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Is Acupuncture During Pregnancy Safe?

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese healing art that has existed for thousands of years. The Chinese believe that the body is made up of two opposing forces, referred to as yin and yang. To ensure health, both forces must remain in a continual balance. When an imbalance occurs, there will be a blockage in the flow of vital energy along the meridians (internal pathways) in the body. This flow of vital energy through the body is what the Chinese refer to as the qi (pronounced as CHEE).

Acupuncture involves inserting hair-thin needles in certain points along the meridians through the skin so as to unblock the qi, restore balance, and regain a healthy body. The procedure does not cause any pain when done properly, although the odd point connected with a blockage may cause a reaction. Still, it may not happen for everyone and is generally not painful and persists for just a short while.

Research has shown that deep-seated nerves are located at the various acupuncture points. These nerves are activated when acupuncture needles are inserted through them. The activation causes the release of several chemicals in the brain, including endorphins, which help to provide relief against certain pregnancy symptoms and also reduce or block pain signals.

Acupuncture during pregnancy

Acupuncture is not meant to be a substitute for Western medical care, but rather a form of complementary care.

Getting acupuncture when pregnant has very few risks and is considered safe when properly administered by a trained professional. Most of the associated risks include redness or infection at the points of needle insertion (when the needles and the skin are not properly sterilized or disinfected), injury when the needles are inserted too deeply, and soreness.

The biggest concern associated with acupuncture during pregnancy is the points where the needles are placed. Several acupuncture and acupressure points (such as points around the ankle) are known to induce labor contractions, and thus can lead to early labor. These points therefore need to be avoided until the pregnancy has reached a certain stage.

Acupuncture tips for pregnant women

There are a few tips to keep in mind if you are interested in the use of acupuncture to get relief from pain and other pregnancy symptoms.

  • Check with your doctor: discuss with your personal practitioner your intentions to go for acupuncture. Although the therapy is generally considered safe, you have to examine your health condition to see if it is okay for you.
  • Choose your acupuncturist wisely: look for a certified and experienced professional with specialized and comprehensive training as well as adequate experience in acupuncture for pregnant women. Your acupuncturist should know how to keep you comfortable during the sessions. There may be unnecessary strains on your belly and your baby if you are lying on your side without adequate support pillows during a session. You should therefore not hesitate to speak out if you are uncomfortable in any way. To enjoy maximum benefit from the sessions, be sure you feel absolutely confident and comfortable with the practitioner you choose.
  • Watch out for unusual signs: contact your health care provider immediately if you notice any concerning symptoms or unusual contractions during or after a session. Unless you have specific intentions of inducing labor with acupuncture, a normal session should not trigger any labor contractions.
  • Consider costs: find out the number of sessions you will need and how much it will cost you. Also, check if your insurance covers the cost of getting an acupuncture to see if you will have to cover the cost yourself.
Benefits of acupuncture during pregnancy

Acupuncture is exceedingly beneficial in handling a wide range of health conditions. There are also more than a few benefits for pregnant women:

  • Stronger immune system: Acupuncture helps to boost the immune system during pregnancy. The health of your immune system during pregnancy directly affects that of your baby. A strong immune system helps to ward off infections and diseases and keep you healthy and active. Acupuncture may also regulate the opening and closing of pores on the skin, regulate sweating, and prevent diseases by keeping germs from entering the pores.

It has also been proven that acupuncture increases the count of white blood cells that defend the body from germs.

  • Releases beta-endorphins: Acupuncture sessions cause the brain to release beta-endorphins that cause euphoric feelings and raise pain threshold.
  • Acupuncture directly benefits the baby: Acupuncture allows the body to function more efficiently and induces proper absorption of vitamins and minerals by the body. Also, the body is able to have more available nutrients as a result of reduced morning sickness that comes with receiving acupuncture treatments. This means that your baby will receive more nourishment. It also brings about increased blood flow and oxygen to the uterus.
  • Stress reduction: Prolonged stress during pregnancy could lead to complications. Acupuncture can help to calm the nerves and relieve stress. The procedure is quite relaxing.
  • Psychological issues: Tension, anxiety, and worry are some of the most common psychological symptoms that can be treated with acupuncture. It is a very effective antidote against depression.
  • Morning sickness: The pericardium 6 is the point targeted when treating morning sickness. It synchronizes digestion and causes relief.
  • Edema: This is a common condition during the second and third trimesters. It is caused by an increase in bodily fluids, subsequent accumulation, and the swelling of the feet and ankles as a result of pregnancy. By unblocking the qi and promoting the function of the internal organs, acupuncture enhances the flow of blood and other body fluids. It therefore helps to reduce swelling and causes relief.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy. Acupuncture, along with proper nourishment and rest, ensures increased energy for pregnant moms.
  • Labor: Acupuncture helps to reduce pain and strengthen weak contractions when the pregnancy finally comes to term. It has also been shown that acupuncture assisted delivery is less stressful, shorter, and reduces the likelihood of post-partum hemorrhage.