Pregnancy and Labour

Acupuncture and moxibustion have been used for centuries in China and Japan to assist during pregnancy and labour. They offer a safe, natural and effective option for many of the common discomforts associated with pregnancy.

During the first trimester over 50% of women suffer to some degree from nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Women often try acupuncture to help with these debilitating side effects as they are worried about taking medication during pregnancy. From 34 weeks onwards, many women seek out acupuncture and moxibustion to encourage the natural process of labour and to help turn babies presenting as breech.

If you are concerned about your health or the health of your baby, it’s very important to contact your midwife or obstetrician and to seek the help of those qualified to offer you the expert advice you may need.

Acupuncture and moxa is used extensively by midwifes in New Zealand’s Wellington hospital – click here to read comments from midwifes on their use of acupuncture, moxa and acupressure in pregancy and labour. And the Whittington Hospital in North London runs a full time maternity acupuncture service – click here for more information.

During Pregnancy

Morning Sickness

Over 50% of women experience morning sickness and for some it can be really debilitating. There are several possible causes including changes in hormone levels, nutritional deficiencies (B6 and zinc), and/or an enhanced sense of smell and sensitivity to odours. Morning sickness usually starts around week 6 and tends to be worse between the 7th and 12th weeks of pregnancy. It usually disappears by week 14 although approximately 20% of women may continue to experience it beyond this point.

Some suggestions that may help with morning sickness:-

  • Don’t allow yourself to get dehydrated as this will worsen the nausea.
  • Nausea becomes worse if you’re tired so rest, rest, rest!
  • Don’t allow yourself to get hungry. Eat smaller, more frequent meals and snacks.
  • Keep some food, such as a crackers with nut butter or a banana by your bed in case you wake up in the night feeling hungry or nauseous.
  • Eat something before you get out of bed and get up very slowly.
  • Identify your triggers and avoid them, such as, offending foods or odours.
  • Take prenatal vitamins with meals.
  • Don’t force yourself to eat foods which make feel sick just because you think  they’re good for you.
  • Avoid fatty or spicy food
  • Eat ginger in any form
  • Herbal teas such as chamomile, fennel, or peppermint may help – drink one cup 3 times a day
  • Stimulate acupoint Neiguan PC-6 until symtoms improve – usually around 5 minutes. Try wearing sea bands on this acupoint – you need to wear them 24/7. Download Location of Neiguan PC-6.

Anemia

Your iron requirements increase significantly during pregnancy so it’s not uncommon to find yourself low in iron or even anemic. Your risk is even higher if you have morning sickness severe enough to cause frequent vomiting, you’ve had two or more pregnancies close together, you’re pregnant with more than one baby, you have an iron-poor diet, or if your pre-pregnancy menstrual flow was heavy. It is important to have healthy blood during pregnancy to prevent low birth weights or premature babies. It’s also possible to develop anemia from not getting enough folic acid or vitamin B12. Symptoms of anemia include dizziness, palpations, shortness of breath, pale skin, lethargy, general malaise, poor concentration and emotional fragility.

Some suggestions that may help with anemia:-

  • Eat vitamin C rich foods together with iron rich foods to increase absorption.Avoid too many calcium-rich foods, which inhibit iron absorption
  • To prevent iron deficiency, eat lots of green veggies, pumpkin seeds, cherries, apricots, fish, and poultry, beans, dried fruit, red meat, beetroot and drink black currant and cranberry juice.
  • To help with B12 deficiency eat eggs milk, cheese, white fish, pork and yeast extract.
  • To help with folate deficiency, eat nuts and raw or steamed green veggies, wheat germ, yeast extract, and legumes.
  • Many midwives believe the best iron supplement is Floradix which is available from most health food stores.
  • Try weekly acupuncture treatments plus daily home moxa on Zusanli ST-36 and Geshu BL-17. Download Guidelines for using MoxaLocation of Zusanli ST-36 and Location of Geshu Bl-17.

Insomnia

Sleeping difficulties are common during pregnancy and can lead to fatigue during the day. In early pregnancy low blood sugar levels resulting from nausea and increased hunger may cause insomnia. As the baby grows, a woman’s expanding abdomen can make it harder to find a comfortable sleep position, and increased pressure on her internal organs can lead to back pain, heartburn, and the need to urinate frequently during the night — all of which contribute to the loss of sleep.

Some suggestions that may help with sleeplessness:-

  • Relax before bed – drink herbal tea, meditate, take a warm bath and avoid mental stimulation (computers, TV)
  • Chamomile tea, Lemon Balm Tea
  • Eliminate caffeine-containing beverages (coffee, tea, colas, chocolate). Caffeine destroys B vitamins and is a stimulant.
  • Try to get regular exercise each day
  • Take Vitamin B6 – but not after 3pm as it can affect sleep (unless you’re taking it for nausea and vomiting)
  • Eat a small snack before bedtime, such as a slice of wholegrain toast or cracker with nut butter to prevent blood sugar levels dropping during the night.
  • Avoid sugar as bedtime – it causes spikes in blood sugar levels.
  • Eat calcium and magnesium rich foods.

