Acupuncture is commonly used to relieve discomfort that is often regarded as a ‘normal’ part of pregnancy.
It is effective in relieving common pregnancy complaints including pregnancy-related fatigue, headaches, back neck or body pains, heartburn, constipation, nausea or vomiting, dermatitis, swelling or puffiness in face or limbs, cramps and more.
Acupuncture can also be an effective tool to treat more complex conditions. It may be used to stop bleeding and prevent miscarriage, it can stimulate development in ‘small-for-dates’ babies, and reduce maternal blood pressure to prevent eclampsia and more.
After your baby is born your body must rapidly adapt to a new set of demands.
Acupuncture can help your body recover from the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth. Acupuncture will be beneficial for you after birth if you are fatigued, depressed, feverish, sweating, restless, bleeding, dizzy, constipated or in pain.
It is effective in treating mastitis and regulating your milk supply and it can also help to restart your menstruation and protect your future fertility.
When should I seek acupuncture treatment in my pregnancy?
If you have specific health issues then make an appointment to see an acupuncturist, who has experience treating pregnant women, as soon as you fall pregnant. Acupuncture will work best to change the course of events when applied early – so if you see spots of blood or have abdominal cramps, an ultrasound will not save your baby but an acupuncture treatment might.
If you are enjoying a smooth untroubled pregnancy then do nothing until the last weeks of your pregnancy. You then may like to have 1-2 sessions with your acupuncturist to prime your body for labour and the delivery.
If, like most women, you are busy working, keeping home and already have several dependants, you will find the extra effort of growing another human being is huge. A regular acupuncture session will boost your energy and make you feel lighter, brighter, calmer and more focused.
Acupuncture during the first trimester focuses on laying a healthy foundation for your pregnancy. Treatment is given to help divert your resources to nourishing your baby and to support the rapid growth of the baby, the womb and lining. The signs that indicate you need this support include fatigue, dizziness, heaviness in back or limbs, body aches, nausea, vomiting, or spots of vaginal bleeding.
During your first 12 weeks treatment is most commonly given to prevent miscarriage, to encourage growth in a small-for-dates baby OR to resolve early pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue.
If your nausea is mild, small dietary adjustments may be enough to manage it. If your nausea is more debilatating then acupuncture can change your digestive system to benefit both you and your baby. If you are regularly vomiting then you may be compromising nourishment of yourself, as well as your baby – in this case acupuncture can be vital to you both.
Research shows acupuncture reduces nausea and benefits the mother from the first treatment. Acupuncture treatment is carried out twice in the first week then followed up with a weekly session until symptoms resolve. Specific acupuncture points are used to harmonise the stomach, regulate digestion and rebalance the body. Chinese herbal tonics may be offered in addition to the acupuncture treatment, if necessary.
Acupuncture often combined with massage, at regular intervals, will optimise your fuel production and your sleep to maintain you in the best shape throughout your pregnancy.
Evidence shows acupuncture provides a substantial and positive increase in energy levels for all expectant mothers. Acupuncture nourishes the mother and supports her to safely carry to full term by enhancing the production of blood and promoting optimal function of the internal organs. If there is an underlying reason for fatigue, such as nausea preventing nourishment or sciatica preventing sleep, acupuncture treats the root cause of the problem and thereby restores energy.
A miscarriage is threatened when there are signs such as vaginal bleeding, aches in the lower back and/or abdominal cramps. This could be a terminal threat to your pregnancy. These signs are a warning that the lining of the uterus is breaking down. If contacted at the earliest sign, your acupuncturist may be able to protect the baby and stop the bleeding.
Acupuncture is carried out twice within a week and then once a week till the pregnancy is safely established. Chinese herbs taken as a tea are added to the treatment if necessary, to strengthen the uterus and support the pregnancy. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs may need to be continued throughout the entire pregnancy.
Once your placenta is established your digestion improves with a resulting increase in energy. Many women enjoy pregnancy without concerns in the second trimester and do not require acupuncture support.
You may seek acupuncture-massage during the second trimester to maintain energy or address ongoing complaints from the first trimester.
During this trimester your tummy will rapidly expand and change your centre of gravity. Your ligaments will loosen to allow the pelvis to open. Your baby will fill the abdominal cavity which squashes the surrounding organs. The work of rapidly growing your baby causes a raise in your body temperature. You may experience fatigue, back pain, hip pain, leg heaviness, disturbed sleep, shortness of breath, palpitations, changes in bowel motions, pregnancy reflux or heartburn, restlessness, agitation, skin rashes etc.
Acupuncture will help regulate your body while it makes all the necessary changes to limit the discomfort you feel.
Toward the end of the third trimester acupuncture prepares you for your labor and delivery. Studies show that women who receive regular acupuncture during the third trimester typically have a shorter and less complicated labour.
Turning a breech baby
Acupuncture can relax the muscles in the uterus and abdomen, while regulating the movements of the womb to create the ideal conditions for the baby to turn.
For thousands of years Traditional Chinese medicine has been used for the treatment of breech presentation. It is successful 70 per cent of the time and carries no risk to mother or baby. Treatment involves combining acupuncture with moxabustion (heat which is applied to the end of acu-needles is gently transmitted into the body). Treatment is generally carried out between weeks 32 to 36 when there is still room for the baby to turn. When successful the baby will turn within 24 hours of the treatment. Moxabustion techniques are taught to the mother to do at home. Breech or posterior babies may turn from the first session.
Preparing for labour
A weekly session of acupuncture at the end of your pregnancy helps focus your energy on the task to be performed. Midwives tell us that women having treatment have more efficient contractions, their cervix softens and opens smoothly and the pelvic ligaments do not strain. Labour room statistics show: Acupuncture reduces the length of time women spend in labour, especially women having their first delivery and there is a noticeable reduction in medical intervention, including induction of labour, use of epidural anesthesia and cesarean delivery.
Inducing labour using acupuncture
Acupuncture offers a safe and natural method for inducing labour. Once your baby is ready, an acupuncture treatment can stimulate the changes necessary to trigger the delivery process. Treatment is given while you remain upright or are seated comfortably. Your acupuncturist will assess what may be limiting your delivery and treat you accordingly. Research has shown a success rate of 88 per cent in stimulating labour in overdue mothers.
After the Birth (Post Partum)
Asian culture preserves a tradition of supporting a mother for one month after delivering a child. In Australian society, within days of giving birth, you are likely to be expected to be keeping house and supporting your family.
Your acupuncturist can provide some support for your physical and mental recovery. If you cannot have bed rest then some blood tonics can prevent months of fatigue, mood swings, jagged sleep, colds and fevers. Treatment to improve blood circulation, after the birth, will result in a good quality breast milk supply which can calm, satisfy and nourish your new baby. A well-fed baby will also enable you to rest and recover more effectively.
Acupuncture also offers solutions to common post-natal complaints such as insufficient lactation, urination difficulty, abdominal cramps, bleeding, hair loss, constipation, fever, post natal depression, night sweats and mastitis.
– by Maria Berry and Stacy Robson from Acu Med Ascot
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