Bridge to Health Blog
Bridge to Health Blog

Is Acupuncture Safe in Pregnancy?

Written by Jackie Graham   Posted in:Pregnancy   September 3, 2015

Is Acupuncture Safe in Pregnancy?
At a recent lecture given by Debra Betts, a trained nurse and acupuncturist, she was at pains to stress the safety and efficacy of acupuncture to treat pregnancy related conditions.  Often there is little that Western Medicine can offer pregnant women apart from rest.  Chinese Medicine also advocates rest but for many pregnant women it is hard to come by.  Debra Betts has pioneered the use of acupuncture in pregnancy in her native New Zealand and has trained midwives in its use.  Although acupuncture is still considered to be an ‘alternative’ therapy, it is used widely for pregnant women in Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand.

GPs and women can feel nervous when it comes to using acupuncture during pregnancy.  A number of trials have been carried out and these have been reviewed by the Cochrane Institute (considered the ‘gold standard’ in research for evaluating randomised controlled trials).   These trials have shown that in the hands of a fully qualified acupuncturist acupuncture in pregnancy is both safe and effective. 


Research on the safety and efficacy of Acupuncture in Pregnancy


Nausea and Vomiting in Early Pregnancy

In 2002 two studies were published using the largest research study to date. It involved 593 women who were all less than 14 weeks pregnant and suffering from pregnancy related nausea. The first study looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture and the second looked at the safety of using acupuncture treatment in early pregnancy.  They concluded that acupuncture was effective for nausea and dry retching and with more regular treatment may have been effective for vomiting.  See Summary.  In the second study the authors concluded that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for women who experience nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy.  See Summary.

Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy

A 2005 controlled trial of pelvic pain in pregnancy involved 386 pregnant women.  In comparing the standard treatment of pelvic pain (pelvic belt, education and exercises) with standard treatment plus acupuncture or standard treatment plus extra stabilising exercises,  it was found that acupuncture was superior to stabilising exercises in the management of pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy.  See Summary.  

Breech Presentation

A 1998 study looked at 260 women, all 33 weeks pregnant with their first baby, all showing breech presentation.  The aim was to study the efficacy and safety of using moxa to correct breech presentation.  The authors concluded that at 35 weeks 75.4% of the babies had turned in the group receiving moxa, compared to 47.7% in the group not receiving moxa.  See Summary.

Pre-Birth Acupuncture

A number of studies have been carried out into the effectiveness of pre-birth acupuncture, although these have not been reviewed by the Cochrane Institute.  A 1974 study concluded that acupuncture once a week from 37 weeks gestation was effective in reducing the mean time of the labour in the women treated.  The acupuncture group had a mean labour time of 6 hours and 36 minutes compared to eight hours and 2 minutes in the control group.
A 2004 observational study involving 169 women examined the effect of pre-birth acupuncture. In the acupuncture group there was an overall 35% reduction in the number of inductions (for women having their first baby this was a 43% reduction) and 31% reduction in the epidural rate. The conclusion was that pre-birth acupuncture appeared to provide some promising therapeutic benefits in assisting women to have normal vaginal births and that further trials were warranted.

What Other Pregnancy Conditions Can Acupuncture Treat?

As well as those listed above many women suffer from stress and sleep deprivation during pregnancy; acupuncture can be great to help a woman to moderate her stress levels and improve her sleep.
Acupuncture can help in cases of threatened miscarriage.  The aim of acupuncture is to create the best possible uterine environment in which the foetus can survive by ensuring a good blood supply to the uterus. 
Acupuncture can help with pain – back pain, pelvic pain, symphysis pubis.  It can also help with varicose veins, haemorrhoid and vulvar varicosities.

A Tip for Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy

Feel between the 2nd and 3rd toes working your way up the foot.  If you find a sore spot here try massaging it, you may find it relieves your back ache.  This is not an actual acupuncture point.  It was discovered by mid-wives in New Zealand who were carrying out acupuncture on pregnant women and so is known as the mid-wife point.  If you find massaging this spot doesn’t help try visiting an acupuncturist and getting it needled.

Acupuncture is also helpful prior to pregnancy, getting your body ready to carry a baby and after pregnancy in regaining your strength and energy.

If you are finding pregnancy a struggle instead of being a time of joy and excitement, call (07733 274745) or email me and let me help.

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