Pregnancy can be one of the most magical times in a woman’s life. Unfortunately along with that magic comes morning sickness, fatigue, back pain, constipation and a barrage of other not-so-magical symptoms. When performed by a properly trained practitioner, acupuncture is 100% safe to have done throughout all three trimesters of pregnancy. As a specialist in fertility and women’s health, I often find myself crying tears of joy along with my patients who have been struggling and finally receive that positive pregnancy test. I have to admit, I LOVE having the honor of being one of the first people to know. But our relationship doesn’t end there. We highly suggest that these women continue regular treatments through their first trimester, as this is the most volatile time. Most of our patients come as needed throughout the remainder of their pregnancy, and often come back regularly again towards the end.
For some women, first trimester symptoms can be agonizing. “Morning sickness” is often a major misnomer, as many women can experience nausea and vomiting at any time throughout the day. You know those wristbands that people wear to prevent motion sickness and nausea on boats or in cars? What you might not know is those are intended to access a very powerful acupuncture point called Pericardium 6. This point gives us a direct line to the chest, stomach and diaphragm. In Chinese Medicine, the “qi” (can also be described as the “action” or “vital energy”) of the stomach should be going downward, from the swallowing of food, to the emptying of the stomach. When nausea and vomiting is occurring, the qi is going in the opposite direction. We refer to this phenomenon as “counterflow qi”. With Pericardium 6 along with other acupuncture points, our goal is to reverse this counterflow qi and set it moving back in the correct direction. With that same theory in mind, we can also address additional pregnancy symptoms such as acid reflux and shortness of breath. Another issue that is frequently experienced a bit farther down the digestive tract during pregnancy is constipation. Some women even deal with the occasional episode of diarrhea. Acupuncture is a powerhouse at regulating intestinal movement, harmonizing the digestive system, and getting things moving properly.
An incredibly common, but often-unmentioned pregnancy symptom we see in almost every pregnant patient that comes through our door is anxiety. Any woman can experience this, but women who have struggled to get pregnant or have experienced the heartbreaking loss of a miscarriage tend to be more prone to it. With acupuncture we help regulate the nervous system, release the feel-good hormone oxytocin, and help maintain a happy and healthy environment for baby to grow big and strong in. Fatigue is also a major symptom women experience during pregnancy. Some often describe that it can be so overwhelming they have a hard time keeping their eyes open during the workday. By opening specific acupuncture meridians or pathways in the body, we address this concern and provide energy boosting treatments for our tired mommies-to-be.
When your body is growing another human, things have to move and stretch in order to make room! Obviously this can cause some discomfort, and every woman experiences it differently. For some, the round ligament pain that typically appears during the second trimester can be agonizingly uncomfortable. Or maybe this is the one time in your life you suddenly experience that shooting pain down your leg and say to yourself “Wow! Is this what people mean when they describe “sciatic” pain”? Acupuncture can be incredibly effective in treating these types of aches and pains, along with other common pregnancy ailments such as hip, back and knee pain. We do this by improving the flow of fresh blood and oxygen in these tense areas, relaxing muscles and specific trigger points, reducing inflammation, and allowing your body to release natural painkillers.
As the baby’s due date gets closer, we can aid in preparing the body for labor and delivery. By relaxing all the muscles, and beginning the downward movement of energy we aim to help create a timely and positive birthing experience. If you are nearing the end of your pregnancy, and you are in the unfortunate situation of having a breech baby that just won’t turn, acupuncture in addition to moxibustion might be worth trying. When using moxibustion to turn a breech baby, we burn the dried herb Mugwort and use it to warm an acupuncture point on the end of your small toe. This has been shown in studies to encourage the baby to turn into the proper position.
Acupuncture can also be very helpful during the post-partum phase. If you can manage to pull yourself away, we are able to address any issues that might be occurring. This includes post-partum depression or anxiety, fatigue, lactation problems, healing from the physical birthing experience (vaginal or C-section), and any bodily changes due to shifting hormones. Most importantly, we ask that our patients send us photos of the tiny miracles they’ve created. It brings us so much joy to see the culmination of their fertility and pregnancy journeys.
-Marcy Julius, L.Ac.