Acupuncture & Pregnancy
For over 3000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine has promoted specialized treatment for women in pregnancy care and post partum recovery. Today this care is becoming increasingly popular and used by natural health practitioners and specially trained midwives; in countries such as Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland, Norway, Sweden, and New Zealand. Acupuncture can be used in a variety of ways to promote fetal and maternal health.
Nausea During Pregnancy
Acupuncture is often very effective in reducing both the severity and the incidence of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Research from Australia (1) highlighted that women receiving traditional acupuncture (points chosen according to individual diagnosis) experienced faster relief when compared to those groups receiving routinely prescribed points or “sham” acupuncture. This research also looked at the successful pregnancy outcomes for the women involved, concluding that “acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for women who experience nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy” (2)
Back pain, rib pain, sciatica and symphysis pubis pain are common in pregnancy and can all be markedly reduced with acupuncture. Research from Sweden (3) concluded that when compared to physiotherapy, acupuncture was the treatment of choice for symphysis pubis and sacroiliac pain.
Breech and Posterior Babies
Research from Italy (4) that demonstrated moxibustion can have a significant effect in helping to turn breech babies. Ideally treatment is started at 34-35 weeks, but can still be useful when used later in the pregnancy. Techniques can also help babies that are not in the optimal position prior to birth, such as those in posterior position.
Acupuncture can have an important role in assisting to reduce high blood pressure, especially if treatment is commensed early, when hypertension is first noted. The effectiveness of acupuncture will be reflected in the improved blood pressure readings and blood tests used by midwives and obstetrician to detect possible complications. As hypertension has the potential to escalate quickly, ongoing medical monitoring remains essential throughout pregnancy.
Three to four weeks prior to the due date, a series of weekly treatments to prepare the pelvis and cervix is recommended. Research from Germany (5) indicated potential for a more efficient Active Stage of labour. A New Zealand study with midwives (6) indicated a reduction in women requiring medical intervention and Caesarian section.
Acupuncture can provide a gentle inducement to labour if the baby is overdue and can be an effective alternative to medical induction. Research from Norway (7) on the use of acupuncture for women with premature rupture of membrane (PROM) concluded that “Ideally acupuncture treatment should be offered to all women with PROM and other women who wished to this method to facilitate their birht and keep it normal.”
Pain Relief During Labour
Acupuncture offers drug free alternative for pain relief during labour (8). Acupressure provides similar results (9) with the advantage that support people can use it during labour.
Other Pregnancy Concerns
Treatments can be used to relieve a variety of conditions, including:
• Carpal Tunnel
• Heart Burn
• Hemorrhoids & Vulval Varices
• Threatened Miscarriage
Acupuncture has techniques to promote recovery; these include “mother warming” treatments that can be given by a partner, advice on diet and the use of specific strengthing and blood building herbs. Other conditions that can be helped by acupuncture include: insufficient lactation, wound healing and scar tissue repair, post partum depression and urinary incontinence.