“Soul and spirit are stretched—along with body—making pregnancy a time of transition, growth and profound beginnings.” – Anne Christian Buchanan
Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.” – Harriette Hantigan
Pregnancy is such a magical time, but it can also bring with it a myriad of little discomforts, and sometimes big challenges, as a woman’s body works hard to meet the demands of not just her own body, but also of at least one very quickly growing little person. Pregnant women are limited in the medications they can use for the discomforts of pregnancy, and sometimes conventional medicine has little to offer for some pregnancy challenges, other than advising rest. Acupuncture has been used for millennia to manage pregnancy-related discomforts and challenges, and it has been proven in modern research to be safe for pregnant women.1
Acupuncture in pregnancy can help with all of the conditions listed in General Health and Alleviating Health, as well as pregnancy specific conditions including morning sickness, miscarriage prevention, threatened miscarriage, irritable uterus, preterm labour, overdue labour, baby in breech position, small-for-dates babies and pregnancy-induced hypertension. Women may find that in pregnancy they experience aches and pains that they wouldn’t otherwise, or that they are more prone to constipation, insomnia, mood swings, anxiety, chronic urinary tract infections, stuffy sinuses or itchy skin than they were before pregnancy. Acupuncture and/or Chinese Herbal Medicine can help with these complaints to make pregnancy more comfortable. And after pregnancy, acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can help with post-partum depression, insufficient lactation, mastitis, fatigue, and much more. To learn about the benefits of acupuncture and other bodywork techniques for babies and children, please click here to read the Children’s Health page.
First Trimester Care
Many women seek acupuncture in the first trimester of pregnancy to help with morning sickness, fatigue, miscarriage prevention and to deal with anxiety and stress, and many women who have benefited from acupuncture to optimize fertility decide to continue with weekly acupuncture until the end of the first trimester. A research study comparing traditional acupuncture treatment with medication found that acupuncture was equally effective in treating hyperemesis gravidarum, an advanced form of morning sickness, as was medication.2
Turning a Breech Baby
Moxibustion and acupuncture have a history of use within Traditional Chinese Medicine to help the baby turn to a head down position for birth. Recent research included 406 pregnant women with breech presentation who were assigned to the moxibustion treatment group, a placebo group and a usual care group. The research trial found that moxibustion was “effective and safe to correct non-vertex presentation when used between 33 and 35 weeks of gestation.”3 The traditional treatment involves warming a point on the little toe with a moxa stick (see moxibustion under Therapies). Typically a woman will come in for a treatment and can be shown how to do it herself (or have her husband help her) daily for 10 days, with a follow up appointment part way through the course of treatment.
Points used in these prebirth treatments regulate hormonal balance, relax the ligaments in preparation for birth, encourage gradual softening of the cervix, and help to calm the expectant mother. In addition, if the baby isn’t engaging into the pelvis or is posterior-facing, specific points can be included to help manage these situations as well. Midwives using acupuncture for labour preparation in Europe have noticed that women receiving these treatments have fewer complications during their deliveries, including a reduced need for medical inductions and cesarean sections.4
If a woman’s body is ready, then acupuncture can help promote cervical ripening and uterine contractions to encourage her body to go into labour5. Acupuncture can also help promote the strength and efficiency of contractions during early labour. Research studies have found that acupuncture can help shorten the first stage of labour5,6 and that women who received acupuncture required less oxytocin to augment labour.6
- Park, J et al. 2014. The safety of acupuncture during pregnancy: a systematic review. Acupuncture in Medicine; Acupmed-2013-010480
- Neri, I et al. 2005. Acupuncture versus pharmacological approach to reduce hyperemesis gravidarum discomfort. Minerva Ginecol; 57(4): 471–75
- Vas, J et al. 2013. Using moxibustion in primary healthcare to correct non-vertex presentation: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Acupuncture in Medicine; 31(1): 31–38
- Betts, D. 2006. The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy & Childbirth. The Journal of Chinese Medicine, East Sussex, England
- Rabl, M et al. 2001. Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labor at term—a randomized controlled trial. Wien Klin Wochenschr; 113(23–24):943–46
- Gaudernack, LC et al. 2006. Acupuncture administered after spontaneous rupture of membranes at term significantly reduces the length of birth and use of oxytocin. A randomized controlled trial. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand; 85(11): 1348–53