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Is Acupuncture Safe During The First Trimester? Here’s The Evidence…

Many women who are newly pregnant ask me whether acupuncture is safe during pregnancy- specifically during the first trimester. They really want to try or continue acupuncture for a variety of reasons, but are quite mindful of avoiding anything that could put the pregnancy at risk.  I can say it is safe without hesitation, not only from my nearly 10 years in practice but from all the years of experience of my teachers and mentors. However I completely understand that women, their doctors and midwives want more than just anecdotal evidence. So without further ado- here are the studies which I feel should put your mind at ease.

  1. Pregnancy Outcome Following Women’s Participation In A Randomized Controlled Trial of Acupuncture to Treat Nausea and Vomiting in Early Pregnancy, Smith C et al., Complement Ther Med. 2002 Jun;10(2):78-83.

This study, the largest to date, looked at just under 600 women, and was a randomized controlled trial (RCT), considered the gold standard of study design. The researchers compared women who had gotten two types of acupuncture, “sham” acupuncture or no acupuncture at all. They concluded there were no differences in perinatal outcomes (including miscarriage), congenital abnormalities, complications during pregnancy or any differences between the health of the infants. Since the study was quite large and was an RCT, we can have a high degree of confidence that the findings are valid.

2. Cochrane Review: Interventions for Nausea and Vomiting of Early Pregnancy, Matthews A et al, Sept. 2015

This link is to a Cochrane Review, which looks at many different studies, analyzes the quality of data in the studies and draws conclusions based on them all. This review actually concluded that there is no high quality evidence for any method’s efficacy in treating nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy (it’s important to note this is not to say that nothing helps, just that more studies need to be done), however, for the purposes of this blog post, the most important conclusion drawn was that there is no evidence of increased rates of miscarriage for women who received acupuncture or acupressure.

Now that you hopefully feel more certain that acupuncture is safe during pregnancy, it’s important to point out one caveat- it’s safe when performed by a trained and licensed professional. Please seek out a referral for who to go to from your doctor or midwife, or the NCCAOM, which is the national commission which certifies and licenses acupuncturists.

Just a few things acupuncture can help with during the first trimester:

  • Nausea and Vomiting (commonly known as morning sickness)
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Fatigue
  • Support for ‘threatened miscarriage’ (bleeding during early pregnancy)

For more information on the above items, check out my posting on acupuncture during the first trimester.