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Acupuncture During Pregnancy

Updated: Feb 5

During pregnancy women often experience aches and pains, changes in hormones

affecting mood, and feelings of being ill through at least some of the pregnancy. However, for some these symptoms can last for months. Because of this, turning to acupuncture rather than over the counter medication may be a better option for some mothers-to-be.


There are a number of reasons why prenatal acupuncture can help support women through pregnancy.


Alleviates Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Morning sickness and fatigue during the first trimester are common symptoms reported by mothers-to-be. There are a number of options to alleviate these symptoms such as ginger tea, ginger gummies and crackers which work for some, but there are many women who suffer for weeks.

A 2002 study (1) followed a group of nearly 600 women while they received acupuncture for four weeks during their first trimester. The women who received acupuncture had a significant decrease in their symptoms of nausea and "dry retching."

A 2019 review of studies (2) published in "Acupuncture in Medicine" found acupuncture to reduce fatigue severity better than other similar alternative therapies.


Aches & Pains

Aches and pains are common in the 2nd trimester. This is caused by Relaxin, a hormone produced by the ovary and the placenta. The effects of relaxin, include increased mobility in joints such as the hips and feet, usually around week 6, peaking at week 12. The pubic symphysis and sacroiliac joints are particularly affected and can lead to pelvic and low back pain.


Decreases Antepartem Depression

Antepartum depression affects one in seven pregnant women. It is generally thought to be caused by a combination of hormonal changes and psychological disturbances associated with pregnancy.

A 2004 study at Stanford University (3) on the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating antepartum depression had favourable outcomes. The study reported that although high rates of postpartum depression are typically observed among women who suffer from depression during pregnancy, significantly lower rates of postpartum depression were observed in participants receiving acupuncture.


Prepares The Body For Labour

During the final weeks of pregnancy, undergoing acupuncture can help prepare the body to deliver a baby much easier than it would without treatment.

A 2004 observational study (4) examining the effect of pre-birth acupuncture showed promising results. The study involved 169 women receiving pre-birth acupuncture, they were compared to the local population for gestation at the onset of labour, incidence of medical induction, length of labour, use of analgesia and type of delivery. The conclusion was that pre-birth acupuncture appeared to provide some promising therapeutic benefits in assisting women to have normal vaginal births and that a further randomised controlled study was warranted.


Can Help When Baby Is In Breech Position

When babies are in a breech position, acupuncture can help to turn babies into the correct position to be able to be born vaginally versus being born via C-section. When acupuncture is used in conjunction with moxibustion, it is thought that the heat from mugwort causes the cervix to have small contractions. These contractions help the baby to move into the right position to be birthed with their head down, reducing any risk of complications during birth.

A 3-year study from 2001 published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine (5) examined how effective moxibustion and acupuncture were in turning breech presentation.⠀

The control group consisted of 224 women. This group was given exercise and external cephalic manipulation. They had a spontaneous correction rate of 73%.⠀

The experimental group consisted of 133 women. Each received 30 minutes of acupuncture and moxibustion to UB67 daily, but no exercise or external cephalic manipulation. They had a correction rate of 92%.⠀

The study concluded that acupuncture and moxibustion are safe and effective modalities to correct breech presentation in a clinical setting.⠀


Conclusion:

Prenatal acupuncture reduces the need for epidurals, emergency C-sections, and reduces the time you spend in active labour. Overall, vaginal birth rates increase in women who receive acupuncture.


Research shows (6)

  • Reduces the time spent in first stage labour (period of time between 3 cm dilated and full dilation) by an average of 2 hours.

  • Reduces the number of inductions in first-time mothers by 43% and 35% in all others.

  • Reduces the rate of epidural usage by 31%.

  • Reduces emergency C-section rates by 32%.

  • Increases vaginal birth rates by 9%.

Acupuncture can also address any stress or anxiety leading up to labour. Acupuncture can help with other symptoms that you may be experiencing in the final weeks of pregnancy. Symptoms such as acid reflux, headache, swelling, hip or back pain, as well as many other symptoms that arise through pregnancy.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding prenatal acupuncture please get in touch I am here to help. I work from various London locations at clinics in Bethnal Green, Canary Wharf, East Dulwich and Shoreditch.



Reference:

(1) Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial

Caroline Smith et al. Birth. 2002 Mar.


(2) Acupuncture for chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Qing Zhang, Jing Gong, Haoxu Dong, Shabei Xu, Wei Wang, Guangying Huang


(3) Acupuncture: a promising treatment for depression during pregnancy.

Rachel Manber et al. J Affect Disord. 2004.


(4) Acupuncture For Prebirth Treatment: An Observational Study Of Its Use In Midwifery Practice. Betts & Lennox 2004


(5) Moxibustion treatment of breech presentation

Y Kanakura 1, K Kometani, T Nagata, K Niwa, H Kamatsuki, Y Shinzato, Y Tokunaga


(6) Debra Betts - Acupuncture and Acupressure for Pregnancy and Childbirth




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