Are you trying to get pregnant, or just find out you are expecting? Congratulations! Planning to become a parent is an exciting journey. You are bound to have hundreds of questions about your body as it prepares for pregnancy and birth. If you are just thinking about acupuncture and pregnancy for the first time there is plenty of helpful information for you to read. If you are not too keen on the idea of needles you can also try acupressure and meridian massage to help with your pregnancy.
There are numerous benefits to acupuncture treatment, starting before you even get pregnant. Many women have benefited from acupuncture treatment while they were pregnant, and you can too!
What is Acupuncture?
You may have heard about acupuncture or seen it in movies or on TV. To many people it seems like an odd thing to do, placing needles into your skin. Here is how it helps your body maintain its own health by relieving pain and creating a functioning body.
Acupuncture is a therapy that works to correct imbalances of energy in your body through the application of heat, pressure, or thin needles. Stimulating specific acupuncture points on the body can correct the flow of energy, called chi, in meridians. Meridians are channels of energy within your body in traditional Chinese medicine. Using these points to regulate your body is how acupuncture and pregnancy work together. Many Acupuncturists use an overall system of care with traditional diagnostic techniques and other treatments like Chinese herbs.
What is Acupressure?
If you are not sure you want to give the super thin needles a try, you can always try acupressure instead. It treats the same points used in acupuncture by applying firm pressure instead of needles. You may have even heard about one of the most common forms of acupressure, called Shiatsu. Fingers, hands, and elbows may all be used to massage the various points of the meridian. Acupressure is also a common way to relieve motion sickness and morning sickness by applying pressure to an acupuncture point on the wrists. Trying out a motion sickness band or receiving acupressure in that area may also be a good test for you to see if it works for you and you want to continue to try more therapy and maybe even move onto some acupuncture.
Can it Help Infertility?
Acupuncture can be used to treat some causes of infertility, along with the combined use of herbal medicine. Many modern doctors are referring their patients to acupuncturists to receive therapy in combination with their western medicine treatment. This age-old treatment has been helping with infertility longer than our current infertility treatments have been around. While it cannot help things like tubal adhesions, it can help prepare the body for pregnancy. It can increase blood flow creating a better environment for the egg to attach to. By helping the body to run better it can help increase the success rate of modern IVF treatments. Once you have a successful IVF treatment you can continue your acupuncture and pregnancy treatments until you give birth.
When to Start Treatment
Because acupuncture is a form of therapy it is better to do more than less; just like with physical therapy. Because acupuncture creates a better flow of energy within your body and helps it to run better there is never a time that is too early to start treatment. Many men and women, who do not get pregnant, do acupuncture to help their bodies become healthy and run more efficiently. Many women start treatment three to four months before insemination or IVF. The Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness has observed that most effective fertility treatments are because of a combination of traditional medicine, acupuncture, and herbal medicine.
There is no need to stop treatment once you have conceived. You can continue to receive acupuncture throughout your pregnancy and even after the baby is born. If you do wish to stop your treatment it is advised to wait until after twelve weeks have passed because it is more common to miscarriage in the first trimester of pregnancy. You may even consider having more frequent visits in the beginning if you have experienced miscarriages in the past.
It is important to note that there are some acupoints that should not be stimulated after becoming pregnant. While acupuncture and pregnancy go together, the Stomach 12, Bladder 60, Bladder 67, Gallbladder 21, Large Intestine 4, Spleen 6, and any points on the lower abdomen need to be avoided.
If you haven’t been receiving acupuncture treatments before you became pregnant it’s never too late to start. If you are experiencing morning sickness you may want to start receiving therapy right away. It is always better to start early with acupuncture even though you can start it at any time. Acupuncture has been shown to help with morning sickness and miscarriage in the first trimester. Just like those seasick bands you can get for your wrists, pressure or needles can be applied in the same locations to help with the nausea. The severity of your morning sickness may determine the amount of therapy you receive. For example you may only need to go once a week or once a month to help keep your body healthy and ease any morning sickness you have. If your nausea is severe you may even need to go to treatment every day.
