Though, at first, you may not think to put acupuncture on your “to do” list when you find out you are pregnant, acupuncture for pregnancy and childbirth is actually a valuable and natural way to help ensure a healthy pregnancy, a smooth delivery and a quick post-partum recovery.
Why acupuncture and Oriental medicine?
If we look back through Chinese history and the ancestral worship that is part of it, we see a very strong cultural commitment to have healthy children. As a result, Oriental medicine developed effective acupuncture for pregnancy treatments to aid conception and to promote healthy pregnancies and uncomplicated deliveries.
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine focuses on re-establishing and maintaining a healthful natural balance and flow of vital energy (or Qi “chee”) within the body. Qi is the basis for the proper functioning of all of our organs and physiological processes, including reproduction. It provides structural integrity and stability, physiological efficiency and the potential for life, health and healing in general.
Qi is thought to circulate in pathways throughout the body, known as meridians. In Oriental medicine, one is said to be in perfect health when this Qi is balanced and flowing unimpeded, in the correct direction and in an adequate amount throughout the body. When this energy becomes imbalanced, blocked or deficient, we experience pain, discomfort and disease.
Acupuncture needles, placed properly, directly access and regulate the flow of the energy in the meridians and correct imbalances, thereby creating healing and harmony within the body.
Acupuncture for pregnancy is a safe, effective and natural way for women to reduce any uncomfortable symptoms of pregnancy. Moreover, it does this without the risks and side-effects of pharmaceutical medications, most of which are contraindicated during pregnancy anyway.
Acupuncture for a healthy mother and baby:
Acupuncture for pregnancy involves treatment one to four times a month, and is valuable for both Mom and Baby. It will help ensure optimal health of the mother and the fetus at different stages of development, cell differentiation and growth. It can also prevent and treat pregnancy-related symptoms.
One popular acu-point used during pregnancy is Zhubin (K9) known as “the beautiful baby point”, located on the inner part of the lower leg. It is said to calm the mind, relieve anxiety, build blood and benefit the fetus.
During the final 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy weekly treatments are recommended to help prepare the body for labor. Typically, a session lasts 30 to 45 minutes and women usually only feel a mild pressure or heaviness sensation at the site of the needle insertion.
Some women have pre-existing medical conditions that may worsen during pregnancy, but can be safely addressed with acupuncture. This is a great option when pharmaceuticals are contraindicated or the mother just wants treatment as natural as possible.
Acupuncture for pregnancy related symptoms:
Acupuncture significantly relieves fatigue, anxiety, migraine headaches, bleeding and of course, the morning sickness that can be common during the first trimester. An Australian study published in the journal Birth reported that of nearly 600 women suffering with morning sickness, all of whom were less than 14 weeks pregnant. Those who received acupuncture treatment reported having less frequent and shorter periods of nausea than those who did not get acupuncture.
The second trimester can bring stress, sinus congestion, heartburn, constipation and hemorrhoids which acupuncture can help to alleviate. Other second trimester symptoms that acupuncture can assist are edema/swelling, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood glucose or excessive weight gain, but these conditions are potentially dangerous and should also be monitored by a western-trained physician or midwife.
Sciatica, back pain, pelvic pain, joint pain and carpal tunnel syndrome can be common during the third trimester. Acupuncture treatment is known to bring relief to these symptoms and it can bring this relief quickly, without any medications. In fact, a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that acupuncture in combination with standard treatment was more effective at relieving mixed pelvic/back pain during pregnancy than standard treatment alone.
If symptoms are particularly severe, weekly treatments may be necessary to get through a particular period of time during the pregnancy.
Beginning around 32 to 34 weeks, special acu-points will be included during treatment to encourage the proper head-down positioning of the baby for birth. Also at this time, acupuncture treatment frequency will increase to weekly to help optimize childbirth.
Acupuncture for childbirth support:
For women who are ready for labor, acupuncture is a wonderful way to reduce the mother’s stress, tonify her vital energy, calm her anxiety and increase the flow of energy through the body. This serves to facilitate the natural processes in her body and increase her chances of going into labor naturally, as well as encourage a healthy delivery.
Acupuncture for post-partum recovery:
After delivery, acupuncture assists the normal recuperative process. It can help stop bleeding and discharge, relieve backache and ease pain of the perineal area. It can also help to heal a Cesarean-section incision and hasten recovery from the surgery.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine helps to restore the mother’s vital Qi energy and Blood, support milk production and normalize the Qi and Blood flow through the abdomen. It is also ideal for preventing post-partum depression and assisting those suffering with it.