Is Acupuncture in Pregnancy Safe and Effective?

Are you suffering from pregnancy related problems?  If so please read this blog and if you think I can help call  or email me for a free consultation.

I recently attended a two day lecture given by the amazing Debra Betts, a trained nurse and acupuncture in pregnancy guru.  So many women suffer at various stages of pregnancy and there is often very little that Western Medicine can offer.  For most conditions rest is advocated by GPs, and indeed Chinese Medicine also advocates rest and the relief of stress; but the reality is that for many women rest is the one thing that’s hard to come by.  So what treatment is available that is effective and safe for use in pregnancy?

Many women and GPs are understandably nervous when it comes to using acupuncture during pregnancy.  In fact 20 years ago when I rang an acupuncturist for help with nausea and migraines she wouldn’t treat me because I was pregnant.  Fortunately times have changed and although acupuncture is still considered ‘alternative’ its use in pregnancy is widespread in certain countries such as Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand, where midwives undertake specialized acupuncture training. Studies carried out by the Cochrane Institute, (considered the ‘gold standard’ in research for evaluating randomised controlled trials), have shown that in the hands of a fully qualified acupuncturist acupuncture in pregnancy is both safe and effective.

Pregnant woman belly

Is Acupuncture in Pregnancy Safe and Effective?

Research

Nausea and Vomiting

In 2002 two studies were published using the largest research study to date.  The first was on the effectiveness of acupuncture and the second on the safety of using acupuncture treatment in early pregnancy.  The study involved 593 women who were all less than 14 weeks pregnant and suffering from pregnancy related nausea. The study found that acupuncture was effective for nausea and dry retching and with more regular treatment may have been effective for vomiting. View Summary.  In the second study the authors concluded that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for women who experience nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy. View Summary.

Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy

A 2005 controlled trial of pelvic pain in pregnancy involved 386 pregnant women.  The study aimed to compare the standard treatment of pelvic pain (pelvic belt, education and exercises) with standard treatment plus acupuncture or standard treatment plus extra stabilising exercises.  The authors concluded acupuncture was superior to stabilising exercises in the management of pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy. View Summary.

Breech Presentation

A 1998 study looked at 260 women, all 33 weeks pregnant with their first baby, all showing breech presentation. The aim was to study the efficacy and safety of using moxibustion to correct breech presentation. The authors concluded that at 35 weeks 75.4% of the babies had turned in the group receiving moxibustion, compared to 47.7% in the group not receiving moxibustion. View Summary.

Obviously if the baby moves into the correct position the woman is less likely to have a caesarean. Some women seem to view a caesarean as being preferable to vaginal birth as being less taxing for them and possibly better for their sex life. But a caesarean is a major operation requiring rest and no driving for some time afterwards. There is also a view that vaginal birth can improve a woman’s sex life.

Pre-Birth Acupuncture

A number of studies have been carried out into the effectiveness of pre-birth acupuncture, although these have not been reviewed by the Cochrane Institute. A 1974 study concluded that acupuncture once a week from 37 weeks gestation was effective in reducing the mean time of the labour in the women treated. The acupuncture group had a mean labour time of 6 hours and 36 minutes compared to eight hours and 2 minutes in the control group.

In 2004 there was an observational study involving 169 women examining the effect of pre-birth acupuncture. In the acupuncture group there was an overall 35% reduction in the number of inductions (for women having their first baby this was a 43% reduction), 31% reduction in the epidural rate. When comparing midwifery only care there was a 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery and a 9% increase in normal vaginal births. The conclusion was that pre-birth acupuncture appeared to provide some promising therapeutic benefits in assisting women to have normal vaginal births and that a further randomised controlled study was warranted.

This gives you some idea of the research which has been undertaken regarding the use of acupuncture in pregnancy. There is more out there if you want to search for it.

 

What Pregnancy Conditions Can Acupuncture Treat?

As well as those listed above many women suffer from stress during pregnancy and acupuncture can be great to assist a woman to moderate, not eliminate, her stress levels.  It can also aid sleep thereby often having a direct impact on stress.

Acupuncture can help in cases of threatened miscarriage.  The aim of acupuncture is to create the best possible uterine environment in which the foetus can survive by ensuring a good blood supply to the uterus.

Some women have pain during their pregnancy – back pain, pelvic pain, symphysis pubis.  Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce the pain.  It can also help with varicose veins, haemorrhoid and vulvar varicosities.

 

A Tip for Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy

Feel between the 2nd and 3rd toes working your way up the foot.  If you find a sore spot here try massaging it, you may find it relieves your back ache.  This is not an actual acupuncture point.  It was discovered by mid-wives in New Zealand who were carrying out acupuncture on pregnant women and so is known as the mid-wife point.  If you find massaging this spot doesn’t help try visiting an acupuncturist and getting it needled.

Foot Acupuncture Point

Acupuncture is also helpful prior to pregnancy, getting your body ready to carry a baby and after pregnancy in regaining your strength and energy.

My practice is based in Ealing, West London.  If you are finding pregnancy a struggle instead of being a time of joy and excitement, call or email me for a free consultation and let me help.

For more information see Jackie at Bridge to Health.

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