For over 3000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine has promoted specialized treatment for women during pregnancy. Today, this care is becoming increasingly popular and used by acupuncturists and midwives around the world. Pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period are viewed in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a window of opportunity to enhance the woman’s well-being. Value is strongly placed on promoting preventive care that strengthens the mother and baby as well as managing problems as they occur during pregnancy. Some of the ways that acupuncture can be used to promote fetal and maternal health are listed below.
Nausea During Pregnancy
Acupuncture is often very effective in reducing both the severity and incidence of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Research has shown that women receiving acupuncture experienced faster relief of their symptoms. Acupuncture is considered a safe and effective treatment for women who experience nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy.
Back pain, rib pain, sciatica and symphysis pubis pain are common in pregnancy and can all be markedly reduced with acupuncture. Research has demonstrated that acupuncture is even more effective than physiotherapy for the treatment pain from the symphysis pubis and sacroiliac joints.
Breech and Babies in a Posterior Position
International research studies have repeated demonstrated that the care of women with a breech presentation including moxibustion is safe and effective in achieving a fetus in the proper position. Ideally treatment occurs at 34 to 35 weeks, but can still be useful at later gestational ages. Similarly, acupuncture techniques can also help babies that are not in the optimal position prior to birth, such as those in a posterior position.
Acupuncture can play an important role in assisting to reduce high blood pressure, especially if treatment is initiated early in the pregnancy. Used in conjunction with traditional medical management, acupuncture may help reduce blood pressure as well as the associated complications. As hypertension has the potential to escalate quickly, ongoing medical monitoring remains essential throughout pregnancy.
Research from Germany and New Zealand indicates a potential benefit in reducing medical intervention during labor as well as the need for a Caesarean section when acupuncture is initiated three to four weeks prior to the due date. The treatments prepare the pelvis and cervix before labor, potentially providing a more efficient active stage of labor.
Acupuncture can provide a gentle inducement to labor if the baby is overdue and can be an effective alternative to a medical induction. Research from Norway on the use of acupuncture for women with premature rupture of membranes (PROM) concluded that acupuncture in this setting could facilitate a normal labor progression.
There are specific acupuncture techniques that promote recovery, especially in the postpartum period. Conditions that can be helped by acupuncture include insufficient lactation, poor wound healing and scar tissue repair, postpartum depression and urinary incontinence. Also, Traditional Chinese Medicine offers even more options such as “mother warming” treatments that can be given by a partner and advice on diet and the use of specific herbs that are beneficial in the postpartum period.
Acupuncture treatments can be used to relieve a variety of conditions including:
- Carpal Tunnel syndrome
- Hemorrhoids and Vulval varices
- Sinus problems
- Threatened miscarriage
Acupuncture offers a safe, effective and drug-free treatment option during pregnancy and the postpartum period.