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Acupuncture during pregnancy: Safety Benefits and Risks

Updated: Sep 7


Fertility
Fertility

Written by Eduardo Velasco Valido, AP, LAc, EAMP


Sometimes pregnancy makes your body feel a bit scattered. Does that make sense? Alongside the thrill, you might experience aches, painful sensations, or aches. For relief, every day more patients use complementary and alternative medicine that can relieve nausea, headaches, back pain, and gastrointestinal discomfort without taking prescription drugs. Acupuncture for pregnancy is a treatment that is used throughout Asia for thousands of years. It is a popular alternative therapy in many countries around.

Traditional acupuncture is safe, it has been used and evolved for thousands of years.


History of Gynecology in Traditional Chinese medicine

Gynecology has a long history in Chinese medicine. The earliest records of obstetric gynecology date from the Shang dynasty (1500-1000 BC).

Since 1949 they started to combine Western and Chinese medicine, and have developed many new treatments, for example, ectopic pregnant women are treated with Acupuncture and Chinese herbs without surgery, and acupuncture is used to breech presentation of the fetus and Chinese medicine treats myomas and cervical carcinoma with herbal medicine.


Safety Benefits of acupuncture treatments:

Acupuncture treatment is one of the best and safest treatments for pregnant women.

When performed by a licensed practitioner the adverse reactions are minimal.

Any well-trained practitioner knows that certain acupuncture points can't be used on pregnant women, these are forbidden points that won't be used in pregnancy acupuncture because they can stimulate the labor and produce a miscarriage. These points are used during giving birth to reduce labor pain, and pelvic pain, and accelerate the process.


Risks of acupuncture treatment

It is easy to find a randomized controlled trial proving the efficacy and the lack of risk of the acupuncture treatment, especially if you compared them with pharmaceutical treatments.

For example, if you treat morning sickness or severe nausea with acupuncture you will release the patient's symptoms without introducing any chemicals or substances that could affect her health or her baby's health.

Research suggests that side effects of acupuncture during pregnancy are minimum and similar to those experienced by acupuncture users who weren't pregnant.

Most common pregnancy complications treated with acupuncture:

Under normal circumstances, pregnancy is a natural process that won't produce any damage to the mother, only if the woman has any pre-existing condition or weakness, the pregnancy will accentuate these problems.


Blood pressure


Blood pressure
Blood pressure

We know that acupuncture treatment helps pregnant women with high blood pressure, which is known as Preeclampsia.

Since acupuncture treatment is safe and efficient, it is widely used to treat this condition. There are not many peer-reviewed studies on the use of acupuncture for preeclampsia but here you can see a good study, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31871530/ where you can see where this patient reduced her high blood pressure, increased her uterine blood flow and had a vaginal birth a healthy baby girl.


Morning sickness

This is one of the classic early pregnancy symptoms. Women can suffer from mild nausea to frequent vomiting, depending on their pre-existing digestion conditions. Morning sickness may happen at any time of the day but it's more common as its name says in the morning. During the first trimester, many changes happen in pregnant women.

In traditional Chinese medicine, we understand that the problem is because of one unbalance between the Liver and the Stomach, and the Spleen. Then we choose specific acupuncture points and the correct herbal formula to correct the particular imbalance that our patient is suffering.

Acupuncture during pregnancy is an excellent way to stop or alleviate morning sickness, in mild cases, 2 treatments per week would be enough, while severe nausea and vomiting would require the help of Chinese herbs.


Back and pelvic pain in pregnant women


back pain during pregnancy
Back pain during pregnancy

This is another excellent example of the great benefit of acupuncture in treating pelvic and back pain.

While massage and other strong manipulation techniques may be a little invasive for pregnant women, choosing the right acupuncture points can solve the problem very easily and without risks or side effects. Also, counter-pain medication is not the best pain management for pregnant women because of all the side effects that may affect the baby. So alternative medicine and acupuncture are winners again offering the best way to achieve pain relief.

Acupuncture during pregnancy is safe and efficient.

Treat depression


Depression
Depression

This is another common pregnancy symptom that we can easily improve with traditional Chinese medicine, either with acupuncture points or/and herbal medicine.

