Acupuncture is a safe, comfortable and cost effective treatment to help women have healthy pregnancies and dispense with many of the problems that commonly develop. Each trimester brings its own joys and discomforts, from fatigue and morning sickness to breastfeeding challenges and baby blues. Acupuncture offers a whole new approach for many women. Here are some of the most common questions I’m asked about acupuncture and pregnancy.
Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?
Yes. Florida’s licensed acupuncture physicians are trained to know which acupuncture points are helpful during pregnancy and which points should be avoided. There are certain points on the hands and shoulders and around the lower leg, ankle and lower back that are contraindicated during most of pregnancy. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine evolved over thousands of years and through their methods provided care to many pregnant women. In fact, many of us specialize in caring for women through pregnancy and women's health generally. Acupuncture is the most well known technique used in the practice of Chinese medicine; other methods include herbal medicine, massage, food therapy and even meditation.
What conditions can acupuncture help with during pregnancy?
For many women acupuncture helps them connect with the joys of pregnancy and eases the discomforts. Difficulties helped managed with acupuncture and Chinese medicine include morning sickness, back pain, ligament pain, premature cervical ripening, preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension), fatigue, heartburn, constipation and gestational diabetes. Don’t wait! If you want to get pregnant and experienced these problems in earlier pregnancies, you may be able to avoid repeating them by beginning with acupuncture and Chinese medicine care before you get pregnant. Some of the conditions I’ve helped mamas manage and recover from include:
- Stress, anxiety and emotional issues
- Morning sickness
- Back pain and sciatica
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Rhinitis and sinus congestion
- Breech and malpresentation
- Labor prep and cervical ripening
- Postpartum vaginal discharge
- Baby blues and postpartum depression
- Insufficient or excessive lactation
- Post-operative healing
When should I start and how often should I go?
If you are already pregnant, it’s a good idea to see an acupuncturist as soon as possible to help temper morning sickness and other common first-trimester symptoms. In a healthy pregnancy with minimal complaints, you may only need acupuncture every other week or once a month as a tune up, to ensure that things are balanced and flowing smoothly. In addition, pre-birth treatments are an ideal time to safely treat many other pregnancy complaints such as heartburn and hip pain. It is also the perfect time to ensure baby is in the best possible position for an easy journey.
If you experienced pregnancy loss in the past, more frequent treatments may be recommended, especially during the first trimester. This is so that you get the sustained support required to keep your body healthy and strong over the course of your pregnancy. Toward the end of any pregnancy, at about week 37, your acupuncturist may suggest coming in more often to help prepare you for labor.
Can acupuncture help induce labor?
Acupuncturists don’t do labor induction—that’s a biomedical treatment. Though we CAN help you build endurance, rest and prepare for labor. Stress is one of the biggest factors that women battle during pregnancy, labor and delivery. Acupuncture can help significantly with reducing stress and anxiety in these moments. Acupuncturists who specialize in women’s health can provide treatment to prompt cervical ripening by helping to regulate hormones, calm the sympathetic nervous system and improve blood flow to the uterus and supporting ligaments. Acupuncture helps you keep the oxytocin - adrenaline balance in check, remain calm and steady and ready for a smooth labor and birth. It is much easier to prepare your body for labor when you’re not working against the ticking clock of your medical-induction appointment.
Should I keep getting acupuncture after I deliver?
Acupuncture as after-care for new moms is really important. Fatigue and depression are common symptoms after delivery. Regular acupuncture and moxibustion are great for helping moms recover and regain their strength after giving birth. Acupuncture can also help moms who’ve delivered babies by cesarean manage their pain, recover more easily and promote bonding and breastfeeding with their little one.
Where do I find an acupuncturist?
- National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is the registry of practitioners who maintain their national credentials and board certification: select for more info or visit nccaom.org
- Florida's Department of Health Professional Licensing: follow this link or go to floridahealth.gov
- Community Acupuncture clinics offering affordable, sliding scale fees: click here or check out pocacoop.com
Gururas Khalsa, AP, DOM is a community acupuncturist and herbalist. She’s the founder of Seminole Heights Community Acupuncture in Tampa. Gururas is a Kundalini yoga instructor and teaches at Sweetwater Organic Farm. For the last five years Gururas has trained to be a midwife supporting moms and midwives in birth center, hospital and home settings in Utah and Massachusetts. She’s a toLabor trained doula and is working on credentials to become a Lamaze childbirth educator. Gururas is a native Floridian and has returned to Tampa Bay after living in New England for the last 29 years. She’s a graduate of the New England School of Acupuncture, the oldest graduate school for Chinese Medicine in the US, and a USF graduate.