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The Benefits of Acupuncture During Pregnancy


When you think of acupuncture, images of needles being stuck randomly into your body may appear.  During your pregnancy you are already getting stuck with needles regularly, so why expose yourself to more poking? Some people swear by acupuncture, others are disgusted - but is acupuncture beneficial, and is it safe during pregnancy?   

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine, used for over 2,000 years, that is said to relieve pain and help the whole body wellness (including emotional/mental health). The ancient Chinese believed that acupuncture was a way to balance the “chi” or flow of life force/energy through the body. Those that practice acupuncture in the United States today see acupuncture as a way to stimulate nerves, muscles, and other tissue. The stimulation is believed to boost the bodies “natural” way to handle pain.  

Some expectant mothers seek acupuncture to help ease pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, headaches, back aches and pains, hip pain, relieve sleep issues, depression, and stress. Even before pregnancy, there is some evidence to suggest that acupuncture can help women who are experiencing infertility. Studies have been done on acupuncture during pregnancy and published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, showing that it can help a majority of expectant mothers suffering from these conditions. If you are suffering from one or more of these conditions and you are thinking that acupuncture might be the answer, it’s important to do so safely.

Here’s a few tips that can help:

  • If you are in the first trimester, it’s best to wait on trying acupuncture. Acupuncture can cause contractions and there is a higher chance of a miscarriage occurring during the first 12 weeks, so it’s best to skip it during that time period.
  • Talk to your doctor. Before seeking acupuncture as a solution, make sure your doctor knows what you are thinking.  They will know more about your specific medical needs and can guide you in deciding if it’s a good fit for you.
  • Find a licensed acupuncturist. Your doctor may be able to help you with this as well, but it’s important that you acupuncturist be licensed by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).  Before committing to using them, feel free to sit down with them for a short “interview”. It’s also important to make sure that they have experience working with pregnant mothers. 
  • Check your insurance coverage. It’s a good idea to know what you will be paying out of pocket before going in for treatment, so after you select an acupuncturist, check with your insurance company to see what they cover.  
  • If you are in the later stages of your pregnancy, make sure that your acupuncturist stays away from inserting needles too deeply or into your lower back region.
  • Don’t use acupuncture to treat serious medical conditions.  If you have a more serious concern, you need to consult your doctor/midwife about the issue and not rely on acupuncture for a cure.
  • If you have a bleeding disorder or pacemaker, acupuncture should be avoided completely.  

During your pregnancy, the “normal” risks of acupuncture still applies those include:

  • Pain or bleeding from insertion
  • Rash
  • Allergic reaction
  • Bruising 
  • Infection
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Worsening of symptoms/pain  

While this list of possible side effects can seem scary, in general, the risks of acupuncture are relatively low. If your health care provider has approved and you are interested in trying - acupuncture might be worth a try for you.  

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