Childbirth is a memorable time in every mother’s life. It is the day you finally get to hold your baby in your arms after feeling her kick inside of you for months. It is the day you finally get to see her precious little face and her adorable little hands and feet. And you want everything to go as smoothly as possible. Perhaps this is your first pregnancy and you are wondering what you can do to get ready. Or maybe you have given birth before and are wanting to have a better experience this time around. Whatever your situation, there are a number of things you can do during your pregnancy to be proactive and prepare for childbirth.
Be Mindful of Your Posture
When it comes to childbirth, the baby’s position in the month or two before birth can greatly influence the course of the birthing process. The optimal fetal position for a smooth labour and delivery is with the baby’s head down and his spine out along the front or side of your body. This allows him to properly engage in your pelvis (important for proper thinning and opening of the cervix) and to travel through the birth canal with the greatest ease.
When the baby is positioned with his head down but his spine along your back, he isn’t able to engage as easily into the pelvis. Labour with the baby in this position can often be more painful and slow-progressing (commonly referred to as “back labour”). Following the Dos and Dont’s below can encourage your baby to position himself with his spine out along the front or side of your body, which is more optimal.
If your baby isn’t positioned with his head down, termed a “breech baby,” then his head isn’t putting pressure on your cervix and cervical ripening (the softening and opening of the cervix) may happen more slowly. Breech births are generally considered more complicated deliveries. Some women with breech babies may not be given the option to birth naturally and may be required to deliver via caesarean section. These days though, most midwives and some doctors will consider delivering a breech baby vaginally. That said, acupuncture treatment has shown success in encouraging breech babies to turn in many cases (there is more information about this in the next section), and is worth trying for women with babies in breech position.
Simple DOs and DON’Ts
So what can you do to encourage optimal positioning of the baby in preparation for birth? A lot of this comes down to your posture in the last trimester of pregnancy. Here are some dos and don’ts:
- DO sit with your centre of gravity forward as much as possible. For example, sit with your back upright and your knees apart and lower than your hips. The baby’s spine is the heaviest part of his body and will tend to align itself with your centre of gravity.
- DO lie on your side when you need to lie down, preferably the left side, with a pillow between your legs.
- When you are having Braxton Hicks contractions, DO position yourself in a forward-leaning posture to help baby maneuver herself into the best position.
- DON’T relax in semi-reclined positions with your centre of gravity behind you (for example, reclining in a lazy-boy) with your knees higher than your hips.
- DON’T cross your legs while sitting in a chair.
Remember it is what you do most of the time that matters. If you occasionally find yourself in semi-reclined positions, just correct your position and be mindful of your posture whenever you can. These guidelines, as basic as they seem, can be really important in preparing your body, and baby’s, for birth.
Get Your Body Ready with Acupuncture
Turning a Breech Baby
If a baby is in breech position, then a series of acupuncture and moxibustion treatments has the greatest success rate when performed around 33 to 36 weeks pregnant. At this point in the pregnancy the baby still has some room to move within the uterus and is more likely to be able to reposition herself. Even after 36 weeks, acupuncture and moxibustion treatment is still a helpful, safe option to encourage a baby to turn and is worth trying.
Treatment involves warming up an acupuncture point on your toes (the moxibustion part of the treatment), along with acupuncture to help relax your hips and abdomen to allow more room for baby to turn. In research, it was found that 75 percent of women with breech presentation who received moxibustion treatments had babies who turned head down, versus only 47 percent of babies turning head down for women originally presenting with breech presentation in the control group1.
Before Your Due Date
Not only can acupuncture help to turn a breech baby in many cases, but it can also help your body prepare for labour by relaxing the body and mind, regulating hormone balance, encouraging engagement of the baby’s head into the pelvis, promoting cervical maturation and much more. In research, women who had weekly acupuncture in preparation for childbirth, starting at 37 weeks, were compared with women who didn’t receive weekly acupuncture2. Researchers found that women who had received acupuncture in preparation for childbirth had shorter labours on average (six and a half hours) than women who didn’t (eight hours)2. Midwives who regularly worked with women who had received prebirth acupuncture commented that they thought prebirth acupuncture also contributed to a reduced need for medical interventions, including medical inductions and caesarean sections3.
Labour Induction Acupuncture
Once a woman has reached her due date, acupuncture treatments can be performed every day or every second day to encourage labour to begin. Acupuncture treatments for labour induction are best when done as a series of three treatments, performed daily or on alternate days. Often enough a woman won’t need the second or third treatments, but women’s bodies may need a series of treatments to encourage initiation of labour. Research has shown that acupuncture performed every second day from a woman’s due date shortened the number of days that she was overdue4. Even in cases when acupuncture induction treatments aren’t enough on their own to initiate labour, women who have had acupuncture induction treatments generally require less medical intervention to initiate labour.
Prepare With Craniosacral Therapy
Craniosacral therapy is a light touch technique that helps to release tensions in the body, whether from the stress of repetitive movements, from injury or from physical or emotional trauma. Craniosacral therapy in the month before a woman’s due date can promote optimal alignment of a woman’s pelvis and can release tensions in her low back and abdomen, allowing the fetus a better environment in which to position properly and engage in the pelvis. For this reason, it is wonderful for pregnant women to receive craniosacral therapy in the last month or two of their pregnancy. And for a woman with a breech baby, craniosacral therapy combined with acupuncture and moxibustion provides the best chance of success in my experience.
Reach Out If You Have Questions
Working with posture, acupuncture and craniosacral therapy prior to childbirth sets the stage for a smooth, empowering childbirth experience. Do you have any questions about how any of these methods can be used in your specific situation? I welcome questions, so please contact me. I would love to talk to you!
And to learn more about how acupuncture and other bodywork can support the health of your child, through infancy and beyond, click here.
- Cardini, F and Weixin, H. 1998. Moxibustion for the correction of breech presentation. Journal of the American Medical Association; 280: 1580-4.
- Kubista E, Kucera H. 1974. Uber die Anwendung der Akupunktur zur Geburtsvorbereitung. Geburtshilfe Perinatol; 178: 224-9.
- Betts, Debra. 2006. The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy & Childbirth. The Journal of Chinese Medicine, East Sussex, England.
- Rabl, M et al. 2001. Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term – a randomized controlled trial. Wien Klin Wochenschr; 113: 942-6.