Pre-Birth Acupuncture

by Francesca Howell © Copyright 2010

Acupuncture and Preparation for Labour

I came to learn more about Pre-Birth Acupuncture from reading Debra Betts who is an acupuncturist working in New Zealand. I have learnt a lot from her book ‘The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy & Childbirth’. Her website: has a lot of very helpful information and includes downloads of acupressure points and diet sheets.

Pre-birth Acupuncture is carried out during the third trimester of pregnancy and is different to using Acupuncture for the induction of labour. The emphasis of treatment is on preparation for labour.

Pre-birth Acupuncture is standard practise in Germany where acupuncture is used in hospitals. Women are given once a week treatments from 36 weeks.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has a long history, since the 11th century, of treating women during pregnancy. Treatment focused on regulating physical activity, dietary guidelines and relaxation. There are stories of emperors wives taking advice from medical practitioners. One story included suggesting Rooster soup to help with a bearing down sensation during the first trimester. Chicken soup is seen as a great (energy) Qi booster and a when a certain aspect of Qi is deficient it can produce a sinking sensation. Another example was the advice to women to concentrate their energy or ‘Qi’ in the lower dan tien to promote the growth of their baby’s joints and mental development in the later stages of pregnancy. This is still good advice. The lower abdomen has acupuncture points relating to Kidney energy which in Chinese Medicine is responsible for bone growth and mental development. The brain is known as the ‘sea of marrow’ in Chinese Medicine.

Acupuncture can be used in two main ways. Firstly there are various prescribed points for pre birth treatments including points which can help prepare a woman’s body for birth and help prepare the cervix and pelvis for labour. It can also help reduce the time of labour. Secondly Acupuncture can be used as a way of treating day to day symptoms which may present during pregnancy such as: heartburn, swollen ankles and fingers, nausea, constipation, lower back pain, haemorrhoids, varicose veins, hip pain etc. There is also a third strand to Pre-Birth Acupuncture that looks at emotional issues that may be coming up such as anxiety or worry about previous experiences. Acupuncture is incredibly relaxing and can help the client feel calmer and more in control of a situation. Acupuncture helps bring the energy together and can be grounding, energising and calming just when a woman can be feeling tired, lacking in concentration or anxious.

Acupuncture sessions are also a good opportunity to discuss holistic advice and look at natural healthy options for preparing for labour, I often advise on nutrition, or herbs, such as raspberry leaf tea, which is often used in the last trimester to tone the uterus. Or massage oils, which can be used for preparation of birth.

There are also specific and traditional treatments for turning the baby if it is in Breech position. Acupuncturists tend to start this treatment in the 35/36th week.

My experience of treating women in the latter stages of pregnancy is that, as well as treating symptoms it’s an incredibly nourishing treatment. We aim to support the woman’s energy and build energy resources both for during labour and for once the baby is born. In Chinese Medicine Post Natal Depression is often diagnosed as Blood deficiency and supporting the energy before the birth may help with recovery afterwards.

I really enjoy treating during pregnancy and if the client is someone I have treated through fertility issues then its incredibly rewarding watching the baby move around, as they often do a lot during Acupuncture.

Recommended Treatments

I usually recommend acupuncture weekly form week 36/37 but often treat women from around the third trimester and increase the regularity of the treatments to weekly from week 36/37.

About the author

Francesca Howell Dip. Ac is a qualified acupuncturist.