I met my friend Erin when she took birth classes in Bowie, MD last year. Erin is an acupuncturist and I asked her to share some ways that she helps women. I am especially intrigued by acupuncture as fertility treatment because I have had two couples who went through serious medical treatments, were about to give up trying to conceive, and got pregnant after acupuncture treatments. Wahoo!
Erin says, “Acupuncture and herbal medicine can help couples who are having difficulty conceiving, ideally before or during other treatment regimens. Studies have shown that couples undergoing assisted reproductive technologies can increase success of pregnancy by up to 60% with the use of acupuncture and herbal medicine concurrently.”
Erin Smith, M.Ac., L.Ac
- Fertility– Acupuncture can help regulate hormones and the menstrual cycle, decrease stress, increase blood flow to the uterus to increase chances of conception and decrease rates of frequent miscarriage. If you are undergoing IUI or IVF treatments, studies have shown acupuncture can increase the success of these treatments by up to 60%. Acupuncture can also improve sperm quality in men. (Lauren says: I’ve had a few clients who were about to give up trying to conceive and tried acupuncture as a last resort. Since they were in my class, it worked!)
- Morning Sickness- A large percentage of women experience some degree of nausea or morning sickness during the first trimester, and sometimes beyond, which can be managed with regular acupuncture treatments.
- Musculoskeletal Pain and Headaches- As your baby grows and changes position, more pressure in the lower back, pelvis and other weight bearing joints is common. Changes in hormones and blood volume can lead to frequent headaches. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also common with the changes of pregnancy. Acupuncture can help to alleviate or reduce these aches and pains.
- Energy- Lack of sleep along with normal hormonal changes during pregnancy can leave one feeling exhausted. Acupuncture will help to balance and recharge your energy during this time of rapid change for your body.
- Heartburn and Constipation- Digestive symptoms may also come and go during pregnancy, which can be managed with acupuncture, diet and hydration.
- Anxiety and Depression- Emotional ups and downs are very common during pregnancy due to the rapid hormonal changes that are taking place, and the fact that you are growing a human! A new baby is also a big life change, which can become stressful and overwhelming at times. Regular acupuncture treatment during pregnancy can help your body discharge from external and internal stressors, which is the greatest gift you can give to your growing child. Stress greatly affects your growing baby, and adequate time should be scheduled for self-care and stress management for mom, both during and after pregnancy. Stress also negatively affects the production of the hormone oxytocin, which is an essential part of a healthy pregnancy, labor and post-partum period.
- Breech Babies- If the baby is still in the breech position (feet or bottom down) when a pregnant woman is at 34 weeks, a technique in Chinese medicine involving moxibustion can be used to help turn the baby into the ideal position for labor and birth. Some practitioners also do traditional acupuncture to help breech babies turn.
- Labor- Acupuncture can help to prepare the body for labor, which can be quite long normally for first time mothers, and can help initiate labor in babies who are ready to emerge. A long labor does not always mean medical intervention is necessary, but a long labor does require strength and focus, which need to be cultivated during pregnancy. Acupuncture, an out of hospital birth class, prenatal yoga and a strong support system (doulas) can all help you prepare for natural labor and childbirth.
- Post-partum and Breastfeeding Support- After having a child, there are many common issues that may arise and need to be taken care of so mom can fully recover and care for her baby. Pain, night sweats, insufficient lactation, mastitis and post-partum depression are not uncommon once baby arrives. Some practitioners are willing to provide treatments in the home initially so mother can continue to rest and bond with her new baby.
- C-section Recovery- If a mother ends up having a cesarean section delivery, more time and care will be needed to help her recover fully. A c-section is major abdominal surgery, which takes at least 6-8 weeks to recover from and increases the chance of other post-partum complications. Scars that are created from this surgery also benefit greatly from acupuncture treatment, especially if the scar is hard or dimpled after healing.
It takes a village to raise a child, and that starts with taking care of and nourishing mothers to help create happy and healthy people. If you or anyone you know may need support before, during after pregnancy, consider contacting a NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist in your area.
If you aren’t sure, ask for a phone consultation with the acupuncturist to inquire about your specific needs. Here are some questions you could ask an acupuncturist to see if they can help with your pregnancy. Be sure to ask if they have experience and education in working with women’s health issues (fertility and pregnancy).