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Is It Safe to Try Acupuncture During Pregnancy?

Is It Safe to Try Acupuncture During Pregnancy?

Many soon-to-be-moms claim to have had amazing experiences with acupuncture in soothing pain and tension that come along with pregnancy. Several scientific studies show that acupuncture helps treat and relieve a range of aches and discomforts in pregnant women.

If the wonders of acupuncture spark interest, this post aims to explore the safety and efficacy of using this ancient Chinese medicine while you’re expecting.

How Acupuncture Works for Pregnancy

The benefits of acupuncture are multifold

Specialized thin acupuncture needles are inserted into the muscle tissue to stimulate “trigger points” and:

  • boost the body’s natural ability to heal itself
  • relieve pain and discomfort
  • enhance the immune system
  • treat a variety of conditions, both physical and mental

Health experts have discovered that many acupoints are connected to deep-seated nerves that trigger the brain to produce endorphins and other feel-good hormones when activated by the needles. This explains how acupuncture is effective in blocking pain signals to ease discomfort.

How Does Acupuncture Help Pregnancy?

Acupuncture a safe complementary therapy for pregnant women

Perhaps you might have heard that acupuncture helps treat a variety of diseases and conditions, but is acupuncture for pregnancy safe?

Acupuncture is not only safe but also extremely beneficial for expecting women. It helps nourish the body and ease early symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, and heart palpitations during the first trimester. It also relieves other lower back pain, constipation, swelling in the legs, and other forms of discomfort. 

Many women claim that getting acupuncture during the third trimester helps prepare the body for labour. Targeting pre-birth acupuncture points and adding in specific points to help relax and soften the uterine ligament and increase the blood to the pelvis. It also facilitates the softening and dilation of the cervical muscle while stimulating contractions in the uterine muscle. This helps the baby descend and get into the proper position in the birth canal. 

Benefits of Acupuncture During Pregnancy

Acupuncture can help relieve pain and discomfort

Acupuncture can be used to address various pregnancy-related issues including:

  • Morning Sickness 

Nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness usually occur around weeks 6 and 8 of pregnancy. These affect up to 85% of women. Several studies show that pregnant women receiving weekly acupuncture have experienced fewer symptoms of morning sickness.

  • Lower Back and Pelvic Pain 

Lower back and pelvic girdle pain can affect a pregnant woman’s ability to sit, stand, and walk. Combined treatment of acupuncture, chiropractic, and pelvic floor physiotherapy can bring significant pain relief. 

A Cochrane Review in 2015 discovered that women getting acupuncture during pregnancy experienced reduced pelvic pain compared to the usual prenatal care. This claim is further supported by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology research. 

  • Headache/Migraine

Hormonal changes, sleep disturbances, as well an increase in the volume of blood produced by the body, can cause headaches or migraines during the early stage of pregnancy. While headaches or migraines usually improve over the course of the pregnancy, some women continue to experience them until childbirth. Acupuncture is a safe and effective alternative to painkillers for expecting mothers. 

  • Depression

About 1 in 4 women experience depression during pregnancy. A study on pregnant women shows that acupuncture is an effective alternative in reducing depressive symptoms better than antidepressant medications and other non-pharmacological techniques.

  • Insomnia

Nearly 5 to 38% of pregnant women have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, especially during the early stage of pregnancy. The problem worsens towards the end of pregnancy. For the most part, the cause of insomnia is a painful back, need to urinate, and fetal movement. 

Several studies claim that insomnia experienced during pregnancy can increase your risks of postpartum mood disorder, such as depression or anxiety. Fortunately, women receiving regular acupuncture treatment have better sleep quality due to an increase in melatonin levels. 

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common issue that usually occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy due to hormonal changes and swelling. If you are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, you can experience numbness and tingle in the finger. Thankfully, receiving regular acupuncture sessions helps improve painful symptoms, function, and pain.

  • Digestive Disorders

Heartburn, belching, regurgitation, bloating, and epigastric pain or discomfort are common symptoms experienced by many pregnant women. These digestive disorders are often caused by drastic hormonal changes, particularly progesterone levels. However, these symptoms can be alleviated by acupuncture.  

  • Improved Blood Flow to the Umbilical Artery

A Doppler study shows that targeting certain acupoints can lead to an increase in blood flow to the fetus. The change in the velocity of the blood flow boosts microcirculation in utero and the blood vessel tone helps nourish and support the immune system of the baby.

Acupuncture Tips for Pregnant Women 

Always consult your practitioner before getting acupuncture treatment

Here are several helpful tips to keep in mind.

  • Consult With Your Healthcare Provider – Although acupuncture therapy is considered safe, make sure to check with your practitioner first and discuss your current health condition, medications, or other issues.
  • Choose an Acupuncturist Wisely – Make sure to find a registered Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncturist who has extensive experience in performing the treatment on pregnant women. 
  • Consider the Cost – During the initial consultation with the acupuncturist, ask them how many treatments you may need and the total cost. Also, check if your insurance provider with cover the cost of acupuncture. 
  • Watch for Signs of Side-Effects – There should not be any unusual contraction during or after the session, not unless you use acupuncture to induce labour. If you feel any concerning symptoms, call your practitioner right away.

How Often Should You Get Prenatal Acupuncture?

Regular acupuncture treatment ensures a happy and healthy mother and baby

It goes without saying that acupuncture cannot replace the importance of medical consultation. However, it can be used as a  therapy to ensure a pleasant pregnancy experience and preparation for birth without taking medications. Each treatment targets pregnancy acupuncture points specific to your individual needs and concerns. 

To maximize its efficacy, here is a timeline for prenatal acupuncture:

  • First Trimester – Schedule weekly acupuncture sessions until the 12th week of pregnancy to:
  • help prevent the risk of miscarriage
  • manage morning sickness
  • boost energy
  • prevent constipation and bloating
  • improve mood
  • increase sleep quality.
  • Second Trimester – Acupuncture treatment every 2 to 4 weeks, depending on your needs. Treatment helps maintain health and prevent pregnancy symptoms.
  • Third Trimester – If the baby is in breech (or upside-down) position, it is ideal to have weekly treatments starting at 32 weeks. This helps encourage the baby to turn naturally in the proper position. 
  • Natural Induction – Get treatment twice a week after week 40 to get things moving and reduce the likelihood of medical intervention.
  • Fourth Trimester – Schedule weekly treatments at 2 to 4 weeks postpartum to:
  • stimulate milk production
  • prevent postnatal depression
  • increase the healing process after childbirth
  • restore energy.

The Oriole Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation Centre offers acupuncture services to help women prepare for birth safely without the use of prescription drugs. You can rely on our team of acupuncturists to provide safe treatment for you and your unborn child. Call us today at (416) 221-0772 to book an appointment or fill out our contact form to send us a message.