Editor’s Note: Good morning readers. Registered Acupuncturist and Herbalist Michelle Hughes is here discussing the use of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine during pregnancy. Here she is:
Treating women during pregnancy is an area of Traditional Chinese medicine that is continuing to grow, as more and more women realize the benefits of including acupuncture and Chinese medicine into their prenatal wellness plan.
In Asia, Chinese medicine has been used for thousands of years on millions of women during pregnancy as a safe natural alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. Regular acupuncture treatments throughout pregnancy enhance the health of the mother, prevent complications during pregnancy and positively influence the health of the baby.
First Trimester Acupuncture Can Help Reduce:
- Morning sickness,
- Stress and anxiety, and
Acupuncture is extremely effective in the treatment of nausea and morning sickness with many patients noticing immediate relief after their treatment. I will often send patients home with acupressure press beads, used to stimulate the acupuncture points between office visits.
Things That Can Help:
- Eat small meals throughout the day and something before getting out of bed, never get hungry,
- Avoid sugary foods,
- Drink enough fluids. Ginger or peppermint tea sipped throughout the day is helpful to aid digestion and calm the stomach, and
- Acupressure. Wear sea bands on wrists. These bands stimulate important acupuncture points for nausea. The point is two inches above the inside wrist crease between the tendons.
An Australian study published in the journal Birth, reports that 593 women less than 14 weeks pregnant who received acupuncture reported having less frequent and shorter periods of nausea, than women who received no acupuncture. These improvements were felt immediately and lasted the four weeks of treatment.
Second Trimester Acupuncture Can Help Reduce:
- Stress and anxiety,
- Pubic pain,
- Back ache or sciatica, and
Many women experience pain during pregnancy, as the ligaments of the body relax and the weight of the baby increases. Acupuncture is an effective, natural pain reliever for carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain or pelvic pain.
A study published online in the British Medical Journal March 17, 2005 on pelvic pain relief, found that acupuncture combined with strengthening exercises showed the greatest reduction in pelvic girdle pain, compared to the control group who was given standard care and the second group who was only given the strengthening exercises.
Acupuncture helps to calm the stomach and aid digestion to relieve heartburn. Many women experience immediate relief from their heartburn. I also send patients home with acupressure press beads to stimulate the acupuncture point and provide 24 hour relief.
- Do not eat between 7-9:00pm, as this is the natural resting time of the stomach,
- Eat only light meals,
- Limit fluid intake at meal time,
- Keep upper body raised at night,
- Sit up for one hour after eating,
- Press on the acupressure point located between the first and second toe which corresponds to the stomach meridian, and
- Drink peppermint, chamomile or lemon balm tea.
Third Trimester Acupuncture Can Help Reduce:
- Back ache or sciatica,
- Pubic or joint pain,
- Carpal tunnel syndrome,
- Breech presentation, and
- Labor pain.
The treatment of babies in the breech position is very exciting, as it is extremely simple and very effective. An acupuncture treatment is given in the office to encourage the baby to turn, as well as moxabustion.
Moxabustion is the burning of a mugwort herbal stick close to certain acupuncture points, which stimulates fetal activity and allows the uterus to relax to allow more room for the baby to move. The moxabustion sticks and instructions are then given to the women to use at home for the next 5-10 days. The baby often will turn within the first 48 hours. This treatment is most successful if performed between 32-36 weeks.
The November 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that moxabustion, when applied to 130 pregnant women with breech presentations, significantly increased the number of head first births.
Preparation for Birth
Weekly acupuncture visits in the last month of pregnancy have made a big difference in my patient’s birth experiences. These visits help to prepare the mother and baby for birth, alleviating emotional worries and fears and physically preparing the body for birth.
Weekly acupuncture visits at this stage of the pregnancy help with:
- Cervical ripening,
- Preparing the perineum for labor and preventing tearing,
- Shortening the duration of labor,
- Reducing the rate of Caesarean sections,
- Reducing the requests for pain medications or epidurals,
- Lessening the need for oxytoxin to speed up labor,
- Greater satisfaction with birth experience, and
- Boosting energy and helping with pain relief.
A study by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Vienna found that acupuncture supports cervical ripening at term and can shorten the time interval between the delivery date and the actual time of delivery. Women who had acupuncture received less oxytoxin, and the first stage of labor was shortened by 125 minutes
Acupuncture for cervical maturation protocol was carried out on 98 patients divided into three groups: a control group, a placebo group and an acupuncture group. If acupuncture sessions were started at the beginning of the ninth month, cervical maturation was improved. The bishop score in the three groups was a significant 2.61 in the group treated with acupuncture, compared with .85 in the control group and 1.08 in the placebo group.
The treatment of pregnant women with acupuncture and Chinese medicine is a very exciting area to work, since more and more women are discovering the benefits during their pregnancy - from managing pain and morning sickness to maintaining health throughout pregnancy and preparing for a healthy birth.
Traditional Chinese medicine is not intended to replace medical treatments from your physician or midwife. But, it is an important complimentary therapy to include in your health care.
Photo courtesy of Comox Valley Acupuncture.