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Acupuncture in Labor and Delivery

By Alex Berks L.Ac.

Pregnancy & Chinese MedicineThere are a number of ways to understand the use of Oriental Medicine in labor and delivery. Like all activities of life, labor brings about a shift in the directionality of the qi. This is perhaps more important to understand than simple point prescription (though I will get to those) because once one understands the nature of qi and the points than it is a simple and creative process to choose points for yourself.

For the pregnancy, mother has been holding the fetus up and in with her Spleen qi. All the other zang-fu qi has had to spread and regulate and consolidate evenly. During labor, the imperative is for the qi to go down. Both psychological and physical factors can slow or block this. Bob Flaws in his book Path of Pregnancy vol 1, lists three causes of delayed labor: insufficient qi and blood to move the fetus down and out the birth canal or stagnant qi and blood obstructing, and middle jiao qi deficiency.

The easiest of these to treat is qi and blood stagnation. If the mother-to be can relax and get the uterus to relax labor will not be far behind. This can be done with many different therapeutic activities: stimulate the uterus with belly massage, have an orgasm, relax and visualize the uterus contracting. Bob Flaws quotes Wan Mi-Zhai (p.169),

"If labor goes on for more than a day, the woman is preoccupied with family and personal affairs and still has an appetite this is due to astringing of the uterus. But if the woman's labor goes on for more than a day, all the woman's affairs are settled and her appetite diminished , this is insufficiency of middle qi not able to transport the and move the fetus"

Yin channel energies rise. Yang channel energies descend. Therefore, moxa or acupressure down the yang channels will assist downward movement of qi. This principle is also born out in home remedies to bring on labor such as castor oil, a stimulating purgative and a favorite of Edgar Cayce. See Childbearing Yearby Susan Weed (p.60).

Specific acu-points that descend include: LI-4, SP-6, GB-21. LI-4 the yuan source point of the Large intestine and SP-6 the three leg yin crossing of the foot are important points to circulate qi and blood and induce downward movement and labor. GB-21 also descends. see Oriental Medicine Journal Spring, 1996 p. 6/. These points can be combined with SJ-6 and LIV-3. Bob Flaws recommends not to retain the needles.

ST-36, the he-sea point of the stomach channel combines with SP-6 invigorates the Spleen and Stomach, produces qi and blood and induces labor. These points can be needled, pressed, or warmed with moxa.

Bob Flaws in the Path of Pregnancy Vol 1 lists other possible point combinations:

LI-4, Sp-6, UB-67, Du yin (extra point located on the plantar surface of the center of the proximal phalangeal joint of the second toe). Needle the first tow points and moxa the second two.

Yet another combination Li-4, SP-6, UB-30,

Cuo Chan Xue - "Hastening birth point" extra point 3 cun lateral to Ren 4. Needle 5 fen in depth.

If there is pronounced back labor pain in the sacrum, needle transversely the Ba Liao (UB31-34). Tape the needles in place flush with the skin and use electrostimulation.

Potential labor problems can be greatly aided by the use of herbs and an appropriate activity before labor to drain excess or tonify depletion. However, acupuncture can be quick to act on qi stagnation and blood stagnation. For further discussion please read Bob Flaws Path of Pregnancy Vol 1

In my limited experience, having recently witnessed the birth of my son Noah, labor is aided by a clear plan of action, focused breathing, a synchronized supportive set of people at the birth and an emotionally clear laboring woman. Strong physical fitness also helps. The acupressure that I was able to apply to her back, helped a great deal in preventing her use of medication.

The labor book I enjoyed the most is Natural childbirth the Bradley Way. Although stern in its approach to delivering without medical intervention. It had the best advice to the laboring woman and how the birth coach father should approach the situation.

Alex and Denise's son Noah Loren was born on Aug. 20, 1996 following an uncomplicated delivery .  


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