Experience a healthy pregnancy with Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Updated: May 8, 2020

Pregnancy Care at Red Bridge Family Acupuncture

At Red Bridge Family Acupuncture our focus is on providing Traditional Chinese Medicine health care solutions for all members of the family.

Pregnancy is a time of great excitement and anticipation. Being involved in supporting a woman’s health and her body through this amazing period of change is easily one of our favourite experiences. The tricky part of pregnancy is that growing a human can come with a range of health quirks, discomforts and let’s be honest some unpleasant symptoms that need to be managed with the upmost of care to not impact on your growing baby’s health.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a natural and effective way of managing many pregnancy related health concerns such as morning sickness and nausea, carpel tunnel, pelvic pain, back pain and varicose veins.

Over the course of pregnancy there will no doubt also be times that other general health issues such as headache, cold and flu and musculoskeletal pain that crop up. Treating these common ailments during pregnancy will require a different approach, taking care not to be using medications and pain relief that may harm the health of your growing baby. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine and suitable Chinese Herbal formulas can provide a safe and non-invasive way of supporting your health while protecting your baby.

Acupuncture is also commonly used towards the end of pregnancy to ensure that bub’s is in the optimal position for birth and that the woman’s body is well supported and prepared for labour.

Read full article below to discover more about how Traditional Chinese Medicine view and relieve some of these pregnancy related health issues.

Morning sickness

Morning sickness is one of the most common and troublesome complaints of early pregnancy. It’s also one of the more often dismissed as part of the package and a minor inconvenience. Morning sickness and pregnancy related nausea however can be quite debilitating and disruptive to day to day life. Symptoms can range from dry retching and general occasional nausea to a constant feeling of nausea and at its worst severe vomiting that may require hospitalisation.

Morning sickness relief
Often where there is pregnancy related nausea, we will find spleen deficiencies, liver and stomach disharmony and phlegm damp.

Morning sickness strikes in the early stages of pregnancy. While its physical effect is clear it’s not often acknowledged the emotional upheaval it can bear. At a time when women would love to be thrilled about a new pregnancy, sometimes one that has been long awaited instead many are desperately trying to navigate ill health.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, morning sickness can arise for any number of reasons. Falling pregnant causes hormonal changes and increased blood volume amongst many other physiological changes to accommodate your growing baby. Your Yin and blood become focused on supporting your growing baby’s development. All these changes result in significant shifts in your internal balance. Because of this shift in balance, sometimes as the first sign of pregnancy, you may find yourself experiencing symptoms of nausea that can appear suddenly and take quite a hold on life.

The imbalance that is the root cause of pregnancy related nausea will differ from woman to woman. The aim of treatment is to identify and correct any disharmonies. A focus will be given to settling stomach qi disharmony and supporting the digestive system. Often where there is pregnancy related nausea, we will find spleen deficiencies, liver and stomach disharmony and phlegm damp. A family history of morning sickness it is more likely to be experienced and there is strong links between the fatigue experienced in early pregnancy and nausea.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy

Carpal tunnel during pregnancy is very common and is mostly seen in the latter half of pregnancy. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a condition that is the result of increased pressure on the median nerve in the wrist.

Carpal Tunnel in Pregnancy
In Chinese Medicine the root cause of carpal tunnel in pregnancy is often found to be an imbalance of the Spleen or Kidney.

Symptoms of CTS which are often predominantly felt at night include:

· Numbness (lack of sensation) in the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers.

· Tingling feeling or sometimes an itchy or scratchy sensation

· Pain extending up the arm and down into the hand and fingers

· Weakness of grip and clumsiness

· In severe cases there may be a complete loss of sensation and muscles at the base of the thumb can shrink, this is called Thenar Atrophy

In Chinese Medicine the root cause of carpal tunnel in pregnancy is often found to be an imbalance of the Spleen or Kidney. If there is a weakness in the Spleen, the digestion of food and water will be impacted resulting in fluid build-up. Weak Kidneys are then not able to excrete the water completely. This accumulation of fluid, stagnant qi and associated inflammation in the tissue of the wrist causes pressure on the median nerve, weakening grip and causing numbness and pain.

A combination of acupuncture and moxibustion is extremely effective to move stagnant qi and blood. As always, for long lasting results we would be looking to find the root cause of the imbalances and we would work to strengthen the Spleen and Kidney energy to optimise function of digestion and eliminate fluid retention. The aim of treatment to reduce localised inflammation and pain whilst relaxing the muscles in the forearm. It is also common for me to incorporating stretching exercises as part of an ongoing treatment plan.

Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction or more commonly known as Pelvic Girdle Pain is easily one of the less pleasant aspects of pregnancy and its severity can vary widely. Symptoms of pelvic girdle pain include musculoskeletal pain that radiates to the upper thighs and perineum, lower back pain and general pelvic pain.

It occurs due to the relaxation of the pelvic ligament and increased joint mobility in preparation for birth.

