5 Questions about Acupuncture in Pregnancy

By Barbara Poczyniak, R.Ac

min read

I’m often surprised to hear that many women are unsure about acupuncture during pregnancy.  Here are the top 5 questions I get from new moms-to-be about getting acupuncture during this time.

Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?

Yes! Acupuncture is a gentle and effective natural treatment for many issues that can arise during all stages of pregnancy. Most Registered Acupuncturists have training to work with pregnancy, but be sure to inquire about their experience and how often they treat pregnant patients. Other types of acupuncture practitioners such as chiropractors, massage therapists and physiotherapists cannot offer acupuncture treatments during pregnancy, as it is not in their training or scope of practice (Ontario Canada). 

Rest assured that qualified acupuncturists know proper positioning techniques so that pregnant women can sit or lie comfortably and safely during the treatment.

What can acupuncture help with during pregnancy?

Acupuncture can help at all stages of pregnancy, and is often one of the few natural, medication-free remedies available. During the first trimester it can help maintain a healthy pregnancy, as well as alleviate issues such as fatigue and nausea.  It is an excellent pain relief remedy for back pain and other discomfort. Throughout pregnancy it can aid with common problems such as heartburn, headaches, constipation and insomnia.

Where do the needles go for acupuncture in pregnancy?

Depending on issue being treated needles may be put at acupuncture points all over the body: hands, arms, feet and legs.  Point locations may also include the back, torso, ears and scalp.  They may be “local points” at the location of pain, or your practitioner may choose “distal points” far from this area. After a certain point, we no longer use certain acupuncture points on the low back, sacrum and on the belly. There are always choices for the acupuncture point locations used in a treatment, for both safety and comfort. There are also a number of points that are NOT used during pregnancy for safety reasons. 

Can acupuncture help turn a breech baby?

Acupuncture and moxibustion (burning an herb called mugwort near the skin at a particular acupuncture point on the foot) can indeed be useful to help turn a breech baby.  Each woman’s situation is unique, but ideally the best results can be expected at around week 33-35. I usually suggest a combination of acupuncture visits in the office plus daily “moxa” treatments as homework for 5-10 days in a row at home.

Can acupuncture help to induce labour?

Technically, only a medical doctor can offer labour induction – as this is a medical procedure.  However, acupuncture has been successfully used to prepare the body for an easier labour and delivery.  If a woman is past her delivery due date (and is having a normal, healthy pregnancy), it can be used to encourage natural labour to start. 

Ideally, acupuncture treatments will have started at least 3 weeks prior to due date.  It can also be used for pain relief during labour.  During this time we start to needle a few of the “forbidden points” that are not used earlier in the pregnancy.  These acupuncture points are thought to stimulate uterine contractions, therefore are not used until the last days of pregnancy for this purpose. 

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breech baby, pregnancy

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