Pregnant women often suffer from "Blood Deficiency" due to the huge effort that their bodies are doing giving birth to a new life. When there is a reduced amount of blood will directly affect the Heart which is the organ in charge of the emotions.

The right acupuncture points, the right herbal formula, and the right diet for the patient will easily correct or significantly reduce this issue.

Sciatica and low back pain


pregnancy and back pain
Pregnancy and back pain

Low back pain is another so common problem. During pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, the ligaments in your body become softer to prepare the body to adapt to the transformation in size and prepare for future labor. Acupuncture is so effective in reducing pain signals from different parts of the body.

There are plenty of systematic review studies proving the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of pain management.


Anxiety on pregnancy

Our medicine is a healing art that always tries to create a balance in our bodies to restore health. In traditional medicine, Qi is a life force that promotes all activities in the body. With all the changes that happen in the body during pregnancy, it is very easy that any kind of stagnation occurs. This Qi stagnation is the cause of the Anxiety. Every patient would be different because all of us are unique, but a good practitioner will find the correct acupuncture points for your particular case.

Because it does not introduce any substance to the body, acupuncture is ideal to treat anxiety during pregnancy, especially in the first 3 months.

Dizziness in pregnancy

Dizziness and vertigo usually occur in the second and third trimesters. In our medicine, this may be related to overwork and an irregular diet. Depending on the root of the problem the patient may suffer dizziness with tinnitus, insomnia, night sweats, and heat in the evening; or dizziness with swelling finger or ankles, tiredness, and blurred vision. The complete symptoms depend on the previous health conditions of the patient.

Dizziness during pregnancy responds very well to a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine, but if the problem is severe, it will require further treatment after giving birth.

For western medicine, dizziness is not a big problem, only becomes dangerous if the patient is also suffering from edema and hypertension.


Abdominal pain

Having mild abdominal pain is very common and usually, it does not represent a danger. But if the abdominal pain is severe and comes with uterine bleeding the patient should be referred to a gynecologist to exclude dangerous conditions, like ectopic pregnancy or threatened miscarriage. Another possible severe condition can be ovarian tumor torsion, in which the main symptoms are severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and vaginal bleeding.

But if the pain is mild and there is no bleeding is normal, most pregnant women experience some abdominal pain episodes during their pregnancy. For these cases, acupuncture and Chinese herbs respond very well to resolve abdominal pain.



Fetus not growing


healthy fetus
healthy fetus

From an alternative medicine point of view, the only reason for the slow-growing of the fetus is due to Blood deficiency in the mother or if she has some constitutional deficiencies previous to the pregnancy. There are a lot of good Chinese herbal formulas that address this issue very efficiently.

With this problem, Herbal medicine is more effective than acupuncture and is very important to make sure that the mother has correct nutrition with foods that stimulate the production of blood. Also should avoid overwork and take plenty of rest.




Edema during pregnancy

Edema is not considered a dangerous sign unless it comes with hypertension and proteinuria, in this case, the patient should be monitored by a gynecologist

Edema during pregnancy can be alleviated with acupuncture and Herbal medicine but it is difficult to resolve 100% because the longer the pregnancy the weaker the kidney will be and more fluids will be retained. Despite this, the patients with edema who receive acupuncture, alleviate significantly their condition, and to correct the condition, she should keep the treatment with acupuncture and herbs for a few months after giving birth.


Aphonia

This condition usually occurs towards the end of the pregnancy. In complementary and alternative medicine this is explained as Kidney or Lung Yin "deficiency". It is a sign that the body of the mother is exhausted from all the work is doing.

This condition is very easy to treat, in this case, Chinese herbal formula usually achieves faster results than acupuncture. In a week taking the herbs should be solved already.


Cough

Cough in pregnancy may be persistent and may come together with stress feelings or mental agitation and feelings of heat. Usually, it happens due to overwork, incorrect nutrition, or emotional problems. It can be a dry cough or productive with sputum.

