What is acupuncture and how does it work?
Acupuncture is a therapy rooted in traditional Chinese theories that originated in China and has been in practice for thousands of years. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body is divided into two energetic forces – yin and yang. When there is an imbalance between these forces it blocks the flow of qi [chi], which is the flow of vital energy that moves along 12 meridians in the body. Depending on the concern, acupuncture can have a wide range of therapeutic effects. During pregnancy some of the most notable effects include: stress reduction, relieving sciatica pain, improving sleep, aiding in cervical ripening and preparing the body for labour by strengthening muscle and ligaments around the uterus for productive contractions and shorter labour time.
Is acupuncture safe in pregnancy?
Yes, acupuncture is safe during pregnancy. In the province of Ontario, Naturopathic Doctors, licensed acupuncturists, and doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine can perform acupuncture. Choosing a practitioner trained in Chinese Medicine ensures safety and effectiveness of acupuncture during pregnancy. There are specific acupuncture points that are contraindicated at certain times during pregnancy and should not be needled.
What conditions can acupuncture help with during pregnancy?
Acupuncture is an ideal therapy during pregnancy, as it offers expecting mothers a safe, effective and drug-free alternative for relief of common concerns. No matter what stage/trimester of pregnancy you are in, acupuncture can help!
First trimester (weeks 1-13)
- Morning sickness – many women experience debilitating nausea and vomiting within their first trimester, or some throughout their entire pregnancy.
- Previous pregnancy loss or a threatened miscarriage – It is normal for 15-40% of women to miscarry in early pregnancy and all suspicious vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is concerning and should be evaluated by your OB or midwife. Frequent acupuncture can help strengthen the uterus and promote blood flow to support healthy fetal development.
- Mood disturbances – due to the hormonal changes during pregnancy changes in mood can feel like a never ending roller-coaster and in some cases may lead to depression and anxiety during the pregnancy and postpartum. In general, many people find acupuncture quite relaxing and mood balancing.
Second trimester (weeks 14 – 26)
- Back pain/pelvic pain/sciatica
- Heartburn/acid reflux
- Sleep disturbances
- Leg cramps
Third trimester (weeks 27-40)
- Labour preparation through cervical ripening – beginning at 37 weeks can have a positive effect on the birthing process overall. It has been reporting that regular acupuncture once a week beginning at 37 weeks is linked to a reduction in the rate of medical interventions and duration of labour. Pre-birth acupuncture also plays a role in softening the cervix and beginning cervical dilation.
- Turning a breech baby – moxibustion, which is when Artemisia vulgaris or mugwort herb is burned over an acupuncture point to increase fetal activity and therefore turning a baby from a breech position. This treatment must be performed consistently for 10 days to be most effective.
- Pain management during birth – in addition to calming the feelings of panic, anxiety and distress – the relaxing effect of acupuncture can play a significant role on controlling pain.
Past your due date – can acupuncture help bring on spontaneous labour?
Absolutely! In Canada, the rate of medical induction is estimated to be around 24% and is steadily increasing. There are many risks associated with medical induction such as: increased risk of prolonged labor, infection due to prolonged rupture of membranes, hemorrhage, and higher chance of C-section due to increased fetal distress.
Acupuncture can help support a healthy pregnancy and minimize some of the discomforts. If you are still unsure whether acupuncture is right for you, book complimentary meet and greet with Dr. Antoinette Falco, ND at rebirth wellness centre in London, Ontario.