Ann Brownbill - Traditional Chinese Medicine and Naturopathy in Codicote Wéidào Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic Wéidào Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic

Pregnancy Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a safe, effective, drug-free and gentle treatment in pregnancy.

Used for over 2,000 years in China as a specialised treatment for women in pregnancy care and postpartum recovery, it is becoming increasingly accepted as a valuable treatment in Western countries, used by acupuncturists and specially trained midwives alike.

Pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal recovery are viewed in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a window of opportunity to enhance a woman's wellbeing. Value is placed on promoting preventative care to strengthen the mother and baby as well as dealing with problems as they occur during pregnancy. 

There are many conditions and discomforts within pregnancy that acupuncture may help with. These include, amongst others:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Threatened miscarriage
  • Tiredness/exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Heartburn
  • Pelvic girdle pain
  • Sciatica
  • Haemorrhoids/vulval varices
  • Back/neck/rib pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Leg cramps
  • Moxibustion for breech or posterior positioned babies
  • Pre-birth preparation
  • Encouragement of spontaneous labour
  • Teaching couples acupressure for use within labour

Moxibustion for breech or posterior positioned babies

Babies usually settle into a head-down position in the pelvis between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. The optimal position is for the baby's head to be downwards in the pelvis with its spine outward towards the mother's abdomen. In a posterior position, the baby's spine faces the mother's spine; this position may contribute towards a longer, less efficient labour. 

Occasionally, the baby has a different body part other than the head pointing downward: a 'breech' presentation is where the baby's bottom is in this position. In this case, a specialist may attempt to perform an External Cephalic Version (ECV) to manually try and turn the baby.

Moxibustion can be offered as a viable alternative to an ECV. The optimal week for this procedure is 34 weeks, whilst there is still room in the uterus for the baby to turn. The procedure involves applying heat to an acupuncture point on the little toe by means of a moxa stick *.

The initial session will be performed by Ann and the method clearly demonstrated so that the woman can self administer (or her partner can do this for her) at home for a set period of days. It is painless, relaxing, takes only 20 minutes a day, and works by stimulating the baby's movements. A leaflet explaining the procedure will be given, plus several moxa sticks, and women will be followed up to ensure they are managing the process.

* [A moxa stick is a cigar-shaped tube of compressed herbs lit at one end to give off heat]

Pre-birth treatment

Pre-birth treatment involves a series of acupuncture sessions, normally commencing at 36 weeks. Treatment is tailored to the individual woman, addressing any late pregnancy discomforts but also gently encouraging the cervix to ripen and the ligaments to soften in preparation for labour. These treatments are also valuable in helping women to relax and prepare emotionally for the birth of their child. If at 40 weeks labour has not commenced,  treatment becomes more focused on the encouragement of spontaneous labour. Research has indicated that those women who have received a series of pre-birth acupuncture sessions often have shorter labour times, less medical intervention and sense of greater empowerment within their birthing process (Kubista & Kucera 1974, Betts & Lennox 2006).

Pre-birth acupuncture leading into the encouragement of spontaneous labour is the best way to benefit from these treatments. However, for a selection of reasons ranging from foetal to maternal health, it may occasionally be necessary for a woman to be induced earlier than planned and she may not have the luxury of several weeks to plan for this. In these situations, acupuncture for the encouragment of spontaneous labour may be given as a stand-alone treatment with the prior knowledge of the woman's midwife or consultant. In this situation, usually only one or two treatments are given.

Teaching couples acupressure for use in labour

Acupressure is the use of firm pressure applied with the fingertips to specific points on the body, and is known to produce results similiar to acupuncture. A series of points known to help with pain relief, encouraging softening and dilation of the cervix and facilitating the downward movement of the baby are taught to the woman and her birthing partner. Feedback from women and their partners is very positive - partners feel more involved and useful in the childbirth process by actively being able to 'do something' to help, and women report that they feel more in control of the birthing process and see a reduction in the pain of contractions.

This session is usually taught around the 36 - 37th week of pregnancy and a leaflet with photos and point location reminders is given.

Post-natal treatment

Ann offers a treatment known as 'mother-warming' where the heat of moxibustion treatment is used to nourish the mother following childbirth. This treatment is normally done around day 4 or 5 after the birth, and can be taught to partners to continue at home. A home visit can be arranged.

Acupuncture is also useful post-natally both for nourishing the mother to aid her recovery, but also to help specific issues such as insufficient lactation, mastitis, night sweats and low mood.

Click here to read about general acupuncture

Click here to read about fertility acupuncture