The most effective treatment would be herbs rather than acupuncture. If the practitioner chooses the correct acupuncture points the cough will disappear immediately, but it will come back soon. But with Chinese herbs, it would take a day or 2 but it won't come back.


Painful urination syndrome

There is a predisposition to develop urinary infections, the progesterone produces atony on the muscles of the pelvis and the ureters. Also, the pressure of the uterus on the ureters reduced the fl0w of urine and the bacterial growth may increase. Cystitis can be dangerous in pregnant women and need serious treatment.

Both acupuncture and herbal treatment may provide important help with lot fewer side effects than antibiotics.

Retention of urine

This consists of difficult urination and an uncomfortable sensation, some pelvic pain, and irritable feeling. From our point of view as complementary medicine, this condition might be due to excessive physical exercises like lifting or standing for long periods, the wrong diet, or exposure to damp weather.

With the help of a well-trained practitioner, a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs often produce a fast result and should be resolved within days.

Constipation


constipation
constipation

Constipation is very common in pregnancy because the hormone progesterone has a relaxant effect on smooth muscles (intestines are formed by smooth muscles) and also due to the pressure of the enlarged uterus over the intestines. It is a very common pathology, especially during the first three months.

A wrong diet, lack of exercise, and emotional stress aggravate this condition.

A typical complication is the development of hemorrhoids.

From a Chinese point of view is because of Blood deficiency and stagnation of Qi (life force).

The combination of acupuncture and herbal treatments produces excellent results that should be noticed within a week of treatment.

Recurrent Miscarriage

Obstetric acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to prevent this condition.

A woman that has suffered habitual miscarriages usually is a patient with important deficiencies within her body. The ideal treatment would be 4-6 months before getting pregnant again, with acupuncture, herbs, and proper nutrition to strengthen the reproductive system of the future mother.


Acupuncture and Labor pain

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years for pain management, included to reduced labor pain while giving birth. In addition to ancient records and books, plenty of randomized controlled trials are proving its efficacy. The acupuncture points are used to induce labor and alleviate pain. To reduce the labor pain with acupuncture you need to find a doctor or a nurse trained in this healing art.


Abnormal position of the fetus

At 30 weeks of pregnancy, the head of the fetus should be pointed downward. Before this time it is easy to change positions but at the 30th week the fetus has become big and there is less space to turn in. If the head is still upward would lid to difficult labor and could be dangerous for both mother and baby.

This is another systematic review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3789399/ proving the efficacy of acupuncture treatment.


Fertility treatment


Fertility
Feritlity

Once again acupuncture treatment and Chinese herbs have been used for thousands of years to promote fertility, it is not hard to find any acupuncture research probing the efficacy of real acupuncture over sham acupuncture. The number of fertility centers that understand the importance of acupuncture is growing by the day. Acupuncture treatment and Chinese herbs almost double the chances of success of the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), so increase the efficacy of assisted reproductive technology.

Also, improve the pregnancy outcome by reducing the percentage of complications during the pregnancy.

According to a systematic review, Chinese herbs increase pregnancy rates 2-fold over a 3 to a 6-month period when compared with Western medicine.

Concept of pregnancy in traditional Asian medicine

This medicine was developed in Asia earlier and deeper than in the West. Just an example; in the Tang dynasty (1271 - 1368) was written the book "The Thousand Golden Ducat Prescriptions" describes the changes occurring during each month of pregnancy. This book describes accurately all the changes that happen to the baby from conception until birth in great detail. It is impressive that they could achieve that level of accuracy almost a thousand years ago way before the discovery of microscopy, X-Ray, MRIs, blood work, etc.


Conclusions acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine

This complementary medicine has proven through thousands of years of evolution that is a very safe and effective healing art, totally capable to treat and help a huge variety of health conditions. The secret is that focus on the root of the problem and the symptom at the same time, making the patient feel better while addressing the root of the problem.


About Soul Acupuncture & Herbal

In Soul Acupuncture & Herbal we truly believe in this medicine, in all of these years of experience we have learned so much, experienced so much, and witnessed so many wonderful cases of patients changing their lives for good. That is why we keep dedicating full time to promoting this healing art and keep helping people as much as possible.