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5 Ways Acupuncture Can Help With Pregnancy and Labor

acupuncture dupont circle for pregnancy and childbirth

We've covered in previous blogs how acupuncture can help couples conceive - increasing the conception rate to 51% when administered before and after IVF transfers (as compared to only 36% for IVF without acupuncture). But acupuncture can also be very helpful after conception during both pregnancy and childbirth. There is strong evidence to support that acupuncture is highly effective at treating some of the most common problems experienced during pregnancy including morning sickness, heartburn, and sciatica. Acupuncture is also helpful with delivery for turning breech babies and inducing labor.

1. Treating Morning Sickness with Acupuncture

According to a study of 600 women, even 20 minutes of acupuncture showed marked improvements in morning sickness symptoms.* "We found that traditional acupuncture reduced nausea throughout the trial, with dry retching being reduced from the second week," according to Dr. Smith of Adelaide University in Australia. Doctors have found acupuncture to be very effective for nausea and vomiting.

2. Treating Heartburn with Acupuncture

Most patients who are treated for heartburn are giving a protein pump inhibitor (PPI) to reduce stomach acid production. Some of these may be prescribed during pregnancy. And they can be effective for some patients. When it doesn't work, the dosage is often doubled. But this doubled dose only helps 20-25% of people. And studies have shown that, for those it doesn't help, acid production is often normal. This means that the symptoms for these patients are due to something other than too much stomach acid. For patients like these acupuncture can be a great solution. In fact, a recent study showed that, for those who didn't improve with a doubled dose of PPI, acupuncture provided significant improvement.

3. Treating Sciatica with Acupuncture

Sciatica is pain in the back, hip, or leg caused by compression of the nerves in the lower back- a common complaint of pregnant women. In fact, it is estimated that 50% of women experience low-back pack during pregnancy or after delivery.** Taking pain medication is not advisable during pregnancy, so alternate forms of treatment of this common complaint are important. Acupuncture has been shown in a recent study to be "more effective than drugs" for patients with sciatica.

4. Turning Breech Babies with Acupuncture

As a baby develops, the amount of room in the uterus for it to move decreases. At about 32-34 weeks, Western medical practitioners start to be concerned if the baby hasn't naturally turned to a head-down position. If the baby doesn't turn, it is called a breech presentation. Breech presentations limit a woman's options for delivery of her child.

At Earley Wellness Group, we have had enormous success with turning breech presentations over the years. We recommend the following weekly regimen, starting at week 32, to help a baby to turn naturally. Usually treatments have to be done before week 38 so that the baby has enough room in the uterus to move. 

  1.   Visit a chiropractor for an adjustment to help open your pelvis.
  2.   Have an acupuncture visit. This is a very relaxing session which includes moxibustion (or "moxa") near your baby toe to stimulate your baby to move. Moxibustion is a therapy of burning dried mugwort near particular points to warm regions of the body and stimulate circulation.
  3.   Visit your Western medical practitioner to determine if the baby has turned by ultrasound or belly palpitation. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been shown in clinical trials to be effective at turning a breech baby naturally. Western medicine can't explain why acupuncture is so effective at turning breech presentations, but it has been working for over 3000 years.

5. Inducing Labor with Acupuncture

For women who wish to avoid medical intervention to induce labor, but who near or over term, acupuncture can be effective in helping the mother and baby to reach the right level of energy and balance of hormones to induce labor. According to a small study at the University of North Carolina, women who got acupuncture were more likely to go into labor without medical induction. Those who used acupuncture were also less likely to need a C-section (an almost 50% reduction). 

To help induce labor, we perform a daily acupuncture treatment which is very relaxing and also helps the mother prepare mentally for labor. We have a very high success rate after just 3 to 4 treatments, often inducing labor right in our office!

Getting Started with Acupuncture

Acupuncture has also been shown to help with insomnia, mood, water retention and swelling. To add acupuncture and Oriental medicine to your pregnancy regimen and learn more about how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can improve your health and well being, make an appointment today. If you know someone who is pregnant, please consider forwarding this newsletter to her.

* Birth Journal, Dr. Smith of Adelaide University in Australia
** US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Hippokratia Journal, Pregnancy-related low back pain

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