I am often asked whether acupuncture is safe to use in pregnancy, and the answer is a definite yes – investigations have shown that acupuncture in pregnancy generally results in few and minor adverse effects – limited to minor bleeding and bruising, and rarely some temporary light-headedness1Park, J. et al., “The safety of acupuncture during pregnancy: a systematic review“, 2014. In fact, it can be really beneficial in supporting the mental and physical well-being of the mothers. Read on for some of the benefits that acupuncture offers in pregnancy.
How acupuncture can help
During first trimester
The first trimester in pregnancy is associated with rapid growth and changes to the mother’s body, particularly on a hormonal level. The human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in particular, which is produced at higher levels during the first trimester, is the culprit behind the morning sickness which affects at least 70% of pregnant women. Research has shown that acupuncture can significantly alleviate that problem, along with other discomforts such as fatigue and insomnia2Xu, J. and McKenzie, I., “The current use of acupuncture during pregnancy and childbirth“, 2012. It also reduces the chance of miscarriage by improving blood flow to the uterus, making the uterine lining thicker and more hospitable to the newly-implanted f0etus; and in animal studies it has been found to suppress uterine contractions by suppressing oxytocin production3Pak, S. et al., “The Effect of Acupuncture on Uterine Contraction Induced by Oxytocin“, 2000.
During second trimester
With the growing pressure on the stomach from the growing baby and further hormonal changes slowing down the metabolism, up to 80% of women start experiencing indigestion symptoms such as heartburn, stomach pain or discomfort, acid reflux, belching and bloating. Research suggests that acupuncture can reduce symptoms by up to 75%, leading to improved eating and sleeping habits and increased quality of life4Da Silva, J. et al., “Acupuncture for Dyspepsia in Pregnancy: A Prospective, Randomised, Controlled Study“, 2009.
Final weeks of pregnancy
During the final weeks of pregnancy, acupuncture can relieve physical discomforts such as lower back and pelvic pain5AACP, “Is acupuncture beneficial for pregnancy related back and pelvic pain?“, 2008; as well as mental health problems related to depression or anxiety due to the impending labour6Manber, R. et al., “Acupuncture for depression during pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial“, 2010. Moreover, it can be used in breech presentation7Lee, S. et al., “Acupuncture for turning a breech baby in pregnancy“, 2012; and to physically prepare the mother for labour, helping a speedy delivery and reducing the chance of complications and C-section8Handayani, S. and Balgis, “Pre-Labor Acupuncture for Delivery Preparation in Multiparous Women Past Age 40“, 2019. It can even help naturally induce a pregnancy in cases where it is overdue9Smith, C. et al., “Acupuncture or acupressure for induction of labour“, 2017.