Pregnancy & Acupuncture
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing modality whereby the insertion of very fine needles in points along meridian lines can have a balancing effect on our bodies and help us to regain true health both physically and mentally. It is now used widely in the treatment of many conditions in the West but it really comes into it’s own for supporting pregnancy because of it’s safety and efficacy. It has become widely recognised now that acupuncture at the end of pregnancy can help to promote a natural labour and that the application of ‘Moxa’ from around 34 weeks onwards can help turn a breech baby. I would like to demonstrate how it can help with almost any pregnancy related condition.
The primary conditions that acupuncture can treat or help to reduce include nausea, exhaustion, anxiety, heartburn, SPD pain, back pain, oedema, depression, carpal tunnel, insomnia hypertension varicose veins, malposition/Breach and stress.
Acupuncture in the 1st trimester.
There is a magic little point which I use on women in the first trimester, it can help with supporting the developing fetus and help to ease mom into the role of pregnancy. This point is aptly called ' Beatuiful Baby' point.It is about half way up the calf of the inner leg. Ki - 9
Acupuncture can help treat exhaustion, anxiety and nausea. If the idea of needles do not appeal at this early stage, there are very good acupressure techniques that can be applied to effective points treat nausea such as P-6, a point located on the inner arm, just 3 fingers down from the wrist in between the tendons and veins. You can just press this point for as long as is comfortable when feeling nauseous. Many women feel guilty for not eating as much nutritious food due to their nausea as it’s more palatable to eat crackers or carbohydrates. While nutrition is really important, your baby will extract all of the required nutrients from your reserves, so don’t worry.
I recommend monthly visits in the case of healthy pregnancies until the last month where weekly session’s are designed to prepare your body for the birth. However, women who have suffered previous miscarriages or have had difficulty in getting pregnant may opt for weekly visits until they get to the 12 week stage and their pregnancy is more established. It has been proven that acupuncture within the 1st trimester can help to nourish the fetus, boost the immune system and relax the uterus which increases the likelihood of a viable pregnancy. In the case of a threatened miscarriage there have been many cases where acupuncture has helped to maintain the pregnancy. Use diet as a medicine here; eating warm soups, miso soup, plenty of warm vegetables and healthy hearty food. Avoid foods and drinks with a ‘moving’ quality such as coffee, chili’s, ginger and try to stick to nourishing and calming foods.
Acupuncture in the 2nd trimester.
Monthly acupuncture sessions at this stage will help you to feel more balanced and it will be an investment in your health.
Conditions that can be treated in the second trimester include tiredness, anxiety, twin to twin transfusion, anemia, back or shoulder ache. Heartburn, oedema, insomnia, UTI’s, Pelvic pain constipation and sinusitis. There is a point on the foot on the web of the third toe that you can massage which helps to treat heartburn.
Acupuncture in the 3rd trimester.
Finally, in the third trimester women often come into the clinic with breach presentation and are hoping to turn the baby. Often the baby will turn itself, sometimes women are booked into hospital for manual turning or faced with C-Section. This can be a stressful time. We work together using Moxa (herbal stick close to the little toe) to help promote correct positioning of their baby whereby the head is facing down. This treatment needs to be carried out between 32 and 36 weeks during a healthy pregnancy. Moxabustion treatment for breach presentation has an 80% success rate.
Weekly pre-birth sessions start at 37 weeks. The acupuncture sessions generally boost energy, aid relaxation and nourish the blood in the body. The points will also help to ripen the cervix and soften the ligaments and tendons. Sometimes there can be subconscious stress around the birth and acupuncture sessions can have a profoundly positive effect on our ability to cope with, accept and embrace all of the wonderful changes that are taking place.
Pre-birth acupuncture treatments.
Pre-birth treatments generally pave the way for a birth that occurs naturally in and around the due date. However, some women might be approaching due date or overdue and still showing little or no signs of labour. In this case, acupuncture induction or natural induction can help at around 40weeks. I will always ask mothers whether their own mother went over her due date when pregnant as there can often be hereditary patterns. Many women dislike the idea of being brought in for a hospital induction or intervention which can involve ‘breaking the waters’ a ‘sweep’ or drugs. Acupuncture is a natural way to get things started and encourage labour to commence. It works by relaxing the mother, producing prostaglandins which soften the ligaments, ripens the cervix and produces a natural oxytocin in the body which can lead to contractions. In general, women feel less anxious and more grounded after induction sessions. It can take between 5 hrs and 48hrs for labour to start and daily or every other day sessions might be required. Sometimes there can be call for medical intervention but most healthy women will go into labour naturally between 39-42 weeks. There is a lot of pressure to go in to labour in and around the due date which intensifies stress and anxiety around the birth.
There are other things that you can do to encourage ripening of the cervix such as eating pineapple, using a few drops of clary sage essential oil in the bath and by drinking fresh herbal raspberry leaf tea from 36 weeks on. There are also a range of ‘Tissue Salts’ that can be taken safely throughout pregnancy to help treat many conditions and support the nervous system such as kali phos for anxiety and fear, nat mur for swelling. Some conditions may require medical assistance and it’s always advisable to speak with your midwife before taking anything or if you are concerned about any health issues.
Acupuncture to promote labour.
From 40 weeks, I teach each partners the acupressure points to press during labour for the purpose of pain relief, there is much that can be done to make the labour easier both physically and psychologically. I have 4 children myself and have personal experience in the benefits of using these points.
Receiving acupuncture throughout your pregnancy will help to prevent post-natal depression. It’s so important to nourish yourself after the birth and when you get the chance to just to give yourself a well needed energy boost and to build up your reserves again. Post-natal treatments can help to treat mastitis, lactation problems and post-natal depression. In an ideal world you would receive your first acupuncture and moxa session (mother warming) a week after the delivery. In reality, if that can happen at 6 weeks you are doing well. If it’s not possibly to get out, try to find a practitioner who will do house calls.
This article was published in Cuidiu Newsletter North Wicklow Branch. 2016.
Emer is Naturopath and Acupuncturist and specialises in women’s acupuncture treating conditions such as infertility, menstrual problems, pregnancy and post-natal issues.
Feel free to contact me with any queries relating to this article.