The last edition of Acupuncture Success Stories focused on two women who used acupuncture to overcome fertility challenges. And indeed, acupuncture alone and in combination with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) has been shown to help women achieve pregnancy.
But what about once you get pregnant? Many women and their partners have questions about acupuncture during pregnancy. Here are answers to some of the most common questions.
Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?
Yes. Licensed acupuncturists are trained to know which acupuncture points are helpful during pregnancy and which points should be avoided. There are certain points on the hands and shoulders, and around the lower leg, ankle, and low back that are contraindicated during most of pregnancy. It’s important to let your acupuncturist know if you are pregnant, or if you think you might be, so that these points are avoided.
What conditions can acupuncture help with during pregnancy?
Acupuncture can help with several conditions with which some pregnant women suffer. These include morning sickness, back pain, ligament pain, premature cervical ripening, preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension), fatigue, heartburn, constipation, and gestational diabetes. If you are experiencing any of these or other pregnancy side effects, let your acupuncturist know so that your treatments can be tailored accordingly.
When should I start and how often should I go?
If you are already pregnant, it’s a good idea to see an acupuncturist as soon as possible to help temper morning sickness and other common first-trimester symptoms. In a healthy pregnancy, you may only need acupuncture every other week or once a month as a tune up, to ensure that things are balanced and flowing smoothly.
If you have experienced pregnancy loss in the past, more frequent treatments may be recommended, especially during the first trimester. This is so that you get the sustained support required to keep your body healthy and strong over the course of your pregnancy. Toward the end of any pregnancy, at about week 37, your acupuncturist may suggest coming in more often to help prepare you for labor.
Can acupuncture help induce labor?
Acupuncturists don’t do labor induction—that’s a Western Medical treatment. But when it’s
almost time for your baby to make his or her appearance in the world, acupuncture can help prepare you for labor and delivery. Stress is one of the biggest factors that women battle during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Acupuncture can help significantly with reducing stress and anxiety in these moments.
Some acupuncturists are available to perform acupuncture or acupressure in the delivery room, depending on whether it is allowed in the hospital and covered by the acupuncturist’s insurance. If having an acupuncturist with you in the delivery room is something you think you’ll want, it’s a good idea to check on these things in advance.
You’ll also want to speak with your acupuncturist about his or her availability. Often, women who are trying to avoid a medical induction will call an acupuncturist at the last minute. This is not recommended. It is much easier to prepare your body for labor when you’re not working against the ticking clock of your medical-induction appointment.
Should I keep getting acupuncture after I deliver?
Acupuncture as after-care for new moms is really important. Fatigue and depression are common symptoms after delivery. Regular acupuncture and moxibustion are great for helping moms recover and regain their strength after giving birth. You’ll need it as you embark on the exciting adventure of motherhood!
Photo by Sara Calabro
Denise Cicuto is a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist who specializes in women’s health and immunity. She has a private practice with offices in San Francisco and Alameda, California. You can reach Denise at Cicuto Acupuncture and follow along on Twitter as she gives 365 reasons to try acupuncture.
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