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  • Writer's pictureNutured Birth Ottawa

The Benefits of Prenatal Acupuncture

Acupuncturist holds a pregnant woman's hand and prepares to insert an acupuncture needle. Pregnancy acupuncture photo.

Pregnancy is a time when the human body is in incredible action. From ancient times to the modern day, cultures and their medicines the world over have regarded pregnancy as special and distinct.

Acupuncture has been a part of gestational care for thousands of years, providing support through all stages of pregnancy. Although the terminology and philosophy are different from a western lens, the treatment goals are the same:

  • support the health of the fetus

  • reduce unwanted symptoms for the parent-to-be

  • aid in safe labour and delivery.

When it comes to symptom relief, a number of drugs are red-taped in pregnancy, and this is where acupuncture care can be a great place to turn. Let’s take a look where acupuncture shines in each phase of your pregnancy journey:

First Trimester

Acupuncture can help ease nausea, dizziness, and fatigue in the early days of fetal development. It also helps support the fetus by supporting the energetic channels linked to its growth. There are also points for easing anxiety as these beginning weeks, though exciting, can also carry their own stress and worry. As current neuroscience is showing us, a balanced and calm nervous system affects all physiological process, and acupuncture is excellent at calming this stress regulator.

Second & Third Trimester

These weeks are when not-so-fun symptoms can start arising: aches and pains, swelling, constipation, sinusitis, carpal tunnel, sleep disruption, acid reflux, and unusual hormone headaches are the more often-seen symptoms that acupuncture can help with. If you have a symptom falling outside of the above, don’t rule acupuncture out! Be in touch with a practitioner to see if they can give you some relief.

Image of ancient chinese pregnancy acupuncture meridians and points.
Image of ancient chinese pregnancy acupuncture meridians and points.

Breech & Baby Position

When a baby is not in the right position, there is a well-known treatment used in the Traditional Chinese Medicine canon: moxibustion.

This dried herb, rolled up in cigar-like form, provides medicinal warmth to an acupuncture point located on the side of the 5th toe, a point famous for helping babies get into the right uterine spot.

This 10-day daily treatment, which can be safely done at home by the parent or with a helper, is best done around the 34 week mark. Some registered acupuncturists do this treatment in their practices while others instruct the parent on how to do it at home (it’s very straightforward, rest assured). Get in touch with the practitioner (or clinic) to find out if moxibustion is offered and how it is done.

Labour Preparation & Induction

Using acupuncture points to help with labour is documented all the way back to ancient China. Labour preparation acupuncture - helping the body prepare for delivery - is an essential stage that can begin at 36 weeks (and perhaps 38 weeks for those who have had efficient births previously). Induction acupuncture - the act of initiating the body into active labour - begins when the birth professional overseeing care gives the greenlight.

A common misconception worth pointing out: labour preparation acupuncture is not the same as induction acupuncture. When these two aspects get mixed together, worry arises that the acupuncturist is trying to induce labour too soon. This causes the parent to skip the labour preparation weeks and only book when they cross their due date. From the practitioner point of view, the labour preparation stage is critical to “getting things moving”. Transitioning from a state of nourishing gestation to the activity, force, and power of labour is quite a bridge to cross, and receiving acupuncture from 36 weeks onward helps increase the likelihood of an efficient and natural labour.

*To note, those parents of an older age who might be induced earlier than 40 weeks can begin their birth preparation acupuncture earlier. Speak to your acupuncturist if this is your circumstance.

Acupuncture has so much to offer the pregnancy experience. Talk to your doula for a practitioner referral. Registered acupuncturists usually work in a one-to-one setting, but in Ottawa a community acupuncture option is also available. There are many great practitioners to choose from! And don’t be shy about emailing the practitioner beforehand with any questions you have. We’re here to make sure you get the care you are looking for.

This blog post was written by Registered Acupuncturist and owner of Ottawa Community Acupuncture, Rachel Lipton. Rachel considers herself a community acupuncture enthusiast! Her studio's vision is to make acupuncture care as affordable as possible and to widen community access to this wonderful & ancient medicine. To schedule an appointment with Rachel, please visit the Ottawa Community Acupuncture website.


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