Back Pain

Back pain is very common in pregnancy. Somewhere between a half and three quarters of pregnant women have it at some stage. However, there is plenty you can do to ease the discomfort and prevent it from turning into a long-term problem.

Pain occurs when ligaments (the tough, flexible tissues that connect your bones), muscles, discs and joints beoome strained from poor posture, standing for long periods, poor lifting technique etc.

Making sure you are as fit as possible before becoming pregnant can really help. If you are already pregnant, it is not too late to work on your strength and fitness levels.

Some suggestions that may help with back pain during pregnancy:-

  • Try wearing a Haramaki – a Traditional Japanese garment worn around the abdomen to maintain warmth and well-being. For pre-natal and pregnancy support. Helps to keep the core-organs warm – particularly the kidneys. Download Genki Haramaki Leaflet for more information. Also see the Kokoro Haramaki.
  • Prenatal Yoga – helps to prepare the body and mind for labor and birth. The Frog posture is often recommended for back pain in pregancy.
  • Swimming – find out if your local pool holds aquanatal classes. Exercising in water can help to ease back pain during pregnancy.
  • Maternity pillows: sleeping on your side wiith a wedge-shaped pillow under your tummy may help.

Heartburn

Up to 80% of pregnant women suffer from heartburn – a burning feeling in the chest and throat, nausea, and/or unpleasant taste in the mouth. Greater elasticity of the abdominal muscles can cause the valve at the entrance of the stomach to remain slightly open instead of closing so that stomach fluids return up the esophagus.  Many women start experiencing heartburn and other gastrointestinal discomforts in the second half of pregnancy.

Suggestions that may help with heartburn:-

  • Eat small, frequent meals and chew thoroughly.
  • Sleep with several pillows to keep your body raised.
  • Wear slightly loose fitting clothing.
  • Don’t eat close to bedtime. Give yourself two to three hours to digest before you lie down.
  • Avoid food and beverages that cause problems – carbonated drinks, alcohol, caffeine, acidic foods (citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, mustard, vinegar; processed meats; mint products; and spicy, highly seasoned, fried, or fatty foods)
  • Try eating something to coat your stomach before a meal, such as rice milk or Oatly.
  • Apply steady pressure to Juque Ren-14 until you feel some relief or brush gently down the midline of your stomach from the breastbone to the groin.and bottom breast bone. Download Location of Juque Ren-14.

Labour Preparation

Baby Positioning

If your baby is in the breech position it means that its bottom is lying in the pelvis instead of its head. This occurs in 3-4% of full term pregnancies; in most cases, a breech baby will turn itself before birth, sometimes as late as week 40. Moxibustion has been used for centuries in China and Japan to turn breach babies. A combination of acupuncture and moxa is most successful if used between 32 – 36 weeks.

Suggested – weekly acupuncture treatments plus home moxabustion therapy on Zhiyin-BL67. Download Guidelines for using Moxa and Location of Zhiyin Bl-67.

Cervical Ripening

Acupuncture treatments preformed at week 37, 38, 39 and 40 weeks, have been studied and the research indicates that the baby becomes engaged in an anterior position, the cervix softens and dilates, and women go into labour within 4 days of their due date. These acupuncture treatments are a gentle way of preparing your body for labour, but does not force the baby to come out if it isn’t ready too.

Labour Induction

If you find your self past your due date by 1 week and 2 days, you will most likely be scheduled for a medical induction. Acupuncture can stimulate contractions, but unlike medical inductions, the contractions start slowly and increase with intensity and frequency allowing your body to produce natural endorphins to manage any discomfort.

Induction treatments are preformed after the due date. Daily acupuncture treatments are recommended until you deliver in conjunction with daily acupressure on appropriate points. Download Acupressure To Induce Labour for information.

Post Birth

Acupuncture is used by new mothers to increase energy levels, to promote well being and healing, and to help with ‘baby blues’. It can also be very helpful in treating mastitis.

Oriental medicine emphasises that the post-natal period (approximately the first 40 days after birth) is a time when it is essential that the mother conserves her energy and regains her lost reserves – giving birth takes time to recover from! This includes rest and eating particular foods which are most benefical to help mother to regain her strength. Without proper support and care during this time, the risk of a slow recovery and exhaustion may be increased. The ancient Chinese counselled that during this post-natal period the mother should stay at home and be attended by her family, so that she could concentrate on the baby and herself. For many, it’s unlikely that this level of support will be available, but acupuncture and moxibustion can help in this important period to help bring balance to body and mind and improve wellbeing.

Post Natal

Moxa is believed to be very nourishing to the mother post natally, particularly in her lower abdominal and lower back areas. Traditionally know as “Mother Roasting” this treatment creates a sensation of gentle, penetrating warmth that deeply relaxes and energises the mother to aid her recovery. This is usually a one off treatment, given around day four or five post natally unless there are complications.

Using a ‘haramaki’ to bind the belly after treatment holds in the warmth and provides muscular support. For centuries, mothers in many cultures have used abdominal compression to help tone of the abdominal muscles and skin after childbirth. Download Genki Haramaki Leaflet for more information. Also see the Kokoro Haramaki.

Suggested weekly acupuncture and moxa treatments for 4 weeks with daily moxa treatment at home. Download Post Natal Moxa Treatment.