Acupuncture For Pregnancy
Most women experience some degree of nausea and or vomiting in early pregnancy which usually settles by the time they reach their 16th- 20 th week of pregnancy.
If vomiting is severe it is advisable to contact your own midwife or GP as it may be may be a condition known as ‘hyperemesis gravidarum’ which may require hospital admission.
Acupuncture has been shown in studies to be effective in treating morning sickness (Smith et al, 2002), and offers pregnant women a drug free option. Often women will experience immediate relief from symptoms with the use of a minimal amount of needles.
Click here for more information on acupuncture research and morning sickness
Click here for more information on morning sickness and practical advice on alleviating it
Tiredness and exhaustion during pregnancy
Many women experience tiredness and even exhaustion during pregnancy. This is often at its worse during the first twelve weeks and in the last trimester of pregnancy. Various factors may contribute to exhaustion including in insomnia, looking after other young children, working late into the pregnancy, anaemia and even anxiety about the birth.
Acupuncture may help to relieve tiredness and exhaustion by treating some of the underlying patterns that Traditional Chinese medicine may identify. Many women find acupuncture a relaxing experience which may help to reduce symptoms of stress and thus improve sleep
Anxiety and Depression in Pregnancy
Hormonal changes and tiredness mean that difficulties with mood can be common in pregnancy. Indeed Pre Natal Depression is now an increasingly recognised syndrome.
Research evidence strongly supports the use of acupuncture in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
Click here for an extensive briefing paper on the evidence supporting acupuncture in the treatment of anxiety and depression
Some women become anaemic during pregnancy. Symptoms may include exhaustion, dizziness, pallor, and breathlessness on exertion.
In Traditional Chinese medicine there are specific acupuncture points that can be used in pregnancy to build and improve the quality of the blood. Acupuncture combined with dietary advice which we can offer, may help to improve your anaemia and help to relieve the associated symptoms.
Click here for dietary advice on improving blood quality
Common during pregnancy and after the birth, haemorrhoids can cause discomfort through pain and itching. Combined with dietary advice, acupuncture may be effective in helping to relieve the unpleasant symptoms of haemorrhoids.
Pelvic Girdle pain (often called SPD)
Pain around the pubic bone is common in pregnancy, and may cause some pregnant women considerable discomfort and difficulty in walking, climbing stairs and getting out of bed. Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment for pelvic girdle pain and more effective than physiotherapy in relieving pain and improving mobility (Elden et al, 2005).
Click here for more information on acupuncture research and SPD
Headaches and Pregnancy
The demands of pregnancy mean that women who wouldn’t normally experience headaches may suffer from this condition. Often headaches are worse in women who are prone to them in day to day life.
Strong evidence supports the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating headaches.
Click here to access a briefing paper setting out some of this evidence.
Breech Presentation (bottom first)
Breech presentation is very common in pregnancy and most babies (96-97%) will turn to head first by full term. If your baby persists as breech you may be offered an ECV (external cephalic version) by your obstetrician which involves manipulating the baby through your abdomen, to a head first (cephalic) presentation.
Moxibustion is another option to encourage your baby to turn to head first and much used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves warming an acupuncture point located at the corner of the little toes (Bladder 67) on both feet. Studies suggest that heating this point for 10-15 minutes daily for 7-14 days increases fetal movements and encourages babies to turn to head first (Cardini and Huang, 1998).
Success rates of 53.6% -81% have been reported in studies. The best time to start treatment appears to be around 34 weeks. Studies have also shown that moxibustion appears to be a safe option.
If you are interested in moxibustion we can teach you how to carry it out safely.
Click here for more information on research and moxa treatment for breech
Insomnia is common in all stages of pregnancy and may be due to a number of reasons including frequent waking to empty the bladder, stress, and or an inability to get comfortable because of the growing baby.
Acupuncture may help to relieve insomnia by treating some of the underlying patterns that Traditional Chinese medicine may identify. Many women find acupuncture a relaxing experience which may help to reduce symptoms of stress and thus improve sleep.
Backache / Sciatica
Backache and sciatica are common in pregnancy and may cause considerable discomfort in walking, sitting or sleeping.
Acupuncture has been shown in clinical studies to be effective in reducing the pain of backache, increasing mobility and significantly more effective than pain killers such as paracetamol, physiotherapy or exercises (Wedenberg et al, 2000; da Silva et al, 2004). In one large study 72% of pregnant women found acupuncture gave good or excellent relief for their backache (Ternov et al, 2001).
Optimal Fetal positioning
The optimum position for a baby to be in before at the start of labour is head first (cephalic) and with the back of their head and back towards the front of the mothers abdomen (anterior position). This position increases the chance of having a shorter, less painful labour and a normal birth.
Baby in an anterior position.
