Acupuncture & Pregnancy
Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for many common issues that may arise during pregnancy including:
Nausea and vomiting, commonly referred to as morning sickness, occurs in approximately half of all pregnancies. Its onset is usually in the 5th to 6th week of pregnancy and subsides by the 14th to 16th week, however, it can appear as early as a woman’s first missed period and last well into the second trimester. As the body changes, hormone levels as well as blood sugar levels fluctuate contributing to the nausea. In addition to this deficiencies of B Vitamins and zinc can be causative factors. Other common triggers include stress and fatigue. Although nausea and vomiting are common experiences in early pregnancy they are still not pleasant. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can help ease this period by decreasing the sympathetic nervous system to reduce stress and calm the mind. By relaxing the body and returning it a more “rest-and-digest” state where our parasympathetic is more active, blood circulation is improved to the digestive system allowing the stomach to calm and settle.
Bleeding and Threatened Miscarriage
Bleeding, low back pain and cramping occur in about 40% of pregnancies in the first trimester but can also happen at any stage of a pregnancy and should always be taken seriously. Most women who report bleeding but have a closed cervix and a fetal heartbeat are simply sent back home and told to ‘wait and see’, this often leaves women feeling helpless, lonely and anxious. Research has shown that having continuous support as well as reduced stress levels helps to significantly reduce the chances of miscarriage when bleeding is present. Acupuncture helps by promoting relaxation and balancing hormone levels as well as inhibiting uterine contractions. For many women in this situation just being able to come in and have someone listen to them and provide lifestyle advice as well as relaxation methods is enough to make a difference.
Sciatica, Pelvic and Hip Pain
As your pregnancy progresses your body releases the hormone Relaxin, which helps your tendons and ligaments loosen to allow widening of the hips and the pelvic outlet. This process can often lead to sciatica and hip pain which can be debilitating and reduce the mothers mobility as well as her sleep. With acupuncture we can target the specific muscles involved in sciatica and hip pain and help them relax, reducing inflammation and pain and allowing women to resume their daily activities.
Heartburn and Constipation
Two of the most common digestive disorders we treat in pregnancy are heartburn and constipation, both unpleasant and difficult to treat with western medicine. Acupuncture combined with dietary changes offers relief of both of these conditions, quite often overnight. Women do not need to suffer with these symptoms during their pregnancy. When properly treated both heartburn and constipation are easily improved.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are more common during pregnancy due to the increased production of progesterone which relaxes the bladder. This combined with increased pressure on the bladder from the uterus prevents the bladder from emptying fully and allows bacteria to flourish more easily. If left untreated, bladder infections may cause a miscarriage or early onset of labour. Acupuncture helps by strengthening the kidneys and the immune system and clearing heat from the bladder. It is effective as a preventative measure or in combination with antibiotic treatment.
Breech Babies and Malpresentation
Around weeks 28-34 babies will generally start to settle into a head down position in the pelvis. Baby’s can turn at any time however it occurs less often passed 34 weeks as the baby grows leaving it with less space. The ideal position for the baby in labour is one where the baby’s head is down; chin tucked towards its chest and the spine is facing outwards towards the mother’s abdomen.
In a breech presentation the baby’s bum or feet sit above the cervix rather than its head. This presentation often results in C-section due to the risks of laboring with the baby in such a position. Another common occurrence is a baby can descend head first into the pelvis but have their spine aligned with the mother’s spine. This position can often prolong labour and create more back pain as the baby’s spine is pressed against the mother’s spine.
For centuries Chinese Medicine has been addressing these complications with a technique called moxibustion. A Chinese herb is used to heat certain acupuncture points which influence the mother’s hormones and result in increased fetal movement that encourage the baby into a better position. Its efficacy has most recently been published in a 2010 study in Complementary Therapies in Medicine.
For more info about using moxibustion to turn baby, please see my blog post on this subject.
Labour Preperation Acupuncture (Cervical Ripening)
Pre-birth acupuncture consists of a set of weekly acupuncture sessions beginning around 36-37 weeks and continuing until the commencement of labour. They are intended to prepare a woman for a harmonious birth and positive experience. By balancing hormones, calming the sympathetic nervous system and improving blood flow to the reproductive organs this series of treatments is beneficial to ripen her cervix, calm her mind, and strengthen her blood and energy in order for her mind and body to be ripe and ready for a smooth labor and birth.
In addition, pre-birth treatments are an ideal time to safely treat many other pregnancy complaints such as heartburn and hip pain. It is also the perfect time to ensure baby is in the best possible position for an easy journey.
Studies show some very promising statistics on the positive effects of cervical ripening and we see this confirmed on a daily basis in our personal practice. These positive effects include shorter duration of labor, 35% reduction in medical inductions, 32% lower cesarean rates and even a 31% reduction in requests for epidural with an overall increase in natural normal vaginal deliveries.
In my experience, my clients find these sessions deeply relaxing and enjoyable. It is also a wonderful time for prenatal education as well as an opportunity for answering questions, and offering lifestyle and nutritional counseling and support.
For more information: http://acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/acupuncture/