Posts Categorized: Pregnancy

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Acupuncture For Sciatica And Low Back Pain in Pregnancy

In my practice, I see a lot of women who are experiencing either sciatica or lower back pain in pregnancy. It’s a very common condition, and it’s actually one of my favorite things to treat using acupuncture because it works so well! Acupuncture can help you to take the focus off of being in pain, and instead enjoy the last few months of pregnancy while gathering your strength for the birth.

Sciatica refers to pain which is usually in the glute and to some extent radiating down the back of the leg. Read more

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Recommended Reading: Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth

I was completely blown away by this book and have been enthusiastically recommending it to every last one of my pregnant patients since reading it early this summer. As far as I’m concerned, it should be required reading for all pregnant women, whether you’re planning on a home birth with a midwife or a hospital birth with an OB.

A little background: The author, Ina May Gaskin, is a Certified Professional Midwife who co-founded a community in rural Tennessee in 1970 called The Farm. Sounds pretty hippy-dippy, right? Yeah, it is! But keep reading. These hippies know things that you need to know. Ina May as well and her team of midwives have handled over 3,000 births at The Farm, with astonishingly low rates of c-sections and other intervention (vacuum, forceps, Pitocin, etc). For more information and their complete statistics, here is the link to their website.

I loved this book because the tone is non-judgmental and the facts are laid out clearly to help you do everything within your control to get the best outcome in a situation where ultimately, you must surrender control. This includes surrounding yourself with the birth team that makes you feel the most supported.  Ina May gives you the lowdown on possible birth interventions that may be necessary so that you are already familiar should your doctor recommend them. Having the knowledge before you’re in the situation can greatly alleviate anxiety when faced with needing to make a quick decision.

This book begins with about 125 pages of the birth stories of women who gave birth at The Farm, written by the women themselves. These stories let you see how varied a normal, healthy birth can be. They eliminate the worry that “if my birth doesn’t go this way, something must be wrong”.

Ina May then delves into topics including:

  • Prenatal care and what all those tests really tell your doctor (and which ones you might be able to skip if you desire)
  • Choosing a caregiver- whether it’s an OB or midwife, plus tips on deciding who else will be present at your birth (doula, partner, other family members)
  • Facts on VBAC’s (vaginal birth after cesarean)
  • My favorite chapter: “The Sphincter Law”- it explains how anxiety and fear can actually reverse the labor progress that has been made already, and how to guard yourself against this happening! This is really amazing, useful stuff.
  • Techniques you can easily use to make your labor progress more smoothly and efficiently
  • What actually happens in labor, and what to do once you are in labor (call the doctor? Wait it out?)
  • What Pitocin and epidurals do

To summarize, this book has the ability to make women feel more empowered about giving birth. You’ll also feel less afraid of the unknown and what could go wrong (Ina May has a great way of explaining what could happen without creating unnecessary fear). In my work with pregnant women, I’ve found that everyone has some degree of fear around the process and wants to do everything they can to ensure things go smoothly (for herself and baby).

After reading this book, I truly got the feeling that birth is a normal process that a woman’s body is designed for, and felt inspired to confidently relay this information to my patients!

Can Acupuncture Really Induce Labor?

Over the years I’ve gotten many calls from frantic women (and sometimes their husbands) who are 40 or 41 weeks pregnant, some who are even scheduled for medical induction in a matter of hours. They all want to know- can Acupuncture help you go into labor in order to avoid induction? The answer is yes… and no. Read on, I’ll explain.

The ideal situation is when a woman comes for regular acupuncture (1-2 times a week) beginning at week 36. I call this “Labor Preparation Acupuncture”. I have a few goals with these sessions:

  1. To help with any pregnancy related discomforts such as low back or hip pain, insomnia or swelling.
  2. To use acupuncture points which get the woman mentally and emotionally relaxed and in a place where she feels ready and optimistic about giving birth.
  3. To stimulate acupoints which aid in relaxing and opening the pelvic region as well as influence cervical ripening (dilation and effacement).

In my experience, women who follow this schedule tend to go into labor more or less on time (and avoid needing a medical induction) and have shorter labors with fewer complications. Acupuncture treatments gently and gradually send your body a message to get ready for labor. Your body is doing this all on its own, but acupuncture helps it happen more seamlessly and helps you to feel more relaxed and ready when the time comes. And YES being mentally relaxed has a HUGE and very real effect on the progress of labor (see this book for more information).

But what about those women who were mere hours away from being induced- can acupuncture help them? I’ve certainly had many cases where I’ve been able to use acupuncture at the last minute to help women go into labor- it’s powerful stuff! However I’ve seen much greater success, by far, with 3-4 weeks of regular sessions leading up to the due date. Rome wasn’t built in a day my friends, and acupuncture is not the same thing as Pitocin. Thankfully!

I’d also like to take this opportunity to encourage all women to get a birth doula as well as a postpartum doula. Read more about doulas and what they do here and here. And, the best way to avoid unnecessary interventions in labor (such as c-sections and episiotomies) or to achieve a VBAC is to choose your hospital based on its maternity procedure statistics. In New York State, they are found on the Department of Health’s website here.

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Having A Healthy 4th Trimester: Q&A with Amber Star Merkens, Postpartum Doula

Before I met Amber Star Merkens, I had no idea postpartum doulas existed. I immediately had a ton of questions for her because I became so excited about the idea that there are professionals available to help new moms out- this is seriously something everyone needs to know about! If you think doulas are only helping during labor, think again, and read on!

 

What is a doula?

The term doula literally means a woman’s helper. Read more

Prenatal Acupuncture: 3rd Trimester

Pregnant womanAcupuncture during the third trimester of pregnancy can safely be used to treat aches and pains, digestive discomforts and swelling, in addition to two things unique to the third trimester.

First, if a baby is breech or otherwise malpositioned for birth, acupuncture plus a special technique called moxa can be used to turn the baby so he or she is in a head-down position. This works by stimulating special points to increase the baby’s movement, increasing the chance that they will turn. If this is your first baby, the ideal time to try acupuncture is right around 34 weeks. If this is not your first, there is a little more room in the uterus to work with so we can attempt to turn the baby a little later- up to 38 weeks. For more details on this technique please click here to read my blog post devoted to turning breech babies. Read more