- Why should I get Acupuncture during Pregnancy?
- Pregnancy and Postpartum Conditions Treated
- Is Acupuncture Safe during Pregnancy?
- Are Chinese Herbs Safe during Pregnancy?
- General Treatment Plan for Pregnancy
- Breech Presentation
- Click here to Read a PDF on Acupressure for Labor Induction and Childbirth
- Pain Management during Labor
- Postpartum Treatment
- Pregnancy Links
Why should I get Acupuncture during Pregnancy?
Pregnancy is an exciting and wonderful time. However, with the many physical and hormonal changes that occur, it can also be a time of discomfort. Many pregnant women suffer from fatigue, nausea, backache and other conditions that are considered a “normal” part of pregnancy. Acupuncture is a safe, gentle and effective way to address these complaints, especially since many Western medications can’t be used during this time.
Regular acupuncture during pregnancy sets the foundation for a healthy mother and baby. In addition, women who receive acupuncture during pregnancy often have a shorter and easier birth experience than women who don’t receive acupuncture. Several European studies concluded that women who received acupuncture once a week during the last month of pregnancy had significantly shorter labor than women who did not receive any acupuncture.
House calls are available for pregnant patients who are on full or partial bed rest. House calls are also available for postpartum treatments. Postpartum patients are welcome to bring their baby with them for office appointments.
Pregnancy and Postpartum Conditions Treated
Some of the conditions that acupuncture can treat are:
- morning sickness, nausea, and hyperemesis gravidarum
- low energy
- back pain and sciatica
- symphysis pubis pain
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- gestational diabetes
- high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia)
- certain types of threatened miscarriage
- breech presentation
- pre-term labor
- delayed labor
- labor pain
- lactation problems
- postpartum depression
Is Acupuncture Safe during Pregnancy?
Yes. Prenatal acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help patients support a healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated delivery. An Australian study conducted by Adelaide University in 2002 found that acupuncture during pregnancy had no adverse effects and was completely safe when done by a trained acupuncturist. You may have heard that some acupuncture points are forbidden during pregnancy. This is true – certain points are to be avoided during pregnancy as they may stimulate uterine contractions. However, a practitioner trained in prenatal acupuncture, as Mark is, will know which points can safely be used and which should be avoided. Also, all pregnant patients are seen regularly throughout their pregnancy by an OB/Gyn or midwife, which allows Mark to be well informed of any complications or health issues.
Are Chinese Herbs Safe during Pregnancy?
Many Chinese herbs are safe to use during pregnancy. In fact, some herbs are very beneficial, such as herbs used to prevent a threatened miscarriage or herbs used to calm uterine contractions during pre-term labor. Some herbs, however, are not safe during pregnancy. These herbs can initiate uterine contractions or may be toxic to the fetus. A practitioner trained in prenatal acupuncture will know which herbs are safe to use and which are to be avoided. The need for Chinese herbs during pregnancy is evaluated on an individual basis. Herbs are usually prescribed only when absolutely necessary.
General Treatment Plan for Pregnancy
Acupuncture during the first trimester focuses on setting the foundation for a healthy pregnancy. Treatments are given to prevent miscarriage and to address any early pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue. At the end of the first trimester a special traditional treatment is given, using what is called the “beautiful baby point,” to ensure a healthy baby. For optimum results, the recommended frequency of treatments during the first trimester is once a week.
Acupuncture during the second trimester aims to maintain balance and offer relief from many of the common complaints of pregnancy. At the end of the second trimester the traditional “beautiful baby” treatment is given again. The recommended frequency of treatments for the second trimester is evaluated for each individual. Patients may come one to two times per month if the pregnancy is uncomplicated and there are no complaints. If addressing a certain issue, patients may need to come more frequently.
Acupuncture during the third trimester prepares the body for labor and delivery. Treatment is given for breech presentation between weeks 32-36. Treatment for labor induction can be given anytime after week 39 if there are no complications with the pregnancy. During the third trimester, patients are encouraged to receive weekly treatments to ensure a smooth labor and delivery. Studies show that women who receive regular acupuncture during the third trimester typically have shorter and more productive labor.
Breech presentation occurs in approximately one out of every 25 full-term births. Breech presentation can be caused by excess or low amniotic fluid, a short or twisted umbilical cord, placenta previa, or a variation in the shape of the uterus. However, the cause of many breech presentations is unknown.
Western medicine’s treatment for breech presentation is an External Cephalic Version (ECV), which is successful about 50% of the time. This method of manually turning the baby is usually done around week 37. ECV can be quite uncomfortable and carries the risk of fetal distress, ruptured membranes, and placental separation, sometimes resulting in the need for an emergency caesarean section.
The traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatment for breech presentation has been used for thousands of years. It is successful 75% of the time and carries no risk to the mother or baby. It is generally done between weeks 32-36, when there is still enough room for the baby to turn, although it can be attempted later in pregnancy as well. The method involves burning the herb mugwort (a treatment called moxabustion) directly onto or over an acupuncture point on the foot. The reason this works is not completely understood, but it is believed to release hormones that stimulate the uterus and increase fetal activity, which encourages the baby to turn on its own. When successful, the baby will turn within 24 hours of the treatment. Sometimes only one treatment is needed, and sometimes it may take several treatments for the baby to turn. Patients are often given moxa “sticks” to take home so that they may continue the therapy in between treatments.
In a 1998 Italian study, 130 women with breech presentation had daily moxabustion treatments during the 35th week of gestation. The study showed a 75% success rate in turning the breech babies head down. In a Japanese study conducted in 2000, 357 women had daily moxabustion, with a very impressive 92.5% correction rate.
Pain Management during Labor
If your doctor or midwife allows acupuncture during labor, Mark is available for acupuncture treatments either at your home or at the hospital or birthing center. Acupuncture during labor helps with relaxation, stimulates the mother’s body to release prostaglandins and oxytocin to increase uterine contractions, helps the cervix to dialate, and relieves labor pain.
In China, the first few weeks after childbirth are called “chan ru.” Chan means childbirth, and Ru means mattress. In traditional Chinese culture, women were prescribed bed rest for one month after childbirth. Female relatives would take care of both the new mother and the baby, allowing the new mother to restore her strength and energy. Specific herbal prescriptions were given to help shrink the uterus, stop bleeding, encourage lactation, and return vitality. In today’s fast-paced society, few new mothers have the luxury of resting for a month after childbirth. Most women need to return to taking care of family or work before their bodies have had a chance to fully recover from the birth experience. This can lead to further health issues down the road, and is why acupuncture during the postpartum period is so important.
In addition to returning the body to a state of balance and optimal reproductive health, some of the postpartum conditions that acupuncture can treat are:
- postpartum depression and “baby blues”
- decreased energy and vitality
- hormonal imbalances
- persistent bleeding
- lactation problems
- abdominal pain
- night sweats
General Pregnancy Information
Local Pregnancy and Birth Resources
- BABI (Bay Area Birth Information)
- Blossom Birth
- Harmony Birth Resource Center
- Ronnie Falcao’s Resource Page
Text for this page provided by Cindi Ignatovsky, L.Ac.