Acupuncture for Birth Prep and Delivery

Dresden Holden Acupuncture Wellness birth prep acupuncture in santa barbara, ca

Supporting the expecting and new families isn’t highlighted enough in our society, however, even the World Health Organization asserts that women have the right to quality care before, during and after birth. It's beneficial, I would even say essential if our society could support it, to have birth support and caregivers during pregnancy and labor. And this is why we love to provide birth prep acupuncture at our Santa Barbara office. Acupuncture has been found to be a very helpful prenatal tool as it supports the body the body in its natural progression from prenatal to postpartum. Our bodies have evolved over time to perfect the art of childbearing, we are so strong and capable. To help expectant mothers connect to their innate wisdom, self-trust and inner strength is paramount as a birth caregiver. When a mother is connected in this way it pays dividends as they move through childbirth into postpartum.  

Studies have shown that acupuncture supports the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) and down-regulates the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”). The parasympathetic controls our oxytocin and endorphin release, calms the heart rate and promotes blood flow to the uterus. The Sympathetic nervous system triggers adrenaline, increases blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and intellect. So if we support the feel-good and birth promoting hormones (oxytocin, endorphins, prolactin, melatonin) and reduce our nervous tension/birth-inhibiting hormones (adrenaline) then we are setting the groundwork for positive birth support, positive labor, easeful transition to postpartum and bonding. 

Acupuncture is wonderful at promoting the production and flow of oxytocin. And why exactly is oxytocin important for birth? Firstly, oxytocin is the calm and connect hormone. Important for mother health as it moves one calmly and steadily toward birth (it's responsible for uterine contractions when the body is ready for them), as well as promotes our other feel-good pain relieving endorphins. Oxytocin is important for baby health as it supports mother-baby bonding and elicits a mild euphoria. What is neat is that by mom supporting her oxytocin during birth prep she is in turn supporting baby's oxytocin levels as they are tightly and beautifully intertwined, before and after labor. 

In addition, studies have shown acupuncture to be useful in supporting cervical ripening. Cervical ripening is important to ready the cervix for labor, even medically induced labors, resulting in reduced active labor times.

Birth prep acupuncture can begin at week 36 to gently support a woman’s natural pregnancy cycle, progression, pain management systems, and hormone cascades.

Birth prep is also effective and supportive whether mother is preparing for a natural birth, scheduled induction or cesarean. Acupuncture will not induce labor, but rather support the natural progression of the body during late-stage pregnancy. We are helping the body calm and rest so it can do what it knows, inherently, how to do, and what it has specifically evolved to do. 

When should birth prep start?

It is recommended to begin birth prep once a week at week 36. Followed by twice weekly from week 38 to week 40 (or delivery). Your acupuncturist will evaluate each case and offer a treatment plan specific to each person.

What is a birth prep treatment like? 

Birth prep treatments are relaxing and rejuvenating with the goal to calm and support the body's natural pregnancy progression. We will use a mix of acupuncture, moxa (moxibustion is the use of mugwort as a warming therapy) and aromatherapy to support you. 

More ways to support oxytocin production:  

  • Connection and eye contact (virtual or in person, human or animal)
  • Mood lighting, candlelight
  • Aromatherapy
  • Acupressure (from self or other)
  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Time spent in nature or scenery
  • Breathing and/or meditation
  • Eating
  • Music, singing
  • Walking, dancing, rhythmic movement
  • Hugs, sex (self or other)
  • Relaxation
  • Guided meditation
  • Upright positions in birth (acupressure can support a women in these birthing positions)

If you would like to discuss birth prep acupuncture or book an appointment, you can email or find more information here. 




Penny Simkin, April Bolding: Update on nonpharmacologic approaches to relieve labor pain and prevent suffering, Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health, Volume 49, Issue 6, 2004, Pages 489-504, ISSN 1526-9523,

Agneta Ramnerö, Ulf Hanson, Mona Kihlgren, Acupuncture treatment during labour—a randomized controlled trial, BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Volume 109, Issue 6, 2002, Pages 637-644, ISSN 1470-0328,

Rahimi F, Goli S, Soltani N, Rezaei H, Amouzeshi Z. Effects of Complementary Therapies on Labor Pain: A Literature Review. Mod Care J. 2018;15(1):e69306.


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