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. Read more
Posts Tagged: Prenatal Acupuncture
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:
- To help with any pregnancy related discomforts such as low back or hip pain, insomnia or swelling.
- 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.
- To stimulate acupoints which aid in relaxing and opening the pelvic region as well as influence cervical ripening (dilation and effacement). I also focus on getting the baby into the optimal position, if not already there.
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 utilize 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? Choose your hospital based on its maternity procedure statistics. In New York State, they are found on the Department of Health’s website here.
I remember the first time I had a migraine. It was a typical, sunny and humid 95 degree summer day in Virginia, and I had just driven to work to start my high school job at a pharmacy. As I got out of the car, all of a sudden I realized that I was seeing stars, but only out of one eye. As I started my work day, the vision disturbance got worse and worse, until only my peripheral vision was left. My head hurt slightly, but this definitely felt different from any headache I’d had before. The pharmacist at my job advised me to have a cup of coffee- she said caffeine was good for a migraine. It clicked: “Ah, so this is a migraine!” Gradually my vision improved and I could see again.
As someone who has experienced years of chronic tension headaches, and occasional migraines, I can tell you that I understand the feelings of frustration and fatigue that come along with constant pain. Like many people, I eventually resigned myself to thinking this daily pain was the new normal, and I didn’t notice it that much after a while. However while I was in acupuncture school, I decided to try treatments in the student clinic and see what might happen. Just a few acupuncture treatments completely got rid of my daily tension headaches, and greatly reduced my migraines. Now that I have been practicing acupuncture for 10 years, I can tell you that my experience was not unusual- acupuncture is enormously helpful to my patients with headaches and migraines and I can’t recall a patient who didn’t experience at least some reduction in pain. Read more
Acupuncture 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
At this point in pregnancy, most women feel they’ve cleared a hurdle and begin to feel like themselves again. Morning sickness can persist but generally becomes less intense, and energy level also improves. A few new issues may pop up during the second trimester that acupuncture can help a lot with. Migraines and headaches, common in pregnancy, respond beautifully to acupuncture treatment. Usually, once weekly sessions is enough to keep them completely at bay. Some women begin to experience nasal congestion as well. My favorite way to quickly get rid of this is to needle a point called “bitong”- there is one point on each side of the nose, where the edge of the nostril meets the face. It is reliable for draining congestion from the sinuses. Read more