Acupuncture Treatment and the Stages of Pregnancy

I had a patient in the office last week who had been supporting infertility treatments with acupuncture and herbal therapies who is now pregnant. After her initial excitement and relief she turned to me and said, “Now I get to be pregnant.” Apparently she’d had some discomfort the first time around. These are the many ways in which acupuncture can support pregnancy.

It may come as a surprise to you that in Traditional Chinese medical theory pregnancy does not necessarily weaken a woman and in some cases, her health may even improve. According to Chinese medicine there are three main problems that may develop during pregnancy – a blood or yin (deep fluid) deficiency, stagnation of qi or energy, and problems with phlegm. Any pre-existing weakness in health will often be exacerbated by pregnancy but a few things may improve. Diseases such as asthma and migraine have been reported to have improved during pregnancy.

Certain acupuncture points are forbidden in pregnancy and any properly trained practitioner will be well aware of these points. There are also dietary considerations. Chinese medicine recommends a diet of nourishing, easily digestible foods that include a balance of meat, fish, eggs, grains, vegetables and some fruit. Avoid hot, spicy, pungent foods such as mint, rosemary, scallion, garlic, onions, cinnamon, cloves, ginger root, black pepper, hot peppers, cayenne, fennel, anise, dill, mustard greens, horseradish, nutmeg and marjoram, to name a few. Also avoid greasy foods. All of these can potentially harm digestion.

Morning sickness is still one of the earliest signs of pregnancy and one of the most commonly treated conditions of pregnancy, although not all pregnant women experience morning sickness. It can range from mild nausea to very severe and frequent vomiting. It usually lasts through the first trimester but may go on for a long time or even the entire pregnancy. The intensity of morning sickness is related to the pre-existing state of a woman’s digestive system. In spite of its name, morning sickness can occur at any time of the day although it is usually more pronounced in the morning.

Other possible issues arising during pregnancy include different types of mild abdominal pain. Ectopic pregnancy and threatened miscarriage must first be ruled out by a physician and then can be effectively treated. Other conditions that can be supported with acupuncture during pregnancy are edema, body and joint aches, headaches, dizziness, cough and retention of urine and fatigue. One of the most documented and successful of treatments is treating breech or malposition of the fetus. Although there are different opinions on the best time to begin breech treatments with acupuncture, one can begin the protocol as early as week 28 but most evidence points to week 32 as ideal, and beginning up to week 35 for best results. The success rate for this is now around 81%! And finally, if you reach your due date and need a little help acupuncture can also assist in natural induction.

Anita Alexandra, L.Ac., CH is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist with 17+ years of experience. She practices at Chiropractic Health and Acupuncture, 619 Main Street, Frisco. (970)668-3299.

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