Some babies adopt a posterior position (back to back), in which their back lies towards the mother’s spine. This position has been shown in studies to increase the likelihood of induction of labour, increase the length of labour, cause increased backache in labour, increase the risk of a ventouse or forceps delivery and increase the risk of perineal trauma (Fitzpatrick et al, 2001). Your midwife will be able to check the position of your baby as you approach your due date.
To help prevent your baby adopting a posterior position before and during labour we suggest
Acupuncture may help your baby to move from a posterior position to an anterior position before the birth. We may suggest that you use moxibustion to do this whereby we will show you how to heat an acupuncture point on the corner of your little toe. We can also give you some very small ear press needles to use in labour if your baby reverts to a posterior position. These are very easy to use.
- When sitting on a chair have your knees lower than your pelvis- you may need to sit on cushion and have a cushion behind your back to facilitate this
- Spend some time each day on all fours – perhaps leaning over a birth ball when watching TV. This is a good position to adopt in labour.
- When lying down try to lie on your left side- a good position to use in labour when you are tired.
PreBirth Acupuncture to prepare for labour
Weekly acupuncture treatments from 37 weeks of pregnancy may help to ripen the cervix, encourage the baby to adopt a good position for birth and also help to energize a woman in preparation for the birth.
A clinical study in New Zealand (Betts& Lennox, 2006) showed that women having PreBirth acupuncture had a
• 35% reduction in medical inductions ( 43% in women having their first baby)
• 31% reduction in the epidurals
• 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery
• 9 % increase in normal vaginal births
Click here for more information on research on pre-birth acupuncture to prepare for labour
Induction of labour
Most pregnant women are routinely offered medical induction of labour at Term +12, although this may be offered earlier if there are complications. Prior to induction women may be offered a ‘stretch and sweep’ by their midwife to encourage them to go into labour spontaneously.
Acupuncture is another approach to encourage women to go into labour spontaneously. Studies have shown that women treated with acupuncture when overdue are less likely to require medical induction of labour (Rabl, 2001)
Click here for more information on acupuncture research and the induction of labour
If you are suffering severe constipation you may benefit from acupuncture. Give us a ring and we can talk through your options.
In the meantime, you might try this traditional remedy for constipation in pregnancy which the Chinese swear by for mild to moderate cases:
Dissolve a tablespoon of honey in warm water, and take it at night before bed. Simple!
- Betts, D & Lennox, S. (2006) Acupuncture For Prebirth Treatment: An Observational Study Of Its Use In Midwifery Practice. Medical acupuncture,17(3):17-20
- Cardini, F & Huang, W.(1998) Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation. JAMA , 280:1580-1584
- da Silva, J.B.G., Nakamura, M.U., Cordeiro, J.A., Kulay, L.(2004) Acupuncture for Low Back Pain in Pregnancy- a prospective, quasi-randomised, controlled study. Acupuncture in Medicine, 22(2):60-67.
- Elden, H., Ladfors, L., Olsen, M.F., Ostgaard, H.C., Hagberg, H.(2005) Effects of acupuncture and stabilising exercises as adjunct to standard treatment in pregnant women with pelvic girdle pain: randomised single blind controlled trial. British Medical Journal, 330:761-765.
- Fitzpatrick, M., McQuillan, K. & O’Herlihy, C. (2001) Influence of Persistent Occiput Posterior Position on Delivery Outcome. Obstetrics & Gynecology ;98:1027-1031
- Manber, R., Schnyer, R.N., Allen, J.J., Rush, A.J., Blasey, C.M.(2004) Acupuncture: a promising treatment for depression during pregnancy. J Affect Disord. 15;83(1):89-95.
- Rabl, M. , Ahner, R., Bitschnau, M., Zeisler, H., Husslein, P. et al. (2001) Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term-a randomised controlled trial. Wiener klinische wochenschrift (The Middle European Journal of Medicine.) 113(23-24):942-946
- Smith, C., Crowther, C., Beilby, J. (2002) Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: a randomized trial. Birth, Mar:29 (1):1-9
- Ternov, N.K., Grennert, L., Aberg, A., Algotsson, L., Akeson, J.(2001). Acupuncture for lower back and pelvic pain in late pregnancy: a retrospective report on 167 consecutive cases. Pain Med, 2(3):204-7.
- Wang, L., Sun, D.W., Zou, W, Zhang, J.Y.( 2008). Systematic evaluation of therapeutic effect and safety of acupuncture for treatment of depression. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu, 28(5):381-6.
- Wedenberg, K., Moen, B., Norling, A.(2000) A prospective randomized study comparing acupuncture with physiotherapy for low back and pelvic pain in pregnancy. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand, 79 (5):331-5.
© George Cooper/Katherine Allen 2008