Acupuncture – offering a safe, effective and drug free treatment option during pregnancy. 

HISTORY OF ACUPUNCTURE AND PREGNANCY

For over 3000 years Traditional Chinese Medicine has promoted specialized treatment for women during pregnancy and postpartum recovery. Today this care is becoming increasingly popular and used by acupuncturists and specially trained midwives in countries all over the world. Pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal recovery are viewed in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a window of opportunity  to enhance the woman’s well being. Conversely if adequate care is not taken the resulting problems may continue long after the birth. Value is therefore placed on promoting preventive care to strengthen the mother and baby as well as dealing with problems as they occur during pregnancy. Acupuncture can be used in a variety of ways to promote fetal and maternal health. 

ACUPUNCTURE CAN HELP WITH NAUSEA DURING PREGNANCY

Acupuncture is often very effective in reducing both the severity and incidence of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Research (1) highlighted that women receiving traditional acupuncture (where points are chosen based on individual diagnosis) experienced faster relief when compared to those groups receiving routine prescribed point or “sham” acupuncture. This research also concluded that “acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for women who experience nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy” (2)

MUSCULOSKELETAL PAIN DURING PREGNANCY

Back pain, rib pain, sciatica and symphysis pubis pain are common in pregnancy and can all be markedly reduced with acupuncture. Research from Sweden (3) concluded that when compared to physiotherapy, acupuncture was the treatment of choice for symphysis pubis and sacroiliac pain. 

ACUPUNCTURE CAN HELP WITH BREECH AND POSTERIOR BABIES

It is recommended that acupuncture care for women with breech presentation (4) be offered to women from 33 weeks gestation. This follows research from Italy (5) that demonstrated moxibustion can have a significant effect in helping to turn breech babies. Ideally treatment is at 34-35 weeks, but can still be useful when used later in the pregnancy. Techniques with acupuncture can also help babies that are not in the optimal position prior to birth, such as those in posterior position. 

HYPERTENSION IMPROVED BY ACUPUNCTURE

Acupuncture can have an important role in assisting to reduce high blood pressure especially if treatment is commenced early when hypertension is first noted. The effectiveness of acupuncture will be reflected in the improved blood pressure readings and blood tests used by midwives and specialists to detect possible complications. As hypertension has the potential to escalate quickly, ongoing medical monitoring remains essential throughout pregnancy. 

USE OF ACUPUNCTURE TO PREPARE FOR LABOUR PRESENTATION

Acupuncture treatments to help with labour presentation can start three to four weeks before one’s due date to prepare the pelvis and cervix. This is followed by one treatment per week until labour begins. Research from Germany (6) indicated the potential for a more efficient active stage of labour. A New Zealand study with midwives (7) indicated a reduction in women requiring medical intervention, including medical induction and cesarean section. 

ACUPUNCTURE CAN BE AN ALTERNATIVE TO MEDICAL INDUCTION

Acupuncture can provide a gentle inducement to labour if the baby is overdue and can be an effective alternative to medical induction. Research from Norway (8) on the use of acupuncture for women with premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) concluded that “ideally acupuncture treatment should be offered to all women with PROM and other women who wish to use this method to facilitate their birth and keep it normal”. 

ACUPUNCTURE – PAIN RELIEF DURING LABOUR

Acupuncture offers drug free alternatives for pain relief during labour (9). Acupressure provides similar results (10) with the advantage that support people can use it during labour.

ACUPUNCTURE CAN HELP WITH OTHER PREGNANCY PROBLEMS

Treatment can be used to relieve a variety of conditions, including;

  • Anaemia
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Heartburn
  • Haemorrhoids or Vulval Varices
  • Insomnia
  • Oedema
  • Headaches
  • Sinus Problems
  • Threatened Miscarriage
  • Tiredness and exhaustion
  • Thrush

1. Smith C, Crowther C, Beilby J (2002) “Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: a randomized trial”. Birth. 29(1):1-9

2. Smith C, Crowther C, Beilby J (2002). “Pregnancy outcome following women’s participation in a randomised controlled trial of acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy”. Complement Ther Med. 10(2):78-83

3. Elden H, (2005) Ladfors I, Faggevid Olsen M, Ostaard H, Hagberg H. “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(7494):761

4. www.nzgg.org.nz/guidelines/0074/caesarean

5. Cardini F, Weixin H. (1998). “Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation”. Journal American Medical Association. 280:1580-1584

6. Kubista E, Kucera H. (1974) On the use of acupuncture in the preparation for delivery”. Geburtshilfe Perinatol; 178(3):224-9

7. Betts D, Lenox S (2006) Acupuncture for prebirth treatment: An Observational Study of its use in Midwifery practice. Medical Acupuncture. Vo17 No3

8. Gaudernack L, Forbord S, Hole E. (2007) Acupuncture administed after spontaneous rupture of membranes at term significanly reduces the length of birth and use of oxytocin. A Randomised controlled trial. Midirs Midwifery Digest. Vol 17, No2

9. Hantoushzadeh S. Alhusseini N Lebaschi A (2007) The effects of acupuncture during labour on Nulliparous Women: A randomised controlled trial. Australian and New Zealand Journal of OBGYN 47: 26-30

10. Chung UL J. (2003) Effrects of LI4 and BL67 Acupressure on Labour Pain and Uterine Contractions in the First Stage of Labour. Nurse Res: 11(4):251-60