The use of acupuncture in pregnancy and childbirth has a long history in China and is becoming increasingly popular in the West. With the changes that take place in a woman’s body during pregnancy, acupuncture can offer relief to various symptoms that may be experienced and help women prepare for the most efficient birth possible.

In China, texts with sections dedicated to obstetrics, date as far back as the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644). Chinese medicine advocates a modified lifestyle throughout pregnancy, to ensure healthy babies and efficient births, with the emphasis on the correct flow of ‘qi’ and good circulation of blood. Qi is our life force or vital energy. Acupuncture treatment prior to labour provides an ideal opportunity to ensure that the qi and blood, the five emotions and the internal organs are all in harmony.

Moxibustion, a technique that applies heat to acupuncture points has been used in traditional treatments in China for over two thousand years. It is used in treatments that involve cold patterns or for malposition of the foetus. In an Italian study, 130 women with breech presentation received moxibustion, while 130 women with breech presentation, received no intervention. At 35 weeks, 75.4 per cent of the babies in the acupuncture group turned compared to 47.7 per cent in the control group.

Additional studies show positive outcomes in the treatment of pelvic pain and morning sickness.

Pre birth treatments can help prepare the woman’s body for birth, with an emphasis on preparing the cervix and pelvis for labour. It has been reported that mothers who receive pre birth acupuncture experience a natural, efficient birth and that the time women spent in labour was noticeably shorter. Treatment can also be offered for emotional problems such as frustration or fear and anxiety.

Evidence also supports the use of acupuncture for babies that are overdue and it may be used during labour if it is not progressing efficiently.

Chinese medicine has specific views on the amount of care and rest after childbirth and a reasonable time period should be considered to compensate both for the pregnancy and the birth. Tonifying treatment using acupuncture and moxibustion, as well as dietary advice, can be very beneficial to energise the Mother and aid recovery.

Acupuncture is an ideal form of treatment as it offers women drug free relief for many problems that can occur during pregnancy and childbirth. As a therapy that has been tried and tested for over two thousand years, acupuncture can benefit women during pregnancy, childbirth and post birth providing support on a physical, mental and emotional level.

Mark Hire BSC (Hons) TCM: Acupuncture. Member of the British Acupuncture Council

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