In Chinese medicine theory a dynamic balance between yin and yang and a smooth flow of energy or qi is necessary for health. Acupuncture is known to be effective during pregnancy, where it can be used to relieve morning sickness, boost energy, reduce fluid retention, and may assist with breech presentation and gently prepare the body for labour. Acupuncture is known to help increase energy levels, improve sleep, and enable the body to deal better with stress. Chinese medicine recognises a strong link between the reproductive system and the mind and emotions, and it follows that anxiety and stress can contribute a more difficult pregnancy and labour.
Chinese medicine can be highly effective in caring for both mother and baby at every stage throughout pregnancy from conception to post-partum. Closer to the due date, acupuncture can be used to prepare the perineum and enhance cervical ripening also known as dilation. Chinese medicine can care for maternal health by building the mother’s strength, while avoiding antibiotics and other strong drugs. Having a healthy mother has been found to improve labour outcomes.
Statistics suggest that some 75% of women suffer from morning sickness, ranging from mild occasional nausea to constant and severe vomiting. Acupuncture can achieve excellent results for morning sickness, even where there are constant, countless episodes of vomiting. Acupuncture is highly effective and has the advantage of not requiring the drinking of herbs, which may not stay down.
The optimal position of the baby for birth is where the buttocks are up, and the head is down; this means at birth the head is the presenting part. When the buttocks are the presenting part, it is called breech presentation. The baby frequently changes position during the earlier stages of pregnancy, and even if lying head upwards, will often spontaneously turn before 34 weeks’ gestation. Acupuncture and moxibustion have been shown in several studies to double the incidence of the baby turning when compared to spontaneous version. Breech presentation occurs in about 3-4% of women going into labour. However, the optimal time for using acupuncture and moxibustion to potentially help turn the baby is between 34 and 36 weeks, before the baby grows further and ‘drops’ lower in the abdomen, when there is still room to move.
Acupuncture can be used to facilitate labour in many ways: it can be used at the time of delivery to promote the descent of the baby, to establish labour, to moderate (but not weaken) the contractions and to ease back pain. Best results are obtained when the mother has had treatment prior to the birth, where acupuncture can prepare the perineum and enhance cervical ripening. Prolonged labour can be the result of deficient ‘qi’. A Chinese medicine practitioner can determine if this is so quite early in the pregnancy and prescribe herbs to take during the pregnancy.
Western obstetric practice manages overdue dates with the application of prostaglandins to the cervix, rupture of the membranes (breaking the waters) and the administration of Syntocinon (synthetic Oxytocin). The last option may result in a more intense and uncomfortable labour and is associated with hypertonicity of the uterus. Acupuncture has been used by many women in this situation because it can assist in a smoother and more comfortable labour.
Chinese medicine can replenish the maternal energies depleted by the growth of the child, to whom nature gives priority for the 38 weeks of pregnancy. By doing this, not only does the mother feel better, but breast milk can be augmented, and potentially, the incidence of post-natal depression can be reduced.
Acupuncture is also very effective in treating post-partum bleeding and in replenishing health where there has been a heavy loss of blood. Acupuncture, along with the aid of Chinese herbs, can also help with incontinence issues – it can help raise the sinking qi and lift the internal organs back into place reducing the weak bladder.
Acupuncture has been used for centuries in assisting woman at all stages of their lives but is especially potent during the childbearing years where it is easy for women to become depleted in their energy. Please book in for a chat with Dr Mychelle at any stage of your journey to discuss how she can support you during this significant stage of your life.