Using acupuncture to treat fertility has become common in Australia, most people will have a friend, friend-of- friend or a family member who have utilised it to help fall pregnant. Less commonly known is the effectiveness of acupuncture during pregnancy. From pre-conception to the time of a positive pregnancy test right up to when the baby is born and during breast feeding, acupuncture is safe and effective.
You may be thinking “what could I possibly use acupuncture for during pregnancy?” This is number one of a three part blog about the effective use of acupuncture in pregnancy.
As an acupuncturist at Fertile Ground Health Group I routinely treat women in early pregnancy. As we are supporting women trying to conceive, often it is from the time of a missed period, even before they know they are pregnant. Working with fertility, also means working with pregnancy, preventing miscarriage and promoting health and well-being for mother and baby.
The most common complaint in the first trimester and one we often treat in the clinic is nausea, vomiting and dry retching, commonly known as morning sickness. Experiencing morning sickness can be very debilitating, making it difficult to get on with everyday tasks. But acupuncture can certainly help – and many of our patients will agree! According to Australian researcher Caroline Smith and her team, acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for women who experience nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy. This research also found further benefits for women in energy and vitality, physical and mental health and ability to engage in social activities. Pretty good side effects we think!
One of the most popular known acupuncture points is one on the inside of the wrist just above the base of the hand. Stretchy wrist bands (called Sea Bands) that stimulate this point can even be purchased from many pharmacies for morning sickness. While acupuncturists utilise this point often to treat morning sickness, we also look at each person individually and use other point combinations. Depending on the circumstances, this point may not be appropriate at all.
The best thing about using acupuncture for morning sickness is that nothing needs to be ingested. If you are experiencing morning sickness right now, or ever have in your life you will understand the difficulty of trying to take something while feeling so ill. There is also the commonly-held preference to take as little medicine as possible while pregnant. During an acupuncture session one can lay on the table and rest while the needles do their work. Benifits can be felt instantly, and build over a few treatments. We usually recommend the first 3 treatments with in 10 days to get some momentum in improvement of symptoms. Most women then only need weekly treatments in the first trimester to keep their nausea under control.
Aside from treating morning sickness, we also use a supportive care model and recommend our pregnant patients seek weekly acupuncture sessions during the first trimester, particularly with those who have had difficulty falling pregnant or those who have a history of miscarriage. During the first 12 weeks the incidence of miscarriage is at its highest. There is now strong evidence to suggest that supportive care in the first trimester is important in the prevention of unexplained recurrent miscarriages.
Supportive care means care by a health care practitioner on a weekly basis so the patient feels supported and cared for. As part of each weekly treatment the practitioner should monitor how the patient is going and include relaxation into the session. Acupuncture fits this model perfectly. For anyone who has had acupuncture you would know it always includes a detailed discussion about how the patient has been tracking over the week followed by a time of relaxation after the acupuncture needles have been inserted.
Aside from supporting the women through the first trimester we also treat other common ailments that crop up as the body that is busy creating a human grows and changes – these include back pain, headaches, constipation, emotional upset and heart-burn.
For many women, getting through the first trimester of a pregnancy is the most difficult part of the pregnancy. Finding a therapy such as acupuncture to help you through can change a lot about how you feel at that particular time.
Stay tuned for more on acupuncture in pregnancy in following blogs.
In the mean time, check out the pregnancy page of our website to find out more about how all of our services can benefit your healthy pregnancy here.
Joanne Sharkey is an acupuncturist, Chinese herbal medical practitioner and a mum. Having years of practice as well as personal experiences Joanne is highly motivated in everything to do with starting a family. This includes preconception care, helping couples conceive, health during pregnancy and preparing the pregnant woman for a safe delivery. Her extensive studies (in both Australia and China), experience and passion combine to enable her to provide successful treatments in pregnancy, fertility and postpartum care. Joanne practices at Fertile Ground Health Group from Thursday to Saturday.