Acupuncture is a famous form of traditional Chinese medicine and alternative medicine which is used to relieve the pressure of the body by massaging specific pressure points. This post on acupuncture during pregnancy will give you more information in this context. During pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, the ligaments and muscles of the pelvic area are under a lot of pressure. Performing acupuncture might help relax these muscles and also prepare the pelvic area for the delivery of the baby. Continue reading this post to know more about the benefits of acupuncture, its safety, and its possible risks during pregnancy.
Safety Of Acupuncture During Pregnancy
One of acupuncture’s main advantages during pregnancy is arguably the avoidance of unnecessary medication (1). According to a quality assessment review of 105 acupuncture studies on pregnant women held from 1998 to 2013, the risk of adverse reactions were mild, and serious adverse reactions were rare (2). This shows that acupuncture could be useful during pregnancy as well as birth under the guidance of an expert acupuncturist.
It is believed to help relieve early pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, and heartburn (3), alleviate pains, aches, swelling, and constipation and may also help prepare the body for labor in the third trimester.
How Acupuncture Might Help During Pregnancy
The health issues where acupuncture could possibly help are:
- Nausea and vomiting: According to a study conducted by Adelaide University, Australia, women receiving traditional acupuncture had less nausea and retching compared to women who didn’t (3). Stimulation of the point named pericardium 6 (p6), located below the wrist, helps in relieving nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness (4).
- Pelvic and lower back pain: Research by the Institute for the Health of Women and Children, Sweden, concluded that acupuncture offerd pain relief from pelvic and lower back problems during the second and third trimesters and did not lead to any adverse effects (5). The most frequently used acupressure point in acupuncture was LR3 (located on foot), along with local tender points in the girdle and lower back regions (6).
- Depression: Stanford University conducted a study involving 150 pregnant women, who met the criteria for a major depressive disorder. Of them, 52 women who were given acupuncture treatment for eight weeks experienced a reduction in symptoms when compared to the control group and a third group that received massage therapy (7).
- During labor: A study suggests that acupuncture treatment at term pregnancy reduces the degree of pain in labor and also reduces the overall delivery time (8).
- Headaches: According to a study published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, acupuncture is known to alleviate the tension-type headache (9).
- Sleep problems: You could have sleep disturbances during pregnancy. Acupuncture is a holistic health approach that could promote relaxation and help you sleep better. According to a study published in Acupuncture in Medicine, it could also help treat insomnia (10).
- Baby’s breech position: When your baby is feet or bottom-first, instead of headfirst, it is considered a breech position. Acupuncture in the form of moxibustion can help correct the baby’s position by encouraging the baby to turn into head down position. BL67 (urinary bladder 67) is the point for moxibustion stimulation to correct the fetal position (11).
The method can also have some adverse effects in certain situations when it is not applied correctly or is not used at the right time. Moxibustion is contraindicated with high blood pressure (pregnancy hypertension) and needs to be used with caution due to the fact that the method uses burning hot moxa sticks.
Possible Risks Of Acupuncture During Pregnancy
Acupuncture is known to have a few side effects.
- There could be soreness or redness at the site of insertion (12).
- There is a concern that if certain acupuncture points are stimulated before full-term, they could cause preterm labor. However, there is no research supporting the same.
- Choosing an uncertified practitioner or not following the safety protocols may also be harmful to the pregnancy.
Acupuncture Points For Pregnancy
Below, we list some acupuncture points that can be stimulated during pregnancy. However, not all theories are backed by scientific research, so take your doctor’s approval before opting for this procedure.
1. P6 point (Neiguan – Inner pass)
The pericardium 6 (P6) point is referred to as the seasickness point because of its association with nausea. It helps control vomiting, abdomen fullness, and hiccups. It is also useful in treating insomnia, depression, and carpal tunnel syndrome (4).
Location: On the palm side of the wrist, about three-fingers width starting from the wrist crease, it is the point between the two tendons.
2. DU 20 (Baihui – Hundred Meetings)
This could be useful in clearing the mind, lifting the spirit, and also preventing possible miscarriage and relieving hemorrhoids. The point is also known to support your pelvic floor muscles and prevent uterine prolapse (13).
Location: On the midline of the head, 7 cun (Chinese unit- inch) to the posterior hairline. The easiest way to locate it is to rest your thumbs on the highest point of your ears, and let your middle fingers sweep over the head. The point will be right where your middle fingers fall.
3. CV17 (Shanzhong – Chest Center)
Location: On the midline of the chest and in between your nipples, about three to four finger-widths above the base of the breastbone.
