Regular acupuncture during pregnancy along with proper nutrition helps create a strong foundation for a healthy mother and baby. Ideally nutritional assessments are addressed pre-conception but are critical as soon as pregnancy is discovered to ensure that the mother and baby’s needs are met. Women who receive acupuncture during pregnancy often have a shorter and easier birth experience than women who don’t receive acupuncture.
Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment used to alleviate some of the normal but difficult symptoms related to pregnancy including:
Throughout the first trimester acupuncture is focused on creating a healthy foundation for pregnancy. Treatment emphasis is on preventing miscarriage, regulating the immune system and easing any early pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue. At the end of 12 weeks the ancient “beautiful baby point” or “guest house” point which has been used in Chinese Medicinefor centuries to ensure a healthy baby is stimulated. Recommended frequency of treatments during the first trimester is once a week for optimal results.
During the second and third trimester acupuncture treatment is employed to maintain balance and offer relief from many of the common complaints of pregnancy. Again at the end of the second trimester the traditional “beautiful baby” treatment is repeated.
Recommended frequency of treatments will vary with each mother depending on her symptoms. Treatment may be only once or twice per month if the pregnancy is uncomplicated and there are no complaints. If there are complications or increased symptoms treatment can be more frequent.
Acupuncture supports the physical and emotional preparation leading up to labor and birth. Studies have shown that women who received acupuncture once a week during the last month of pregnancy had significantly shorter labor than women who did not receive acupuncture. Starting at week 36, once weekly acupuncture helps the body to physically prepare for delivery.
If there is a breech presentation, moxibustion therapy which involves the warming of specific points on the feet with the infusion of of the Chinese herb Artemesia or mugwort, is effectively used between weeks 32-36 when there is still enough room for the baby to turn. It is successful about 75% of the time within 24 hours of treatment though for some mothers repeating the treatment several times may be necessary. It is believed that moxibustion stimulation on this area of the body releases hormones that cause increased uterine and fetal activity which prompts the baby to turn.
Acupuncture Labor Induction
If signs of labor have not presented or are coming more slowly than desired at week 40, specific acupuncture induction protocols can be used safely as long as there are no serious complications involved with the pregnancy. Acupuncture induction is a gentler alternative to the administering of Pitocin which immediately stimulates contractions whether the mother’s body or the baby is ready or not. This can lead to fetal distress, more painful labor and if labor fails to progress the necessity of cesarean procedures.
Acupuncture labor induction slowly induces uterine contractions, softening of the cervix and the increases the release of the body’s own prostaglandins and oxytocin which are endogenous labor inducers. This allows for a more gentle and naturally paced process. Depending on the mother and how far along she is, the number of treatments may vary from one to several over a period of consecutive days until she is ready.
Traditionally in China and many other cultures after giving birth women were afforded the utmost in rest and care to allow for full restoration of her health and strength. The most nutritious foods and herbs were given post partum to heal the body from birth and restore hormonal balance. Not so in modern times and in fact this is a very vulnerable time for new mothers faced with the demands of caring for a new baby while their physical and mental states are depleted. This leaves them more susceptible to illness and future health problems and doesn’t allow for a restoration of reproductive health. Many women experience postpartum depression, recurrent bleeding, mastitis and lactation difficulties as well as decreased energy and hormonal imbalances that may not self correct. It is very beneficial to new mothers to follow a restorative health plan post partum that includes special dietary recommendations, nutritional and herbal supplementation andacupuncture to give back all that creating new life has depleted.