Acupuncture and pregnancy
Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?
Acupuncture is very safe to have during pregnancy and is an effective option for women who choose to avoid taking medicine for minor ailments.
How can acupuncture help during pregnancy?
Many conditions can occur during pregnancy. Some cause minor discomfort and others may cause great distress. Acupuncture can give relief for a wide range of pregnancy related conditions such as:
- Morning sickness (see testimonial)
- High/low blood pressure
- Tender breasts
- Migraine and other headaches
- Back ache
- Pelvic pain (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction)
- Varicose veins
Back Pain and Sciatica
Back pain and sciatica from mechanical compression are common complaints in pregnancy especially in the later months. Up to 75% of women experience some form of this discomfort. The pain can interfere with sleep. Acupuncture can relieve this discomfort.
Swelling is common in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy due to the increase in circulating fluid in the body. Fluid accumulates most often in the hands, feet and ankles, but the face and legs can also get puffy. The condition is usually worse at the end of the day and in warm weather. Acupuncture is appropriate to treat this kind of mild swelling.
The presence of severe swelling, an increase of blood pressure and protein in the urine, are possible warning signs of preeclampsia, a potentially serious complication and in these cases, we would refer you back to your obstetrician for an assessment.
Here are two less common pregnancy associated conditions for which acupuncture is helpful:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Because of the extra fluid circulating in the pregnant woman, there can be compression of the median nerve in the wrist resulting in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Other than wearing a wrist brace there is no other Western medical treatment except surgery for this condition. The pain can affect routine actions such as cooking, carrying, driving and sleeping. Acupuncture can really help with this till delivery time, after which it will resolve anyway.
Many pregnant women get significant nasal congestion. This is a hormonal effect. In fact, some women on birth control pills also have this reaction. Most decongestant medication is contraindicated in pregnancy but acupuncture can be of great assistance.
Breech Presentation (baby is feet first)
A Japanese study published in 2000 confirmed that stimulation of acupuncture points is effective in correcting breech positioning. For this condition it is moxibustion, not acupuncture that is the answer. Moxibustion has been used for many centuries to turn breech babies. Click here for more information about moxibustion
This research project studied 357 women with breech presentation and found that the moxibustion treatment group had a correction rate of 92.48 percent compared to the control group which had a spontaneous correction rate of 73.66 percent.
Traditionally a moxa stick, a roll of moxa rather like a lighted cigar is used to warm up an acupuncture point on the foot. At Meridians, direct moxibustion techniques are often used.
The technique is most effective between the 28th and 34th week, up to 36 weeks of pregnancy. The optimal time for effectiveness is 32-34 weeks. Past the 36th week there is usually not enough room for the foetus to turn around and this would be considered a more risky procedure.
Unique to Japan, `easy-birth` moxibustion is a home-help technique taught to expectant couples to do at home from month five onwards. It consists of treating a point on the leg with moxibustion on a daily basis right up to the day labour begins. In Japan, this is thought to strengthen the foetus and uterus and make labour faster and easier. As this kind of home treatment usually ends up as a team effort between the expectant parents, it has proved to have many other valuable functions, allowing the father to become more involved with the pregnancy, and greatly helping with the mother’s sleep while relieving other problems such back pain and water retention. Japanese easy-birth moxibustion clearly has a very strong social value during the last few months of the pregnancy.
Acupuncture and labour
Acupuncture is used to induce labour in overdue pregnancies; it should only be used for induction when the mother has passed her due date. Best results are seen seven to ten days after the treatment(s) but the effect can be immediate in most cases. At Meridians we usually give three consecutive treatments, one day apart. Often this consists of intense sessions of `easy-birth` moxibustion together with needling points on the shoulders and hands.
During labour acupuncture can be used for pain relief and to boost the mother`s energy if the labour is a long one. Acupuncture can also be used to restart labour if it has slowed down or if contractions have stopped.
After the baby arrives
Acupuncture is used by new mothers to increase energy levels, to promote healing and to combat the `baby blues`. It also is very helpful in treating mastitis.