According to WebMD, acupuncture has been used for centuries in certain cultures to help jump-start labor. Although the idea is relatively new in the West, more and more women are turning to acupuncture to help ease labor and ensure the baby comes on time. However, this should only be done after consulting with your OB/GYN to make sure the procedure is safe and appropriate for your particular case.

Starting Early is Key

The best time to start weekly acupuncture treatments to help induce labor is around 36 to 37 weeks into the pregnancy, according to Carla Nerelli, a licensed acupuncturist and owner of SLO Family Acupuncture, a clinic in San Luis Obispo, California. This helps prepare the cervix for labor and balances the hormones that encourage labor. In addition, acupuncture can improve blood circulation and relax the muscles used in childbirth, including the pelvic floor muscles.

What the Experts Say

In a study conducted by the University of North Carolina on 56 women who were 39.5 to 41 weeks pregnant, 28 underwent three acupuncture sessions while 28 did not receive acupuncture. As WebMD explains the results, 70 percent of the women who received acupuncture went into labor on their own, compared to 50 percent who received standard care.

Studies Support Effectiveness

In 2013, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews looked at 14 trials and more than 2,000 patients to examine the effectiveness of acupuncture to help induce labor. The review found that women who used acupuncture had shorter labors and achieved cervical maturation sooner than those who didn’t use acupuncture.

Things to Keep in Mind

According to Nerelli, acupuncture can positively affect several key elements of labor. “Acupuncture during the early stages of labor and acupressure throughout labor has been effectively shown to reduce the need for pain medication and shorten the length of labor,” she notes, citing a Danish study of 603 women during labor. In that study, the women who received acupuncture were more relaxed during labor than the participants who were administered either transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation or some other form of traditional pain medication.