Pregnancy Care and Chinese Medicine
Many women wonder whether it is safe to receive acupuncture during pregnancy. The simple answer is yes! Chinese medicine has a long history in pregnancy care. Receiving acupuncture during pregnancy is not only safe but can be greatly beneficial. If you have been receiving acupuncture regularly or have experienced it before, pregnancy is a great time to continue with treatments or to come back in for supportive treatments. If you have never had acupuncture before becoming pregnant, you may feel hesitant to start as a new patient, but rest assured, the practice is safe to receive and can even ease the process of pregnancy.
Choosing an acupuncturist who specializes in pregnancy can be of great benefit during this time. Caring for pregnant patients is a unique specialty that should not be taken lightly. Always choose a reputable, licensed practitioner and someone who you can feel comfortable reaching a state of relaxation with while feeling protected and safe. When done correctly and with care, Chinese Medicine can be very beneficial and comforting support.
Early Pregnancy Care and Chinese Medicine
During the first trimester, many women experience moderate to extreme fatigue sometimes with nausea, headaches, mood swings, or constipation. Treating these symptoms naturally offers a great option for women who want the support of natural medicine including acupuncture and herbal healing, rather than pharmaceutical drugs. Chinese Medicine has been used for thousands of years and the practice is refined, systematic, and intuitive. Along with a healthy lifestyle and diet, acupuncture and other Chinese Medicine modalities can help women during this important phase of life.
If you are experiencing morning sickness, you might be ready to try something, or anything, to gain relief from nausea and vomiting. There are various acupuncture points that are indicated for nausea and are safe to use during pregnancy. Many women experience a reduction in symptoms after treatment. You can also gain information about acupressure techniques that can be completed at home for when morning sickness comes on suddenly. Studies have shown that using the acupuncture point known as PC-6 is effective in reducing symptoms of morning sickness. In one study, 59% of women who were treated with acupuncture at PC-6 had a reduction of symptoms, while those in the untreated (placebo) group had a 25% reduction of morning sickness symptoms.
Acupuncture, along with the traditional practice of moxibustion, can be helpful in turning a breech baby during the third trimester before week 37 of the pregnancy. Moxibustion is the practice of burning mugwort herbs close to the skin to produce warmth in the area. This is done at a specific point, UB-67, located on the little (pinkie) toes. This can be done in the office and then repeated twice daily at home. Many women report that their baby becomes more active in the womb during the treatment. This is a great treatment to try because it does not force the baby to move but may stimulate them to move on their own into another comfortable downward-facing position for delivery. Studies estimate the success of this treatment to be between 69-85%.
Sciatica (lumbar radiculopathy) is a shooting pain that radiates down the sciatic nerve from the low back to the hip and leg. It can cause debilitating pain that can be especially exacerbated during pregnancy. Depending on the pain presentation, various points and practices may be used to bring relief. In cases of cold blockage, moxibustion can be applied to warm the area and relax muscles and sore ligaments. Acupuncture is also effective in providing relief from symptoms like tingling, burning sensations, weakness, or numbness in the sciatic area.
Women who are overdue can also receive acupuncture using points to facilitate induction. While this procedure doesn’t work for all women, it is a great option to try if a natural induction is strongly preferred. Typically, this type of acupuncture is done more frequently (every 1-3 days) until labor starts. Acupuncture also relieves stress and anxiety which can commonly occur when a woman passes her due date.
Herbal Medicine Support
When necessary Chinese herbs may also be recommended during different stages of pregnancy and can be helpful for a wide variety of symptoms and complications of pregnancy. However, as helpful as Chinese herbs can be, it’s important to work with a trained herbalist as certain herbs are contraindicated and should be avoided during pregnancy. When taken during pregnancy, Chinese herbs are often not necessary to take throughout the pregnancy, except in special situations as directed by a Chinese herbalist. Yet, when it comes to pregnancy preparation, herbal support can be extremely beneficial in preparing the body for conception. Some safe herbs commonly used in and after pregnancy include Yan Wo to stimulate digestion, Zhong Guo Ren Shen (Chinese Ginseng) to restore strength after birth or with loss of blood, and Dang Gui, an herb commonly used to treat gynecological issues and regulate menstruation or for infertility. Some herbs and supplements that should never be taken during pregnancy include castor oil, guan mu tang, aloe, or mang xiao. Contraindicated herbs can move the blood too vigorously by promoting circulation, so these are actively avoided.
Chinese Medicine Nutritional Guidance
Chinese Medicine considers the taste, temperature (inherent), and function of foods to determine and categorize food as medicine. Each food works independently and synergistically to promote functions within the body. Interestingly, some of the most recommended foods to eat during pregnancy include:
- Lean Meat
- Fresh Fruits
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet during pregnancy is beneficial for both mom and baby, and provides essential nutrients for early childhood development. Foods should include robust essential nutrients of calcium, folate, iron, and protein.
Receiving Acupuncture in Pregnancy
Overall, acupuncture is a safe and gentle calming treatment that benefits the mother and baby. Chinese Medicine has a long history of providing care for pregnant women. Acupuncture can assist in many pregnancy-related situations and can ease sometimes debilitating symptoms, ranging from pain mitigation, headaches, carpal tunnel, relaxation support, relieving morning sickness, and more. Especially in the modern day, taking the time to feel relaxed and supported during pregnancy can ease stress and allow for a smooth transition into motherhood.