Top 5 Reasons to get Acupuncture while Pregnant

July 18, 2016

pregnant_girl_standingBy Jonathan Handel

Acupuncture is a proven tool that can help mothers navigate their various pregnancy-related health issues, and maintain a high quality of life from conception to the birth, and beyond!

Here are the TOP 5 reasons to come in for acupuncture when pregnant:

1) Nausea

Nausea is experienced in approximately half of all pregnancies. It is usually felt in the first trimester, but sometimes continues well past then. Nausea can lead to vomiting, as well as food and smell sensitivity. This is very disruptive as it can not only lead to unpleasant trips to the bathroom throughout the day, but can also wake nauseous mothers up at night, leading to disturbed sleep, fatigue and irritability.

Western medicine understands nausea in pregnancy to be due to hormonal shifts. High stress and fatigue are also considered to be contributing factors. Chinese Medicine is well suited to help mothers manage these symptoms by regulating hormones and keeping the stress and energy levels in check.

A 2002 study by Smith et al, looked at the effectiveness and safety of using acupuncture in early pregnancy to treat nausea. They found that compared to the control groups, the women that received traditional acupuncture had the fastest results. Furthermore, the women who received traditional acupuncture reported better overall feelings of health.

2) Body pain or discomfort

Musculoskeletal issues are something that all people deal with. In pregnancy, however, there are some added factors that can lead to discomfort for the mother. In early pregnancy, the body releases progesterone, which acts on the ligaments of the body to prepare them to shift as needed to accommodate the growing fetus. As the pregnancy continues, this will be compounded by the added weight load, and the change in centre of gravity. The most common body pain complaints of expectant mothers are pelvic, back, shoulder and neck pain. Much like nausea, these pains can be disruptive to daily life, affecting sleep, energy and mood. Acupuncture is a proven and safe treatment for pregnant women seeking to manage their pain.

A 2005 study by Elden et al, compared acupuncture treatment to other standard physiotherapy treatments of stability exercises for pelvic pain during pregnancy. The study found that acupuncture was superior to stabilising exercisers in managing the pain.

3) Breech Position

Breech presentation is when the baby is still positioned with its head upwards later the 34th to 36th week. The ideal position for labour is with the baby’s head down, chin tucked in, and the body positioned to face away from the mother’s abdomen. While delivery is possible in other positions, it does make a natural delivery more tricky, and can lead to other complications.

Acupuncture with moxibustion (herbal heat therapy) has a great success rate at encouraging the baby to turn on their own. This can also be combined with exercise and other manual therapies with great success.

Cardini et al in 1998 performed a study of acupuncture and moxibustion treatment for breech position. They found that after two weeks of treatment 75.4% of the acupuncture/moxibustion group were correctly positioned (compared to only 47.7% in the control group).

4) Labour Induction

While the due date is usually considered at 40 weeks, full term pregnancy can be anywhere from 38-42 weeks. This range is still considered healthy if there are no extenuating health factors. However, there are some cases where there is a medically imposed limit by OBGYNs to limit potential risks. Also, in some cases pregnancies can last beyond 42 weeks. When this is the case, doctors will often try to medically induce labour. This is done by using prostaglandins and oxytocin to stimulate the cervix to ripen and induce contractions. While this is very effective, it can also lead to other complications and does increase the possibility of needing a c-section delivery if the labour progresses too slowly.

The mechanisms at play when using acupuncture to induce labour, however, while having similar goals in mind, works with the body to encourage labour to begin, rather than imposing labour upon it. This means that the acupuncture points used will help the cervix ripen and begin contractions through encouraging the movement of energy and blood flow to the uterus and cervix. Furthermore, as the end of term arrives, often mothers experience added stress. Sometimes this is due to worries about the delivery, or pressure from balancing the pregnancy and the rest of her life. This stress decreases the natural release of oxytocin and can therefore cause labour to be delayed. Acupuncture can, along with the strategies discussed above, help the mother manage the stress and emotions in a healthy way, allowing the body to be open and ready.

5) Pre-Birth treatments

Being proactive is truly a mother’s best reason to use acupuncture. As she reaches the end of her pregnancy, regular acupuncture treatments can help encourage the natural progression and greatly diminish the potential need for other interventions. As I mentioned in my previous blog about this topic, acupuncture has been shown in studies to to promote a natural birth and even reduce labour times. In 1974, a study by researchers Kubista and Kucera calculated that women who had acupuncture starting in the final weeks of pregnancy on average took 4 hours and 57 minutes between when they were 3-4 cm dilated to when they delivered. This is compared to 5 hours and 54 minutes in the control (non-acupuncture) group. They also measured the time between the onset of 10-15 minute contraction and delivery, and by that measure the acupuncture group averaged 6 hours 36 minutes, versus 8 hours and 2 minutes in the control group. In 2004, acupuncturist Debra Betts and midwife Sue Lennox conducted an observational study of 169 women who received pre-birth acupuncture and compared their births statistics to those of the local population. They found that there was a 35% reduction in medical inductions (up to 44% for women having their first baby) for the women that received pre-birth acupuncture. Comparing to regular midwife care, they found a 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery and a 9% increase in normal vaginal births. Those are pretty amazing results!

These are five great reasons why mothers should consider acupuncture as they navigate their pregnancy.

And, the list above is by no means complete. Other pregnancy-related conditions acupuncture can help manage include:

  • Threatened miscarriage,
  • heartburn,
  • constipation,
  • UTI,
  • varicose veins and other vinous issues,
  • fatigue and exhaustion,
  • insomnia,
  • anxiety and depression,
  • itching,
  • sinusitis,
  • hypertension,
  • edema, and
  • much more!

If you would like to learn more about acupuncture and pregnancy, come join me for a free seminar on July 21st, 6:30pm at IHI. Click here to register

Jonathan Handel, R.Ac R.TCMP



Jonathan is a acupuncturist and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. He values a holistic approach, and seeks to treat the root causes of illness and provide symptomatic relief for people seeking to better their health and quality of life. As a practitioner, Jonathan seeks to create a positive healing environment, where patients can step away from their daily stresses. Through creating a safe and comfortable space, patients can look forward to coming in for treatment as an opportunity to seek relief and get the support they need.

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One Response to “Top 5 Reasons to get Acupuncture while Pregnant”

  1. Kim @ PMR says:

    Very detailed and informative! I do have a pregnant friend who has extreme nausea everyday. I might share this to her. Thanks again!

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