Patients often ask if I received acupuncture while pregnant with my daughter. You bet I did!
I wholeheartedly recommend getting acupuncture throughout pregnancy. It is safe and benefits both mom and baby. (Make sure you see a licensed acupuncturist with appropriate training though — in New York State, licensed acupuncturists are required to complete over 4,050 hours of masters level study from an accredited school.)
Acupuncture helped me manage nausea in the first trimester, back pain in the second trimester, and heartburn and muscle cramps in the third trimester. It helped me emotionally with handling daily stressors and anxious thoughts of how much life would change once my baby arrived. It felt good to know that my baby was also receiving the benefits of acupuncture and bathing in the release of endorphins and serotonin that happens during treatment.
I remember looking forward to my acupuncture treatments every week. I always walked out feeling not only more relaxed, but also better equipped to handle the hustle and bustle of city life. Riding home on a packed subway car where I was rarely offered a seat didn’t bother me as much after my acupuncture sessions.
I was hoping for a vaginal birth and, due to my training as a prenatal yoga instructor, I knew that the chances of having a natural birth would be greater if the baby was in optimal fetal position (head-down with her head facing my back, her back facing one side of my belly, and her chin tucked). So I did everything I could to optimize this outcome including taking yoga class twice a week, eating a healthy and well balanced diet, drinking lots of water, walking one to two miles every day, and getting acupuncture.
Acupuncture during the third trimester helps prepare the body for childbirth by loosening the ligaments of the pelvis to allow for appropriate descent of the baby, assisting with cervical ripening, and on rare occasions inducing labor when it is appropriate. In the case of breech or transverse presentation (when the baby is not head-down), acupuncture and moxibustion is effective for helping to turn the baby naturally — especially when detected early enough.
Once I reached full term and felt mentally and emotionally ready for the baby to come, I told my acupuncturist that I was prepared to go into labor. Sure enough, my contractions started shortly after that treatment, at 40 weeks and 1 day. I was able to have a natural birth as I had planned.
When my pregnant patients ask how often they should come for treatment, I suggest once a week throughout pregnancy and twice a week starting at 35 weeks. For breech presentation, I prescribe treatment every other day with suggestions for home care until the baby has turned.
While there are no guarantees with birth and sometimes the best-laid plans fall through, it is my clinical experience that women who come for acupuncture regularly during pregnancy are satisfied with their outcomes.