I had my first child while still a student in acupuncture school. In fact, I had just completed writing a draft of my thesis on the subject of using Chinese medicine for labor and delivery when my daughter was born. Needless to say, I got to be my own test subject on the efficacy of some of these treatments. In addition to receiving regular care for back pain and other common issues during pregnancy, I received the series of pre-birth treatments to prepare for labor (see my post on acupuncture for pregnancy for more info about this), and took Chinese herbs for the same purpose. Though I did go over a week post-due, I saw results!
At 10 or so days past my due date, I received a labor stimulation treatment. Within 2 hours my labor began. Contractions were coming frequently, though in the early hours they felt just like menstrual cramps. I kept waiting for the contractions to space themselves out but they remained right on top of each other. As they increased in intensity, we finally realized they were coming rhythmically at 1 minute intervals. This continued until my baby was born, only 6 hours after my labor had begun. Whoa, talk about fast and furious! I hardly had time to take a breath between contractions! It was far and away the most intense (followed by the most euphoric) experience of my life.
In retrospect, it seemed clear to me that the length and strength of my labor was significantly effected by the treatments I'd had leading up to the birth and that these treatments had also primed my system for the labor stimulation acupuncture, which worked so quickly and effectively. During labor, I found acupressure applied by my partner to be extremely useful in managing pain as well (for a great overview of using acupressure during labor, check out Debra Betts' free e-book at acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/download-booklet/). In the weeks after the birth, acupuncture and Chinese herbs were also helpful in recovering from birth and in rebuilding blood following hemorrhaging during labor.
Before my second pregnancy, I did lots of preparation through nutrition and Chinese herbal therapy to prepare my body for going through the whole process again. It really paid off, and I had a wonderful pregnancy with good energy (after the morning sickness phase anyway) and no back pain. The only complication arose as I prepared for my second birth; I discovered at about 36 weeks that my baby was head up (in breech position). If you've never experienced this, let me tell you, it causes some real anxiety, especially if you are planning an out-of-hospital birth! Thankfully, I had the right tools at my disposal to aid me in correcting the problem. I promptly began the protocol for turning breech using moxibustion (another great treatment used in Chinese medicine), and by my next visit with my midwife, baby had moved into position (and thankfully, stayed that way!). Phew!
I again received treatments leading up to the birth and this time, my water broke in the middle of the night four days before my due date. With the help of some self-treatment (acupressure mostly), contractions got going within several hours. By late morning I brewed up the last dose of my herbs to facilitate labor and just after taking them my contractions quickly geared up in intensity (my husband said he couldn't believe the effect they had on me). A few hours later, my baby boy was born in a sparklingly clear pool of warm water. During labor this time, I had applied press needles (a very tiny needle attached to an adhesive square) to points to facilitate labor, ease pain, and stop bleeding. My midwives were amazed that I lost virtually no blood during the birth! My labor again was fast and intense, but went smoothly and was easier this time as I had a better idea of what to expect and my body was more familiar with the process. It again seemed clear to me that all the supportive treatments I did really helped get my labor going and contributed greatly to the birth going quickly and smoothly.
While I know that there are many factors that played into my pregnancies and births going as well as they did (and producing healthy babies!), I have no doubt that the Chinese herbs and acupuncture I received were extremely helpful to the process, and contributed to making it all more tolerable, positive and even enjoyable. This is a lot of the reason why I love using these tools to help other women during pregnancy, birth and postpartum!