The body is changing so much during pregnancy. An overview of systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials across the whole area of pregnancy found evidence that acupuncture may assist with the management of some complaints, though more studies are needed (Smith 2009). Acupuncture is relatively safe with no records of serious adverse events in the pregnancy-related systematic reviews (Cho 2010; Lim 2009; Vas 2009; Ee 2008).
We frequently see pregnant women who may have the following conditions:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Itching in pregnancy
- Varicose veins
- Anxiety and depression
- Thrush and abnormal vaginal discharge
- Urinary tract infections
- Musculoskeletal conditions
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Small for dates babies (intra-uterine growth retardation-IUGR)
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension
Regular treatment with acupuncture designed to reduce anxiety offers a woman important and reassuring support during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Clinical trials have shown that regular monitoring and reassurance reduces miscarriage rates (Domar A et al Fertil Steril 2009, Smith C and De Lacey S, in press, FSA conference 2008).
Acupuncture has been demonstrated to have significant immune-modulating effects. This effect may be important in reducing the risk of rejection by the mother’s immune system in the early days as an embryo implants and a pregnancy is established. Acupuncture can be used to enhance microcirculation in the uterine lining and the newly developing placenta. This may have particular importance where a woman has a tendency to produce clotting factors.
Acupuncture for Breech Presentation
Acupuncture treatment is ideally administered at 34-36 weeks gestation. This generally involves the woman coming to the clinic for just one appointment and being shown how to continue treatment at home with a moxa roll. This is a herb which is compacted into a cigar shaped stick and burnt by the side of an acupuncture point.
Moxibustion is the burning of moxa, the Chinese name for the herb mugwort, well known for its deep heat giving properties. This alters the flow of energy to the uterus and fetus when applied to a certain acupuncture point, encouraging the baby to turn. Moxibustion is practised routinely in China on all breech presentations. It increases fetal activity, usually enough to turn the fetus from breech to cephalic presentation. Studies conducted in China report varying success rates at 81% (Wei Wen, Co-operative Research Group on Moxibustion Version, 1984), while in more recent Italian studies 75% of the babies in the moxibustion group turned. (Cardini, Journal of American Medical Association, 1998).
Acupuncture for Induction
Acupuncture treatments can be administered once the woman reaches 40 weeks gestation to encourage the labour to start. Points used are ones that are known to stimulate the uterus, stimulate contractions and encourage the cervix to dilate. You can have 3 or 4 treatments or you can have just one treatment. However, treatments do tend to have an accumulative effect (i.e. the more treatments you have, the more effective they are). If you just want to have one treatment, have it ideally 24-48 hours before you are booked for a medical induction treatment.
From auditing the treatments we have administered, we found that from 41 weeks of gestation approximately 45% of women went into labour within 24 hours.
These weekly treatments are normally given for the 3 consecutive weeks before full-term. Research suggests that these consistently show to:
- Reduce the average length of time in labour.
- Contribute to reduced intervention in labour, including the need for medical induction and caesarean.
- Increase the chances of women experiencing a natural efficient labour.
- Encourage women to go into spontaneous labour around their due date. (Source: Journal of Chinese Medicine, Oct 2004.)
For further details of the research about acupuncture treatment during pregnancy, please see the factsheet published by the British Acupuncture Council at http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/members-research-fact-sheets/1607-acupuncture-and-childbirth.html
Get in touch
For appointments, or just to find out more:
Elaine Gibbons: tel 01273 758424 or 07905 743268
Houri Alavi: tel 07814 500418