If you experience nausea during pregnancy, I’m sure you’ve heard that acupuncture can help. Acupuncture during pregnancy can alleviate not only nausea, but a host of other uncomfortable symptoms. Acupuncture, the ancient Chinese practice of inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of energy, called Qi and promote healing, has been proven helpful in regulating hormones, reducing some of the uncomfortable side-effects of pregnancy, and can even aid in labor and delivery. If you are worried about the needles, relax; most patients experience only a tickle or a slight flick to the skin as the acupuncturist skillfully places the needle, which are sterile and disposed of after each treatment. Certain acupuncture points, such as those on the abdomen and lower back, are avoided during pregnancy, so you can rest easy when in the hands of a qualified and licensed acupuncturist with experience in dealing with pregnant patients.
The Role of Acupuncture in Regulating Hormones for Pregnancy
Hormone imbalances can have a significant impact on fertility and pregnancy. For example, low progesterone levels can make it difficult to conceive, while high estrogen levels can lead to complications during pregnancy. Acupuncture can help regulate hormones by stimulating the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which are responsible for producing and releasing the hormones meant to keep the body in homeostasis (balance). A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that women who received acupuncture before and after embryo transfer had higher pregnancy rates than those who did not. Another study published in the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal found that acupuncture can help regulate menstrual cycles and improve ovulation in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Acupuncture for Pregnancy: Reducing Nausea and Other Symptoms
Uncomfortable symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, swollen ankles, and back pain, often accompany pregnancy. Acupuncture can assist by stimulating the release of endorphins, natural painkillers produced by the body and can help improve circulation and reduce inflammation. There is proof that acupuncture can also reduce the duration of labor, calm the mind and help manage fluid retention.
During the first trimester, a weekly acupuncture appointment will help manage nausea and vomiting, prevent constipation and bloating, promote good sleep, and reduce anxiety. A study published in the Acupuncture in Medicine journal found that women who received acupuncture had significantly less nausea and vomiting than those who did not.
In the second trimester, the breasts increase in size, as does the uterus. An acupuncture session every two to four weeks will help during this stage with the usual side effects of pregnancy, like back pain, pelvic pain, sciatica, indigestion, insomnia, cramps,
and hip pain. The journal Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study proving acupuncture helps reduce back and pelvic pain during pregnancy.
The third trimester is when the baby is growing rapidly, and at this stage, weekly treatments for the growing discomfort as your belly distends and your hips bones move apart, ready for birth, provide some relief. In pregnancies where scans have indicated a breech position, acupuncture treatment should commence from Week 32 to assist in turning the baby. Most babies turn themselves, but some need gentle assistance, which acupuncture can provide in many cases. Chinese traditional remedies, tested for thousands of years, can reduce blood pressure and help boost energy reserves as the cervix ripens for delivery.
These are five effective acupoints your acupuncturist will most likely focus on:
DU20 Baihui (Hundred Meetings): Located on top of the head and directly above the midpoint of the anterior hairline. It improves your mood and energy levels as well as helps avert miscarriages.
CV17 Shanzhong (Chest Center): Found in the midline at the same level as the nipples. Let your fingertips rest on the space on the breastbone, take some breaths to build energy, and release for comfort. Doing this helps you deal with fatigue, indigestion, vomiting, and anxiety.
iii. PC6 Neiguan (Inner Pass): This acupoint is above the wrist, about the width of two fingers in the center of the palm side of the forearm. Focusing on this acupoint during the treatment helps to manage insomnia, poor memory, depression, anxiety, and hiccups. It can also help with vomiting and a bloated feeling.
GB41 Zulinqi (Foot governor of tears): The acupoint found on the outside top of the foot between the fourth and fifth metatarsal bones helps to relieve pain in the hip and lower leg, swollen feet, and contraction of the toes.
ST36 Zusanli (Leg 3 Miles): This acupoint is about the width of four fingers below the top of the knee bone, lying to the outside of the shin. When opened for Qi or energy to flow, digestion improves, and dizziness and hypertension ease. Breast pain can also be relieved
Acupuncture for Labor and Delivery: Reducing Pain and Promoting Natural Birth
Acupuncture can be a helpful tool for managing pain during labor and delivery. It can help stimulate the release of endorphins, which can help reduce pain and promote relaxation. It can also help prepare the body for labor by promoting cervical ripening and encouraging contractions. A study published in Birth Journal found that women who received acupuncture during labor had significantly less pain than those who did not. Acupuncture in Medicine journal published a study that found acupuncture can help reduce the need for pain medication during labor and delivery, as did another study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Acupuncture for Postpartum Recovery: Restoring Balance and Energy
Acupuncture can be helpful for postpartum recovery by promoting healing and restoring balance and energy. It can help reduce pain and inflammation, improve sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help encourage lactation and enhance milk production. According to a study published in the Acupuncture in Medicine journal women who received acupuncture after giving birth had significantly less pain and fatigue than those who did not, while the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal published a study indicating that acupuncture can help improve milk production. Acupuncture can be a helpful complementary treatment option for fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum care and is generally considered safe during pregnancy; however, you should consult with your healthcare practitioner should there be any unusual circumstances regarding the pregnancy.
Finding a licensed acupuncturist with experience in treating pregnant women is essential as you want the best possible outcome for yourself and your precious baby.