A pregnant woman uses acupuncture
Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
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What: Acupuncture, Acupressure and Water Birth

Once a pregnant woman goes past her due date, she can find herself pressured to medically induce labor. Just as there are good reasons to treat a due date as more of a suggestion than a rule, there are also good reasons for wanting to jump-start a slow or overdue labor.

While a few unproven, nonmedical ways to start labor include walking, spicy food and sex, some pregnant women swear by acupuncture or acupressure. In fact, acupressure has such a reputation for inducing birth that prenatal massage specifically avoids areas—such as on the hands and feet—that could accidentally trigger labor. Just as midwifery has been the means of delivering babies through most of human history, acupuncture has been a method of inducing labor in overdue pregnancies for thousands of years.

As a reminder, it's always a good idea to consult a doctor or midwife before starting any new activity during pregnancy.

Once labor actually begins, one way to alleviate some pressure and pain of contractions is through use of a water tub. Some pregnant women even deliver in water. A common misconception about water birth is that the newborn baby will drown in the water. "Because babies are floating in an amniotic sac of fluid in the belly, they're already in water. That's not an issue," Perez says. "And they're not breathing through their noses until the umbilical cord is cut. They get all their oxygen through the cord."

Perez adds that some water birth advocates even believe it's the best option for everyone. "Some people argue that it's less shocking for the child to born into the water rather than to be born straight into a shocking, bright environment," she says.

The biggest hurdle with water births is finding a facility that offers them. Most traditional hospitals do not. As with an out-of-hospital birth, being "at risk" could complicate plans for a water birth. Additionally, if the mother tests positive for Group B streptococcus, convincing a midwife or obstetrician to allow a water birth may prove difficult. If having a water birth is important to you, make sure your facility not only offers but encourages it and that your doctor or midwife is enthusiastic about your decision.

Would you consider using any of these nonhospital options? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

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