I’m often asked, “Is acupuncture safe in pregnancy?” There are some dangers to acupuncture in pregnancy and I recommend that you find a qualified acupuncturist who has undertaken some extra study of this area of practice. In competent hands, acupuncture is a safe and useful treatment through the whole of your pregnancy. Acupuncture can be used to treat all the things it is normally used for or it may be useful for specific problems of pregnancy. Some specific problems are considered below. Contact me if you would like details of other conditions.
Pregnancy is a physiological state, but even when a woman has an uncomplicated pregnancy she may suffer with back and pelvic pain, nausea, indigestion or emotional problems such as anxiety and depression.
When the fetus is in the breech position, labour can be complicated. Labour consists of a series of rhythmic, involuntary, progressive contractions of the uterus that cause effacement (thinning and shortening) and dilation of the uterine cervix. In a first pregnancy, labour usually lasts 12 to 18 hours on average; subsequent labors are often shorter, averaging 6 to 8 hours. During labour, most women need some form of analgesia, and some may require local anaesthesia during stitching if they tear during the birth. Normal labour usually begins within 2 weeks (before or after) the estimated delivery date.
For details of how acupuncture might help click here for the British Acupuncture Council’s fact sheet on obstetrics.
Nausea and vomiting are commonly experienced by women in early pregnancy; the prevalence rates are 50-80% for nausea, and 50% for vomiting and retching. The symptoms are most common in the first trimester, between 6 and 12 weeks, but can continue to 20 weeks and last longer than this in up to 20% of women. If vomiting is intractable, it can be associated with weight loss, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, and may lead to hospitalisation. The symptoms are thought to be associated with rising levels of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) or oestrogens. Women experiencing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can suffer considerable physical and psychological effects. The symptoms can affect daily activities and relationships, and result in lost productivity and increased healthcare costs.
Drug treatment for nausea and vomiting includes 5-HT3 receptor antagonists, antimuscarinics, antihistamines, dopamine antagonists, corticosteroids and vitamins (i.e. B6 and B12). The teratogenic effects of drugs (such as thalidomide) used in the past to control these symptoms have led to caution about prescribing medications in the first trimester of pregnancy.
To find out how acupuncture might be able to help with nausea in pregnancy click here to view the British Acupuncture Council’s fact sheet on nausea and vomiting.
The puerperium covers the 6-week period following birth, during which time the various physiological changes that occurred during pregnancy revert to the non-pregnant state. Although for most women, the postnatal period is uncomplicated, care during this time needs to address any departures from expected recovery after birth.
Common puerperal problems include: pain in the perineal area, if the perineum has been damaged during the birth; urinary stress incontinence; painful or difficult urination; constipation; haemorrhoids; insufficient lactation, mastitis; breast abscesses; back pain; headache due to epidural/spinal anaesthesia; persistent fatigue; the ‘baby blues’; and postnatal depression (affects about 10%).
To find out how acupuncture might help with these problems then click here for The British Acupuncture Council’s fact sheet on the puerperium.