see have been in pre-labour for a little while. Their body starts and stops, and it can be frustrating and exhausting. By gently building Qi reserves in this type of woman, we find that labour can start on its own – and keep going-because it finally has the energy to do so.
If the woman is going for long walks, even when she’s tired, or bouncing on the ball, even when she’s tired, or having lots and lots of sex, even when she’s tired, she is spending all her energy and not conserving it. She has no Qi to get herself into labour, let alone keep her going through labour, and certainly not enough to recover from a labour, particularly if it’s long and/or difficult.
I encourage my pregnant patients at this particular time, to listen to their bodies, and explore labour encouragement options that will help to increase oxytocin.
If they are tired, don’t go for the long walk. Have a nice bath instead. Use their most luxurious bath salts, light candles, listen to music that makes them happy. Hell, even have half a glass of wine!
Listen to meditations or affirmations.
Watch a funny or romantic movie.
All of these nice things will increase oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone of love, and the hormone of labour! The hormone that gets the baby in there, gets the baby out! Oxytocin is produced in the brain when we feel safe and loved, or happy, or relaxed. Oxytocin is carried by our blood, from our brain to our uterus to stimulate our uterus to contract. The more oxytocin we produce the stronger and more effective the contractions are.
So, I urge you, if you are pregnant and trying all the things, maybe you might try to slow things down, listen to your body and just enjoy these last few moments before baby comes. Find ways that make you relaxed and happy and loved. It might be hanging out with your best girlfriend having huge belly laughs that you nearly wet yourself. It might be a romantic date night with your partner. It might be a blissful cup of tea and your latest crochet project. Whatever it is, try it! You’ve tried everything else anyway.
Please note: As a doula, I am well aware that labour is not black and white/ cut and dry. It is a fine, unique and delicate relationship between mother’s body alignment and positioning, baby position, physiology of how well the baby is coping as well as any underlying health issues the pregnant woman may have, the support people in the birth room, the woman’s care provider, as well as the notion of Qi. However as a doula, I have been witness to women who are very capable of unconsciously stopping or stalling their labour because of fear. Fear of labour, fear of pain, fear of birthing, fear of pooing, fear of being seen naked. Any deep seated fears or anxieties about labour and birth that have not been acknowledged and worked through, will prevent labour from progressing, because fear produces adrenalin that hinders oxytocin production. You can read and learn more about adrenalin and oxytocin in Dr Sarah Buckley’s book, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering.
Happy birthing! Jacinda x