What an Acupuncturist would like you to know
I’m often surprised that many women are unaware of the benefits of acupuncture treatments in pregnancy. Some people assume it is dangerous or contra-indicated to get acupuncture during pregnancy – but that is not the case.
Here are my answers to the top 5 questions I hear about getting acupuncture while you are pregnant.
#1 Is Acupuncture Safe during Pregnancy?
Yes! Acupuncture provided by a qualified practitioner is a gentle and effective treatment for many issues that women face in pregnancy. Most Registered Acupuncturists have training to work with pregnant women, but be sure to inquire about their levels of experience in this area. In Ontario, other types of acupuncture providers such as chiropractors, physiotherapists or massage therapists cannot offer acupuncture treatments during pregnancy, as this is not within their training or scope of practice.
Rest assured that qualified Acupuncturists know proper postitioning techniques so that pregnant women can sit or lie comfortably during the treatment. There are specific considerations for acupuncture during pregnancy, and a well trained Acupuncturist will do their best to make sure you are treated safely.
#2 How Can Acupuncture help in Pregnancy?
Acupuncture can help during all stages of pregnancy. During the first trimester it can help maintain a pregnancy, as well as alleviate any issues such as fatigue and nausea.
It is an excellent pain relief remedy for back pain and other body discomfort when women do not wish to take pain relief medication. Throughout pregnancy it can aid with common problems such as heartburn, constipation and insomnia.
Traditionally, acupuncture has been used to boost the health of the growing fetus as well as maintain the wellbeing of the mom-to-be. It can also be a nurturing part of the post-partum period and support breast-feeding as well.
#3 Where do the needles go?
Depending on the issue being treated needles may be put into acupuncture points on the hands, arms, feet and legs. Point locations could also include ear, face or scalp points. They may be ‘local points’ on the back if you are experiencing back pain, or your practitioner may choose ‘distal points’ instead (these are points that are at a distance from the area of focus).
There are always choices for the acupuncture points we can use in a particular treatment, and both safety and comfort are top priorities. There are also a number of acupuncture points that are NOT used during pregnancy for safety reasons.
#4 Can Acupuncture help turn a Breech Baby?
Acupuncture and moxabustion (burning a herbal ‘cigar’ made of mugwort near a specific acupuncture point on the baby toe) can indeed be useful for helping to turn a baby in the womb. Each woman’s situation is different, but ideally best results can be expected at around week 33-35. I usually suggest a combination of acupuncture visits in the office plus daily ‘moxabustion homework’ for 5-10 days in a row at home.
#5 Can Acupuncture Induce Labour?
Technically, only a Medical Doctor can offer labour induction – as this is a medical procedure. With acupuncture we can help prepare the body for an easier labour and delivery. Ideally acupuncture treatments will have started at least 3 weeks prior to expected due date.
If a woman is past her due date (and is having a normal, healthy pregnancy), acupuncture can be used to help encourage labour to start. It can also be used for pain relief during labour and delivery. During this time we start to incorporate a few of the ‘forbidden points’ that are not to be used earlier in pregnancy. These acupuncture points are thought to stimulate uterine contractions, therefore are saved until the last days of pregnancy for this purpose.
Acupuncture at this time is useful for calming the mind, relaxing the muscles and helping to stimulate the body’s responses to the onset of labour.