Many women start to feel better during the second trimester of pregnancy. This may mean you don’t feel the need to go as often to your acupuncture therapy. You may only go once a month during this time because you are feeling so much better. You can also continue to go to treatments if you start developing some other pregnancy related problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, or lower back pain.
The second trimester of acupuncture and pregnancy is mostly about reliving stress and some minor aches to help you feel better and sleep better. It is also a perfect time to begin some prenatal yoga if you were not feeling up to it in the first trimester. Remember it takes a combination of good habits to have a healthy pregnancy. Adding yoga to your routine is perfect for your health and relaxation.
In this stage of pregnancy you and your baby will be preparing for birth. At about 32 weeks your acupuncturist will begin to look at your baby’s position in the uterus. If your baby is in a breech position, where his head is up instead of down, you may need to consider things to help encourage your baby to turn. Because there is more room for the baby to turn earlier in the trimester, it is best to try and have the baby turn between 32 and 34 weeks. A combination of acupuncture and moxibustion are usually very successful at encouraging a baby to turn until they are in the right direction.
Using acupoints on your legs and feet at 36 to 37 weeks can help your cervix to soften and efface to prepare for labor. If your cervix is ready then acupuncture can be used to induce labor once you have reached your due date. It also helps prepare your body by eliminating stress and anxiety that most women battle during labor and delivery.
What is Moxibustion?
Moxibustion is the practice of burning an herb over different acupoints on the body. If your baby is breeched then the herb will be held over a point on the feet. It’s safe and non-invasive for mother and baby. Research has shown a rate as high as 85% using this method to turn the baby. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to try something so simple to change the position of their baby?
If you think you want to try some form of acupuncture or acupressure during labor and delivery then you will want to arrange that ahead of time. Not all hospitals will allow this so you want to check with your hospital and your acupuncturist. It is easier to prepare your body for labor ahead of time than trying to race a clock when things are not going as planned. You will be unable to call your acupuncturist in at the last minute to help. That definitely will not create a stress free environment for anyone.
If you have been practicing yoga throughout your pregnancy, you should consider learning some yoga for labor. This is another tool you can use to help handle your labor contractions. You can also ask your acupuncturist to show you some pressure points you and your partner can use during labor. This is an especially good idea if your acupuncturist is unable to be there with you during your labor.
After baby is born
If you are wondering whether you should continue with acupuncture after the birth of your baby, the answer is yes! Fatigue and depression are common symptoms after the birth of a baby. Continuing with your acupuncture treatments will help you deal with these things by giving you more energy. Acupuncture is commonly used to treat depression and it is such a concern with new moms that it is a good idea to get ahead of this problem and treat it before you even notice any symptoms. You can also help by continuing to exercise with some postnatal yoga. This gives you a chance to stay healthy, happy, and spend time bonding with your baby.
Hormones in a new mom are constantly fluctuating and changing. It’s common for many women to have major depressive episodes at some point during or after their pregnancy. Some anti-depressants that are commonly prescribed to patients have had research to indicate whether they are safe to use while pregnant. It is important to research any medications you may have to take to make sure there is enough information on their effects. If you are comfortable with acupressure it is probably the easiest and safest treatment you can do to keep yourself healthy and happy.
It is important to mention that you should make sure that you are being seen by a licensed acupuncturist. Make sure that they answer any questions you have and are comfortable treating you while pregnant. You should not feel any contractions before or after a session unless you are specifically trying to induce labor. Talk to your prenatal-care provider right away if you are experiencing any of these contractions. Acupuncture and pregnancy should go together in harmony and not cause any problems for you or the baby.
Now that you have more information about acupuncture and pregnancy you will be able to decide what is best for your body. Remember you don’t have to start with acupuncture if it makes you uncomfortable. You can always start with massage and acupressure and work your way up to acupuncture as you become more comfortable. Pregnancy already has so many stresses you should be doing things to help yourself relax. Try practicing yoga to help your body relax and get healthy even before you become pregnant. You can always change your yoga program to a full health program for pregnancy, once you are expecting.