Pregnancy and Birth

The changes of pregnancy can bring a variety of problems at a time when medication options are limited and women often wish to avoid taking medication if possible. Traditional acupuncture can be used safely in pregnancy and is becoming more used in ante-natal care. There are maternity acupuncture clinics at four NHS hospitals: The Whittington in London, West Middlesex, Warwick and Gilbert Bain in Shetland.

Oriental medicine has a deep and detailed understanding of the physical changes of pregnancy and why they can cause imbalances which can give rise to common and less common conditions seen in pregnancy. There is now a wealth of clinical experience in treating problems of pregnancy with acupuncture and the use of acupuncture for conditions often considered part of a normal pregnancy, such as morning sickness, headaches, tiredness, anxiety and depression, back pain, constipation and symphisis pubis pain, can not only improve a woman's quality of life but can also prevent them from having to seek medical treatment or use painkillers.

Acupuncture treatment follows the Oriental Medical approach of treating both the root and manifestation of a problem. There are certain acupuncture points that are not used in pregnancy and fewer needles are used. Women often find that their baby seems to move in response to the treatment!


Moxibustion for Breech Presentation

An technique called moxibustion that is an integral part of traditional acupuncture has been used for centuries to turn breech babies. Moxibustion is the burning of the herb artemisia vulgaris or artemisia argyii and is a term derived from the Japanese word mogusa or mo kusa, meaning, “burning herb.” For turning breech babies moxa is used in a stick form and is held near a point on the little toe.  Moxibustion has been shown to reduce the need for cephalic version(*1) – manual turning of the baby’s position – and is offered in some NHS maternity acupuncture clinics. A single session is needed and then the treatment can be performed by your partner or friend (or by yourself) at home over 10 days. You will recieve instructions and moxa sticks at the appointment. I also offer acupuncture to support the moxa treatment at this appointment should you wish.


Preparing for Birth 

A series of weekly acupuncture treatments to help prepare the mother for labour, beginning at 36 or 37 weeks, has been shown to reduce the length of labour and the incidence of induction, epidural and emergency caesareans (*2).  Midwives who use pre-birth acupuncture report that it consistently increases the occurrence of a natural, efficient labour and have commented that the time spent in labour and the necessity of interventions such as medical induction and caesarean section is reduced in women who receive a series of pre-birth treatments (*3). Three weekly treatments are recommended, or four if there is a hisory of going overdue and / or difficult labours.

Encouraging Labour

Acupuncture has been shown to support cervical ripening and shorten the time between the expected and actual delivery dates.(*4) There is anecdotal evidence(*5) that it can stimulate contractions. The woman and her birthing partner can also use acupressure on the points used, after the treatment. A series of weekly acupuncture treatments from 36 or 37 weeks (as above) is preferable to, waiting until right before a medical induction is due, though it may still be worth trying acupuncture in this case.

*1 Cardini F, Weixin H (1998) Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation; Journal of the American Medical Association 280:1580-1584
*2 Betts D., Lennox S., Acupuncture for Pre-Birth Treatment: An observational Study of its Use in Midwifery Practice; Medical Acupuncture 2006 May; 17  (3): 17-20
*3 Betts, D., The Use of Acupuncture as a Routine Pre-Birth Treatment; Journal of Chinese Medicine 2004 October; 76: 7-8
*4 Rabl M, Ahner R, Bitschnau M, Zeiseler H, Husslein P (2001) Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term – a randomised controlled trial Wien Klin Wichenschr: 113 (23-24): 942-6