Pregnancy is a special and joyful time in a woman's life. However the structural and hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy are accompanied by numerous physical and mental challenges.
In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of women who are turning to acupuncture for the relief and reduction of common pregnancy complaints. Acupuncture is fast becoming the treatment of choice for those looking for a more natural, safe and drug-free approach.
Research has suggested that acupuncture promotes the circulation of blood in the pelvic cavity, enhances blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, and helps improve the quality of the uterine lining and function of the ovaries. It also regulates and balances hormone and immune function.
Additionally, the calming and relaxing effects of acupuncture can help to reduce the stress and anxiety that is commonly associated with pregnancy. Regular acupuncture sessions can thus improve your overall health and wellbeing, thus making your whole pregnancy a better experience.
Here are some of the problems that can be treated with acupuncture during pregnancy:
More than half of all pregnant women experience morning sickness. It is a condition that occurs naturally during the first trimester of pregnancy. Symptoms range from mild nausea to vomiting and can become quite debilitating.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine morning sickness is seen as disharmony among the organs, in particular the stomach, spleen and liver. The aim of acupuncture is to restore balance and correct the direction of energy flow. The practitioner will focus on regulating and balancing energy, harmonising the stomach and liver, and strengthening the digestive system.
Many studies have strongly indicated that acupuncture has a clinically useful effect in combatting morning sickness.
Acupuncture treatment is carried out twice in the first week, then followed up with a weekly session until symptoms resolve.
Breech and posterior presentations
Between 29-32 weeks, about 15% of all babies will be in a breech position. The majority of breech babies turn spontaneously to the proper position before birth. However about 3-4% of babies with a breech position will stay in this position until labour. The optimal time to attempt to turn a breech baby is between the 32nd and 37th weeks of pregnancy, when there is still room for the baby to move. Acupuncture is well known for its ability to help turn breech and posterior babies into the cephalic position before birth. It has been used by TCM doctors for thousands of years and is a very safe and effective technique.
It is performed through using moxibustion to warm the acupuncture point Urinary Bladder 67, a very dynamic point that activates the uterus, increases foetal activity and encourages the baby to turn into the optimal cephalic position for birth. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, moxa has a tonifying and warming effect that promotes movement and activity. The movement may happen within one treatment, however normally several sessions of treatment are required for the baby to turn.
Studies have shown that the success rate for converting breech presentations by acupuncture is between 70 and 80%.
Recently acupuncture has become a popular method for inducing post-term labour because of the risks associated with undergoing conventional labour induction.
Acupuncture helps to induce labour naturally through stimulating meridian points located on your hands, lower legs and feet. It facilitates labour in many ways, including promoting the descent of the baby to an optimal position, helping to ripen the cervix, removing blockages of energy, and stimulating uterus contractions. Whilst in some cases one treatment may be all that is required for labour induction, on average, between 2 to 5 sessions of treatment may be needed.
In addition, acupuncture during the days leading up to labour improves your stamina, calms your mind and reduces anxiety and fear about labour and delivery. Research has found women receiving acupuncture in the last few weeks leading up to delivery had better outcomes during childbirth and spent less time in labour.
Recurrent miscarriage occurs when a woman suffers the loss of two or more consecutive foetuses prior to the 20th week of pregnancy. There are many factors that may contribute to recurrent miscarriages, including genetic issues, uterine abnormalities, hormonal dysfunction, autoimmune disorder, and emotional stress. Therefor a full medical diagnostic review is needed in order to identify the causes of recurrent miscarriages.
Chinese medicine can have a very useful role in the treatment of recurrent miscarriage. It focuses on determining the underlying causes of miscarriage. According to the principles of TCM, our bodies must be in a state of balance to be able to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy. Any imbalances in the body, stagnation and deficiencies of Qi, and disharmony among the organs and meridians, among other factors, can result in miscarriage.
Acupuncture, either alone or with Chinese herbal medicine, has been proven effective in preventing miscarriage through increasing blood supply to both the ovaries and uterus, strengthening the Qi and blood, balancing hormone levels, regulating the immune system, and reducing the impact of stress and anxiety, thus ensuring a healthy and successful pregnancy.
Other problems that acupuncture can help with during pregnancy:
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Depression or other mood disorders
- Mild pregnancy-related hypertension