Monday, March 5, 2012

Acupuncture During Labor: 7 Things Your Acupuncturist Should Know

1. Respect the process of labor. Don’t try to distract women during contractions. Contractions are necessary and require a woman’s full attention. Instead, hold a space of focused “yang within yin” energy.
2. In between contractions get consent. This should not be a long conversation. The long conversation about the types of support you can offer should have happened well before labor begins, as you met with the couple and discussed your role. Instead this should be a simple request, such as, can I place a few needles (or press balls) in your ears now? Or, we might be able to lessen the back labor if you get on all fours and I put some needles in your back. Is that OK? These are scenarios you hopefully discussed fully beforehand. Don’t expect more than a grunt or a nod, but make sure you get some form of expressed consent. Stop insertions immediately during a contraction, and be prepared to whip out the back needles if the woman needs to change position during a contraction, because…
3. Women often want and need to change positions during labor and your treatments should always allow for that. Ear needles are great as they don’t inhibit movement. But points on the body will–that means you may be taking the needles out before you otherwise would. Never leave the room. Be alert. Be flexible. Move quickly. Laboring women can be extremely non-verbal.  If you’re using body points, ask her to let you know if she needs to move.  But she may not—If you see her moving, get cracking!
4. The birthing woman is the QUEEN, and can make and change rules at any time. You have to be willing and able to get out of the way at a moment’s notice. That being said, most birthing moms need help remembering to drink water between contractions. If no one else is remembering to help with this, you can help by bringing a cup forward (with a straw) after every contraction. Water is nature’s lubricant.
5. Women who become deeply focused and engaged in labor do not need acupuncture. At this point, you may be able to offer some support to the woman’s partner, or to other members of the birthing team. Be humble. If you’re at a home birth, be willing to wash the dishes or cook food, or otherwise attend to tasks outside your job description.
6. After the need for acupuncture has passed, offer to leave, or (if it’s possible for you) to stay. Every birthing woman I have assisted has asked me to stay and be present for the birth, although that won’t necessarily always be true. In the conversations you had with the couple before labor began you should make it absolutely clear to them that the choice is always theirs, and there will be no hard feelings if they prefer that you bow out gracefully.
7. If you are in a hospital you need to have permission to do needles, but you don’t need permission to do acupressure.

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