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December 3, 2007
updated July 5, 2010

Acupuncture Treatment During Pregnancy
Nancy Rakela, OMD, LAc

Pregnancy Conditions Treated with Acupuncture
Are Chinese Herbs & Acupuncture Safe During Pregnancy?

Can Acupuncture Treat Musculoskeletal Pain During Pregnancy?
Breech Presentation
First Trimester of Pregnancy: Morning Sickness, Fatigue, Miscarriage
Second Trimester of Pregnancy: Promote Baby Development

Third Trimester: Pre-Birth Treatment, Labor Preparation & Pain Relief
Postpartum Care

Pregnancy Conditions Treated with Acupuncture:
Table of Contents

- Acne
- Anemia
- Anxiety
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Constipation
- Depression
- Edema
- Fatigue
- Gestational diabetes
- Headache
- Heartburn
- Hemorrhoids
- Hypertension (pre-eclampsia)
- Insomnia
- Low back pain
- Nausea
- Sciatica
- Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPs)
- Sinusitis
- Skin changes
- Threatened miscarriage
- Thrush
- Vision issues
- Vomiting

Are Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture Safe During Pregnancy?
Table of Contents

Acupuncture can be used safely during all stages of pregnancy. Acupuncture is beneficial for the pregnant women from the first weeks of pregnancy through labor and delivery and also for postpartum care.

Some Chinese herbs alleviate morning sickness, other herbs help prevent miscarriage and some herbs should not be used during pregnancy. Chinese herbs should be prescribed by an acupuncturist who specializes in prenatal care and should be used cautiously.

Can Acupuncture Treat Musculoskeletal Pain During Pregnancy
Table of Contents

Postural changes, hormonal changes, weight gain and edema cause some women to experience musculoskeletal pain during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. Acupuncture is an effective, drug-free, pain relief treatment for all of the following musculoskeletal conditions: lower back pain, sciatic pain, headaches or migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome with tingling in the arms, swollen ankles and painful feet.

Breech Presentation
Table of Contents

The National Institutes of Health recognize acupuncture and moxabustion as effective treatments to help turn breech babies to the natural delivery position. If a baby is in the breech position, the heat of a lighted moxa stick is used to warm a specific acupuncture point during weeks 32-38 of the pregnancy. This treatment successfully turns many babies. Moxa is a Chinese herb, Artemisia vulgaris, which is rolled into a stick that looks like a cigar and is used to heat acupuncture points.

First Trimester of Pregnancy
Table of Contents

Weekly acupuncture treatment during the first 12-14 weeks of pregnancy is beneficial for alleviating morning sickness, preventing miscarriage and helping with fatigue.

Morning sickness
Many pregnant women experience some morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy. As most women are reluctant to use conventional pharmaceuticals to help alleviate their symptoms, acupuncture can be a safe drug-free treatment to reduce nausea and vomiting.

Fatigue is normal during the first trimester of pregnancy. The restful and rejuvenating effect of acupuncture helps pregnant women feel rested and much less fatigued. Acupuncture treatment also helps with insomnia which can contribute to fatigue.

Preventing Miscarriage
Acupuncture helps prevent miscarriage by reducing stress, improving circulation and blood flow to the uterus and fetus, and strengthening all the organ systems of the body. It also helps prevent autoimmune reactions like increased natural killer cells that might contribute to miscarriage.

Second Trimester of Pregnancy: Promote Baby Development
Table of Contents

In Chinese medicine, there is a saying, To help the child, treat the mother. In pregnancy this is especially true. Keeping the mother-to-be healthy from the beginning to the end of the pregnancy, will strengthen and promote good development of the baby.

Most women feel good during their second trimester of pregnancy. Acupuncture is recommended twice per month. If you are pregnant with twins acupuncture is still recommended weekly throughout your entire pregnancy. Some women have minor symptoms, such as: constipation, heartburn, hypertension, insomnia, sinusitis and skin rashes; all these can be helped with acupuncture treatment.

Third Trimester: Pre-Birth Treatment, Labor Preparation & Pain Relief
Table of Contents

The month prior to the birth, weeks 36-40, is the best time to prepare your body for labor and delivery. Acupuncture pre-birth treatment helps prepare the mother-to-be for an efficient labor with less anxiety.

An acupuncture study of 167 women in New Zealand found that acupuncture once per week for the four weeks prior to delivery promoted an efficient labor with less medical intervention, decreased labor time, reduced caesarian section rate, reduced pain medication during labor. The women received fewer epidurals and there was less need for the use of the drug oxytosin to speed up contractions.

Acupuncture treatment for labor promotes readiness of the cervix, increases the strength and frequency of contractions, reduces fear, anxiety and exhaustion, and helps with pain management.

Pain Relief During Labor:
Acupressure on specific acupuncture points can also be effective for pain relief during labor. During the month of your pre-birth acupuncture treatment, your acupuncturist will train your partner in the specific pain relief points to be used during labor.

Postpartum Care
Table of Contents

Childbirth can be physically and emotionally demanding. A woman's system will need rejuvenation after a successful delivery. Being replenished with herbs and acupuncture after giving birth ensures healthier, more comfortable lactation and nursing. It helps bring the body and hormones back into balance and helps with postpartum depression. New mothers are welcome to bring their newborn babies with them when they come for acupuncture treatment.

Postpartum Conditions Treated with Acupuncture:
- Abdominal pain and scar treatment
- Fatigue
- Hemorrhoids
- Lactation insufficiency
- Mastitis
- Postpartum depression
- Prolonged bleeding

Debra Betts, The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Childbirth and Pregnancy (

For more information contact:
Nancy Rakela, OMD, LAc
(510) 540-6267 to set up an appointment.

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