I love the fact that I can follow my patients through their pregnancy journeys, from trying to get pregnant to treating their pregnancy issues. But many pregnant women worry about whether acupuncture is safe during pregnancy. In today’s blog, Guest Blogger and acupuncturist Ilana Garsin discusses why you might want to try acupuncture during pregnancy.
Acupuncture performed by an experienced acupuncturist is perfectly safe and effective throughout the pregnancy. Treating during pregnancy does differ from normal treatments. We use less needles, and the duration that they are left in the body is shorter. This is to avoid draining the mother and baby. In addition, there are several points we don’t use, such as the abdomen and lower sacral area.
So does it work? Researchers have found that acupuncture points correspond to deep-set nerves so that when we twirl the needles or electrically stimulate (known as electroacupuncture), the nerves are activated.
Acupuncture is safe throughout pregnancy
Most women experience nausea, reflux, constipation, lack of energy, poor appetite, dizziness, insomnia, and more in early pregnancy. The cause of this is insufficient adjustments by the body to adapt to the changes of pregnancy. Acupuncture can help bring these systems back into balance to eliminate or reduce the above symptoms.
Acupuncture can stimulate certain points in the body that we believe regulate the digestive system, reduce inflammation, constipation and alleviate nausea. This increases the secretion of endorphins and ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) from the pituitary gland, which inhibits the chemoreceptor trigger zone and vomiting centre; these are the areas of the brain that are responsible for nausea and vomiting.
It can help reduce headaches by releasing natural painkillers in the body, such as endorphins and enkephalins. It can also help reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, and promote relaxation, all of which may contribute to a reduction in headache symptoms
As the baby grows in size, more stress is put on the physical side of the body. Sciatica and pelvic pain are common complaints during pregnancy, and acupuncture can be a safe and effective treatment option for managing these symptoms.The insertion of fine needles into these specific points on the body reduces pain by releasing tension and improving the local blood flow, as well as stimulating the brain and spinal cord to produce endorphins (natural pain-relieving chemicals), melatonin (which promotes sleep) and serotonin (to promote wellbeing).
This involves preparing the body for birth and labour. Acupuncture can also address fatigue, relieve body pain and swelling, support the organs responsible for urination and bowel movement, and rebalance your systems to help you get proper sleep.
– Breech Babies
Acupuncture can help to turn a baby in a breech position from 32 to 35 weeks of term.
Instead of needles,we warm the little toe for 20 mins using a heated stick made of the herb moxa. It is possible to repeat this treatment twice a day for 10 days. This treatment may have to be repeated twice a day for up to 10 days. After the initial session, you or your partner can perform it at home. It is thought that the heat encourages the release of two pregnancy hormones – placental oestrogen and prostaglandins – which lead to uterine contractions. These contractions stimulate the baby to move.
– Birth preparation
One of the most important times to have acupuncture during pregnancy is the third trimester to help prepare the body for labour. Routinely, I recommend a set of pre-birth acupuncture points and add specific points based on individual needs.
In the weeks leading up to your due date, acupuncture can really help to calm the nerves, relax the body, soften the cervix (neck of the womb) and generally prepare the body for birth.
It can encourage the body to naturally release the hormones that soften and ripen the cervix (prostaglandins) and the hormone that triggers contractions (oxytocin). It can help to bring the baby into the best possible position for birth, helps to relax muscles and tendons, reduces stress and anxiety in order to prepare for labour and birth.
How acupuncture supports labour
There is evidence showing that acupuncture can reduce the chance of going over the estimated delivery date, and that it may reduce the duration of labour and makes it less likely that birth will need to be induced
A recent research article in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Volume 40, 2020, issue 8, entitled ‘Birth preparation acupuncture for normalising birth: An analysis of NHS service routine data and proof of concept’ found that numerous studies provide evidence for the effects of acupuncture in musculoskeletal preparation of the pelvis, cervical ripening, enhancing endogenous oxytocin release, and analgesic properties. The women who received birth preparation acupuncture had fewer surgical births, required less intrapartum analgesia, fewer components of induction of labour and had a reduced length of hospital stay, supporting the use of maternity acupuncture in normalising birth outcomes
Women who go over their due date of 40 weeks can have my induction treatment with acupuncture to help encourage labour to start naturally without the need for any medical intervention.
From 40 weeks onwards, we recommend having treatment every second day, ideally allowing some time before any medical induction is scheduled. Acupuncture treatment can often facilitate the initiation of contractions. In some cases, women will only require one treatment, but more commonly, two or three treatments are required to sustain contractions. This will depend on how far beyond term the pregnancy is and the health and readiness of the mother and baby.
Acupuncture can help to ensure the smooth transition of your body from pregnancy back to your usual physique. Postpartum acupuncture focuses on your physical, emotional, and psychological recovery from the effects of pregnancy and labour. It also encourages breastfeeding.
Acupuncture can be used for:
– Post-natal depression – There is growing evidence to suggest that acupuncture may be beneficial for the treatment of depression in pregnancy and post-natal depression, as well as having an impact on stress and anxiety and complementing other methods of emotional support.
– Breastfeeding issues – Acupuncture can help reduce inflammation, promote circulation, and stimulate the immune system, all of which can help alleviate the symptoms of mastitis. It can also help promote relaxation and reduce stress, which can be beneficial for nursing mothers.
Research has shown that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for increasing milk flow in breastfeeding mothers. In one study, mothers who received acupuncture treatment had a significant increase in milk production compared to those who did not receive acupuncture.
It works by stimulating certain points on the body that are associated with lactation and milk production. When needles are inserted into these points, it can help increase blood flow and stimulate the production of hormones, such as prolactin, that are involved in milk production.
Acupuncture is a safe, non-invasive treatment for any woman either before, during or after pregnancy. Have you tried acupuncture either before or during pregnancy? Let us know what you think in the Hoopsy community.
Who wrote this article?
Ilana Garsin from www.acupuncturebyilana.co.uk
She is an acupuncturist specialising in Women’s Health, including fertility, pregnancy and menopause. Please contact her to find out how she can support you with your concerns both during and post-pregnancy.