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Pregnancy

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Acupuncture during pregnancy

Pregnancy is certainly a time of big changes, both physically and emotionally. Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment tool at all stages of pregnancy and can offer you drug-free relief for a wide range of conditions that are often seen as part of normal pregnancy. There is increasing research evidence to support its benefits and, best of all, it is considered safe for baby.

Susana Skinner has worked with us for nearly 10 years. She has a special interest in women’s health, fertility and pregnancy, is also a naturopath and nutritional advisor and practices massage and reflexology. Over this time women have come to her for advice on how to improve their health, physiologically, nutritionally and emotionally, and for all the vital stages from pre-conception, conception, pregnancy and childbirth. Susana also has a special interest in women’s health and fertility, but while you can find details of these skills elsewhere, here we will discuss her treatments relating to the benefits of acupuncture during pregnancy.

Traditional Chinese Medicine uses acupuncture to treat the following conditions:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heartburn, indigestion, poor appetite, digestive disorder
  • Constipation
  • Tiredness, fatigue, exhaustion, dizziness, fainting
  • Mood swings, depression, anxiety, stress
  • Aches and pains (including backache, sciatica, pubic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Sinusitis, itching
  • Varicose veins, haemorrhoids
  • Anaemia
  • Insomnia
  • Oedema (swelling, water retention)
  • Thrush, abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Headache and migraine
  • Breech presentation, mal-positions
  • Preparation for labour
  • Induction
  • Post-natal treatments

While we can offer help to any of the above conditions, we will mention a few key areas that we feel are worth particularly mentioning.

Breech Presentation

If the baby is positioned head up instead of head down (breech) or head down but facing your tummy (occiput posterior) instead of your back (occiput anterior – the ideal position) acupuncture treatment can use the application of warmth using a moxa stick (a herb compacted into a cigar shaped stick) over an acupuncture point. We can teach you how to administer moxa treatment yourself (or be able to instruct your partner) and recommend a period of self-care with a review appointment during this time.

Treatment increases foetal activity and some studies in China have shown it to be up to 90% effective in turning a baby from breech to normal position.

From about 30 weeks your ante-natal appointments may reveal a breech position. Acupuncture is ideally given at 34-36 weeks gestation, as there is more space for the baby to turn in, but we have also known babies to turn after this time. Acupuncture and moxa are stopped when the baby’s position has changed.

Pre-birth acupuncture

From 36-37 weeks this is an excellent time to receive acupuncture and we recommend up to four treatments:

  • To support both the mind and body
  • Ripen the cervix
  • Promote optimal foetal positioning
  • Boost your energy and stamina to prepare for labour

A recent study and data gathered by midwives in New Zealand found that acupuncture treatments given in the final weeks of pregnancy in preparation for birth:

  • Encouraged women to go into spontaneous labour around their due date
  • Reduced the length of time in labour
  • Contributed to a reduction in medical inductions, epidural rate and emergency C-sections
  • Increased the chances of a natural efficient vaginal birth

Labour induction

It may be considered necessary by your midwife or doctor to medically induce your labour. From 40 weeks gestation acupuncture can help to:

  • Encourage your baby’s head to engage
  • Stimulate your uterus
  • Establish contractions
  • Promote cervical dilation

Since the benefits of acupuncture are accumulative we recommend 3 to 4 treatments, however, time does not always allow, and if time is short we suggest to book an appointment between 24 – 48 hours prior to your medical induction.

Feedback from midwives have suggested that even in cases where labour has not been induced by acupuncture the cervix is more favourable and there is an increased chance that you will progress through your induction with minimal intervention.

Acupressure may also be used to provide pain relief during labour and we encourage you to bring your birth partner to an induction acupuncture session to show them important acupressure points that they can massage during labour for pain relief. These acupressure points are easy to use, encourage close partner involvement and provide you with an effective tool to calm your mind, reduce pain and improve your overall birthing experience.

A note on induction

Whilst acupuncture is a more ‘natural’ alternative to a medical induction it is still an intervention and therefore not recommended unless you are pass your due date and have midwife approval. Due dates do not indicate the exact day your baby will be born, but suggest when it is due, and it is said that in reality it is estimated that only 4% of babies will actually arrive on their due date.

Acupuncture post birth

The post-partum period is considered to be the six weeks directly after childbirth and an important time for rest and healing for you. In some Chinese texts the post-partum period is quoted as 100 days! This may sound a little excessive to some but it is very common in Middle Eastern and Eastern cultures for a mother to be given a rest period of six weeks in which she is expected to do nothing but rest and care for her baby. Certainly a very different perspective to what we have here in our culture where it is common to expect women to return to normal activities within a few weeks. Although this is easily done for some, it is not a reality for many, and it can be hard to shake off the tiredness and exhaustion several months later.
This post-partum period is an important time for your recovery and is a reasonable period to compensate for the amazing experience of birth and also the nine months of being pregnant. It is not a time for absolute bed rest, but a time where physical rest is taken and there is an emphasis on a good blood and energy replenishing diet. We use post-partum acupuncture:

  • From one week for four weeks to improve stamina and aid efficient recovery in this exhilarating and exhausting time
  • To balance the swing of emotions due to hormonal fluctuations – helping you to feel more stable
  • To aid milk production in breastfeeding problems
  • To assist with perineal healing

We can also use acupuncture for:

  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Fatigue
  • Breastfeeding problems, mastitis
  • Night sweats
  • Aches and pains
  • Anaemia
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Haemorrhoids

Please be aware that Post Natal Depression is a serious problem and your GP should be consulted immediately. However, acupuncture can be used to support and help this condition as part of a multidisciplinary management.