4. ST36 (Zusanli – Leg 3 Miles)
This point is especially helpful for treating nausea and vomiting, gastrointestinal discomfort, fatigue, and help in stress reduction (15). It could also be helpful in cases of breast pain and abscess.
Location: On the lateral side of the leg, four-finger width down the bottom of the knee cap, one thumb breadth towards the outside of the shin bone.
5. GB41 (Zulinqi – Foot governor of tears)
Location: On the top of the foot, in between the 4th and 5th metatarsal bones, the depression lateral to the tendon of extensor digiti minimi of the foot.
When You Can Consider Acupuncture During Pregnancy
Certain acupuncture points are considered contraindicated during pregnancy although there is no consensus about their effects. The points that are to be avoided until 37 weeks are known as the forbidden points and are:
SP6 (spleen 6), LI4 (large intestine 4), BL60 (bladder 60), BL67 (bladder 67), GB21 (gallbladder 21), lower abdomen points CV3 – CV7 (conception vessel 3 – 7) and sacral points BL27 – BL34 (bladder 27 – 34) (16).
When Can You Consider Going To Acupuncture During Pregnancy?
You should talk to your healthcare provider to decide about the best time to start acupuncture. While some advise starting the therapy in the second trimester, others recommend acupuncture from the first trimester when nausea, heartburn, and other first trimester symptoms occur.
The acupuncture therapist may determine whether to offer the treatment every week or every month. You may also begin acupuncture in preparation for labor and continue after delivery to support recovery.
Acupuncture Safety Tips For Pregnant Women
If you are planning to go for acupuncture to get relief from some common problems, you may consider the below tips.
- Consider your health: Take into consideration your health condition, medications that you are using, and serious issues if any.
- Choose the acupuncturist carefully: You need to choose a certified acupuncturist. Consider a licensed practitioner, specialized in pregnancy..
- Calculate the cost: Acupuncture therapy is not limited to one session. It might need a series of sessions. So, check with the therapist about the cost and check if there is medical insurance coverage for the treatments.
- Check for any signs of inconvenience: Unless you are having acupuncture for labor induction, you should not feel any discomfort or contractions during or after the session. If you notice any unusual changes, you should immediately tell your therapist and your Obstetric and Gynecology expert or midwife.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture does not usually hurt. It usually relaxes you, and you might even fall asleep during the session. You may feel some warmth or heaviness around the stimulated points.
2. Does acupuncture cause miscarriage in early pregnancy?
Specific points that help induce labor are avoided until you reach the full term. The acupuncture points used for general pregnancy symptoms are not known to cause miscarriage (16).
3. Can acupuncture prevent miscarriage?
Acupuncture is said to be useful in preventing miscarriage (17) by regulating hormones, reducing contractions in early pregnancy, and helping you relax. (18) However, further research is necessary to determine the causative factors of miscarriage that acupuncture can help deal with (19).
4. How does acupuncture ripen the cervix?
According to studies, acupuncture at the sites LI4 (Large Intestine 4) and Sanyinjiao (SP 6) may help cervical ripening at term and reduce the amount of time between the expected due date and the delivery time (22)
Most healthy expecting mothers can try acupuncture after consulting their healthcare provider. Research shows that acupuncture during pregnancy can soothe tensed muscles and ease the birthing process. It may also help relieve pregnancy-related issues such as nausea, pelvic and lower back pain, and sleep disturbances. But while acupuncture seems beneficial, it has some side effects you should consider before planning to do it. Also, if you are interested in acupuncture therapy, ensure you get it done by a licensed practitioner since pressing/massaging the wrong acupuncture points could trigger issues such as preterm labor.
Infographic: Acupuncture Safety Precautions For Pregnant Women
Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that finds its use in managing several pregnancy-related health conditions; however, it is not devoid of a few side effects. So, if you wish to try this technique, this infographic presents safety precautions to consider before going for it. Save and share it with expectant mothers.
- Acupuncture is a safer option than medication as it carries a low risk of adverse reactions.
- Acupuncture effectively alleviates various conditions including nausea, vomiting, pelvic and lower back pain, labor pain, headaches, and sleep problems.
- Risks associated may include soreness or redness at the insertion site, and the possibility of certain acupuncture points causing preterm labor.
- Acupuncture points such as P6 point (Neiguan), DU 20 (Baihui), ST36 (Zusanli), and GB41(Zulinqi) can be stimulated during pregnancy.
- It is essential to seek treatment from a certified practitioner to ensure adherence to safety protocols, as an uncertified practitioner may cause harm.
Acupuncture during pregnancy may help with pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness and fatigue. Take a look at this video to learn more about an acupuncture session.
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