Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth – Course Summary

I was fortunate enough to spend last weekend with a bunch of acupuncturists learning about acupuncture in pregnancy and childbirth. The course was held by the lovely Debra Betts, an experienced nurse and acupuncturist from New Zealand who is making unreal progress with acupuncture and pregnancy in hospitals. She is an absolute wealth of information and I learned so much! Over the next few weeks, I will go further into detail on specific topics, but here are the takeaway points from the course.

  • Acupuncture has a huge role to play in pregnancy from prior to conception, first trimester, second trimester, third trimester, labour and post partum
  • Research has shown acupuncture to help prevent and manage; bleeding in pregnancy, miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pre eclampsia, caesarian section, premature or small for date babies, post natal depression
  • Medical knowledge around acupuncture is improving with continual research which means communication and collaboration with specialists is improving
  • In the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (from ovulation to conception), acupuncture can help support the first trimester, support an ‘at risk’ pregnancy, support threatened miscarriage and as a treatment for nausea and vomiting
  • Trophoblast cells are the cells responsible for implantation and are a key focus of research for identifying problems with pregnancy
  • Lack of oxygen from time of cell division to 10 weeks pregnant is important (this seems opposite to what we think about blood flow)
  • Stress has repeatedly shown to affect pregnancy outcomes and acupuncture has been consistently shown to reduce stress markers – perhaps the biggest role acupuncture can play in fertility and pregnancy
  • Sleep – really important for pregnancy outcomes and acupuncture can treat sleep concerns
  • Medical clowning post embryo transfer (laughing) improves IVF outcomes and massage prior to embryo transfer improves pregnancy outcomes
  • The so called ‘forbidden points’ have been hugely misrepresented in modern practice – “there is no evidence of harm following needling at forbidden points”
  • Acupuncture can support natural birth in missed miscarriages and stillborn pregnancies – assisting the natural process of birth
  • Recurrent miscarriage has been historically identified as a ‘slippery foetus’ – there are acupuncture treatments available to support this
  • Pregnancy stress syndrome is a thing – it can over stimulate the HPA axis causing decreased progesterone production, altered immune response and poor environment for maintaining a pregnancy, acupuncture can help
  • Women want support from medical specialists – to be taken seriously, to feel they are listened to and understood, to be asked how they’re doing and to be given relaxation tools to unwind – this is where a natural health practitioner and acupuncture specifically can be of incredible benefit
  • We have a fantastic acupuncture point – KI 9 which is known as the ‘happy baby point’ – it has historically been used to improve poor hereditary traits, improve complexion and help babies ‘sleep at night and smile during the day’. In research, this point has shown to be valuable in relaxing a contracting uterus
  • Some great acupuncture protocols for morning sickness
  • Potato soup – one of the best things for early pregnancy morning sickness, especially when unable to keep water down
  • Acupuncture is successful at treating back pain and pelvic pain in pregnancy
  • Acupressure – being taught to birthing partners is really helpful in reducing┬ápain in labour and facilitating a difficult labour
  • Treatments for heart burn, headaches, rib pain, itchiness, swelling, emotional changes and high blood pressure have been shown helpful in late stage pregnancy
  • Research currently looking into acupuncture for pre-eclampsia and it’s looking promising
  • Treatment protocols for anemia in pregnancy – take home moxa helpful
  • Breech presentation very well treated when seen at 36 weeks pregnancy – take home moxa also helpful
  • Supporting still birth and providing acupuncture and take home acupressure to help with birthing and labour, caring support important and shows improved clinical outcomes and experience
  • Induction support – acupuncture can support a women’s natural hormone response
  • Debunking the cord around the neck myth, too often blamed for many negative birth outcomes – “multiple cord entanglement is not a contributing factor in intrapartum stillbirth, placental abruption or caesarean delivery”
  • Midwives are being educated in many hospitals around New Zealand and Australia to use acupuncture in delivery rooms. This will take time to be fully integrated but is looking really promising.
  • Acupuncture and moxa is great to use post birth for caesar scar healing, breast feeding difficulties and hormone irregularities

So much! There’s so much more detail I want to go into over the next few months so stay tuned for more information. Based on information from courses like this and what I see in clinical practice every day, I would find it really difficult NOT to recommend acupuncture for all pregnant women. Please pass this information on to any of your pregnant friends or family members, I would love to help support them through their pregnancies and prepare them for childbirth…naturally!

Paige x

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