Cervical ripening is when the cervix prepares for the birth of the child. The cervix softens and stretches which is necessary for labour. Research has shown that acupuncture for cervical ripening lessens the need for medical induction and hastens the delivery time. The acupuncture points used in the research were hegu (LI 4) in the hand and sanyinjiao (Sp6) in the ankle which are common points for this purpose. There are of course many other acupuncture points that can be used for cervical ripening as well as moxibustion can be most useful, particularly if used on special sacral points.
Debra Betts, a Wellington based acupuncturist and researcher said in her book, The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy & Childbirth, that some of the women partaking in the research actually went into labour during the acupuncture session.
How does research compare to the actual clinical setting?
Debra also goes on to say in her book that research does not actually always reflect what happens in a true clinical setting.
John Kennedy, an acupuncturist practising at The Acupuncture Clinic in Masterton also has the view that research results often differ to what really happens in the clinical setting. He says, “This is likely because a qualified acupuncturist would diagnose the patient and select acupuncture points appropriate to the individual needs of the patient. In my experience, results in private clinical practise are generally higher than in randomised clinical trials. I am often dubious of acupuncture research being conducted by non-trained acupuncturists.
Midwives are referring to acupuncturists to help promote birth
Another New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists Inc member, Scott Pearson, practising in Wellington from the Newtown Acupuncture Centre opposite Wellington Hospital, says “More and more midwives are referring to us now because they have seen and heard of the results from acupuncture. It is so rewarding being able to help so many mothers have an easier birth”.
There are many other pregnancy related conditions that acupuncture can help with including reflux and depression during pregnancy.