Acupuncture for this pelvic pain is used to strengthen the blood flow and support the Liver which is the governing organ of the tendons and ligaments. It also assists to encourage upward movement of qi to relieve the pelvic pressure.

Varicose veins in Pregnancy

During pregnancy varicose veins can form just another of those fun “nobody really mentioned these were a thing” perks of growing a human.

Sometimes the veins can be quite impressive, becoming large and painful the twisted and darkly shaded veins are caused by a weak and inefficient circulation of blood throughout the body.

Healthy active pregnancy
It is essential for optimal results that you move your body! This natural movement and squeezing of muscles around the veins will help to keep the blood moving.

This is common in pregnancy due to the increased blood supply with the growing baby (who is also making things harder by placing additional pressure on the pelvic blood vessels). As a result, you find yourself sporting fabulous blue stripes on your legs as stagnant blood pools in the veins leading to blocked energy, congestion and distention. Hemorrhoids (or piles as you might know them) occur on the anus as a result of constipation or abdominal pressure. These are very similar in nature to varicose veins and so unfortunately also rate a mention in pregnancy.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine standpoint, the symptoms associated with varicose veins all point to a weakness of Spleen qi to hold energy upward. It’s also common that people affected with varicose veins need to stimulate better blood and energy circulation and probably address some lifestyle habits such as lack of movement and poor dietary choices. The good news is that Acupuncture is awesome at building Spleen Qi, improving blood circulation and resolving stasis.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine would be used to address and resolve imbalances and deficiencies. Blood flow would be invigorated and encouraged to move through the veins more effectively. This strengthening of Qi and movement of blood works to relieve pressure and break up the stagnant blood pools.

You will get homework though. It is essential for optimal results that you move your body! This natural movement and squeezing of muscles around the veins will help to keep the blood moving. Its key to avoid long periods of sitting and get up and move regularly as part of an active recovery. Massage (sounds like a good job for the partner) and elevation of the legs while sleeping is also beneficial.

Breech Baby

So, you are 7.5 months pregnant. At this stage of the expectation is that bubs will have made its way into position, head-down bum up by now. I mean that’s all they had to do to keep up their end of the deal.

Well there’s going to be a few babies out there that didn’t get the memo. Perhaps they are just super comfy where they are or there is some reason why they can’t. If you find out that you are one of the lucky mums with a bub that wants to hang out feet first don’t panic.

Breech presentation can be one of three different positions:

Full (flexed) Breech – Think yoga - bubs is sitting cross legged over cervix Footling Breech – Bubs is feet first with one or both feet over cervix ready to pin drop into the world Frank Breech – Bum first and feet up near its head

Acupuncture is excellent for labour preparation and at encouraging the body and baby into the optimal possie for birth (more on that in another post). As always in Traditional Chinese Medicine we seek to find the root cause for a problem. When spinning babies assessing any disturbances or imbalances in the mother’s system is important and we will be encouraging optimal function of the organs and qi by use of acupuncture. In addition, for breech presentation we use a technique called moxibustion alongside acupuncture.

Moxa for breech baby
The heat of the moxibustion stimulates the movement of qi through the channel to the uterus encouraging the baby to shift on its own into the desired position.

Moxibustion (also called moxa) is the application of heat to stimulate specific acupuncture points by using a burning medicinal dried herb called mugwort. Don’t stress, this is not painful! The herb is smouldering, and the heat applied is a gentle warmth. Moxibustion is a pleasant experience and generally performed in combination with acupuncture sessions leading up to a woman’s due date specifically around 34- or 35-weeks’ gestation. Because moxa therapy is quite easy to perform it is also something that can be done outside of clinic and its common for us to educate patients how they can continue treatment at home. Moxa is generally applied once or twice a day until the baby has moved into the correct position. Once babies are head down, they typically stay that way so once we know the baby has turned, we stop applying moxa.

So, it all seems a bit odd I’m sure and I’m guessing you would really like to know the Traditional Chinese Medicine theory behind moxibustion for breech babies?

The point that is activated is Bladder 67. This point lies at the outer edge of the little toe. The heat stimulation from the moxa encourages the baby to move as Bladder 67 connects to the uterus through an internal pathway. The heat of the moxibustion stimulates the movement of qi through the channel to the uterus encouraging the baby to shift on its own into the desired position. The mugwort itself also hold medicinal properties that shift energy on a deeper level.

Labour Prep and Induction

Unfortunately, often the first time a woman hears about the benefits of acupuncture for labour preparation is when she is past her due date! It’s at this point that woman start scouring the net for ways to get labour started, asking friends or perhaps have a midwife suggest getting in touch with the local acupuncture clinic.

Of course, we can still assist, and acupuncture can be quite effective at that point but I’m hoping with more exposure on social media and in the health community woman will become aware of all the amazing benefit of acupuncture throughout the duration of pregnancy.