Benefits of Acupuncture during pregnancy – Part 2: Second and Third Trimester.
Now that you have safely made it through to the second trimester of your pregnancy you may find that you have more energy and are feeling better. For many women the second trimester of pregnancy (13 to 28 weeks) is a welcome break from the nausea and fatigue of the first trimester. Now that the placenta is fully established you should notice that your digestion improves along with your appetite.
You’ll notice an increase in energy, your hair will start to look thicker and your skin and nails are looking healthier with the increased flow of qi and blood through your body. The balance of yin and yang becomes more synchronised and the energy of the foetus strengthens.
From the second trimester the baby is growing, putting more pressure on your hips, lower back and stomach area. This can affect the flow of blood and Qi to these areas. In the third trimester your belly grows rapidly and as your baby fills the abdominal cavity it squashes surrounding organs. Your ligaments will loosen to allow the pelvis to open. Your body is working hard and your body temperature rises. In Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine the baby’s growth and residence in the womb can affect the smooth flow of qi, blood and body fluids through mum’s body resulting in some or more symptoms such as back pain, joint pain, sciatica, pubis symphysis dysfunction, carpal tunnel, oedema, fatigue, heartburn, constipation, haemorrhoids, varicose veins, skin rashes, elevated blood pressure, leg cramps, breech presentation and more.
Acupuncture is a safe and natural therapy that can help with many of the unwanted symptoms that come with the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. While Acupuncture is not a substitute for Western prenatal medical care, it can offer complementary care that has many benefits. Acupuncture will help regulate your body while it makes the necessary changes to limit the discomfort you feel as you prepare to bring your baby into the world.
Back pain, hip pain, sciatica.
I commonly see cases of lower back pain, hip pain and nerve pain in the clinic during this period of pregnancy. Symptoms can be more severe in the third trimester. As the baby continues to grow the increased weight puts pressure on the mother’s nerves, ligaments and joints. Back, hip and joint pain can be caused by any number of factors: the weight of the growing baby, a previous back injury resurfacing, instability of joints caused by ligaments relaxing or altered or poor posture. Acupuncture can be extremely effective for these ailments as it works by removing stagnation and bringing circulation to the areas that need it. It helps to reduce swelling and inflammation and relaxes muscles that may be in spasm. Acupuncture also works to modulate neurotransmitters in the brain to help relieve pain.
Pregnancy reflux can resurface in the second and third trimester as your baby is rapidly taking up space in your abdomen. This can cause irritating discomfort and affects your sleep if you are unable to lie down. Acupuncture works effectively to regulate stomach acidity without the need to take any medicine. Acupuncture also regulates the small and large intestine function and moves Qi to help keep your bowel moving regularly.
Oedema or fluid retention is a common side effect in the later stages of pregnancy. Symptoms include puffiness and swelling around the areas of the hands and feet, made worse by standing for long periods of time. Mild cases of oedema are considered normal, a natural response to the accumulation of fluid build up during pregnancy. It can become a concern however if the swelling does not settle after rest and is accompanied by rapid weight gain and swelling in the face. This could be an early indication of High Blood Pressure and requires medical attention.
In Chinese Medicine the spleen, stomach and kidneys are responsible for the transformation and transportation of food and fluids throughout the body. A deficiency or weakness in these organs and meridian systems can result in oedema. Acupuncture and moxibustion can very effectively relieve excess fluid and reduce swelling and discomfort.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy is generally caused by fluid congestion in the body, which can cause inflammation and irritation of the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel in your wrist. Acupuncture works to reduce the inflammation and pain and regulate fluid metabolism. As the meridians treated for this condition run through to the neck and shoulders I often recommend a neck and shoulder massage to complement the acupuncture treatment and accelerate healing for this condition.
Breech or posterior presentation is usually diagnosed around week 32 to 34 of pregnancy. Acupuncture treatment is recommended from week 32 to 36 while there is still room for the baby to turn. Treatment involves ‘moxibustion’ which is the application of heat from the burning of the herb mugwort to a point just outside the edge of the nail of the little toe. The point that is stimulated connects with the uterus through an internal meridian. The heat of moxibustion to this point moves the energy through this channel and up to the uterus, stimulating the baby to move and encouraging it to turn on its own. The treatment is painless and causes no adverse side effects. If needed I may complement this moxibustion treatment with a body acupuncture treatment to balance the body’s organs, Qi and blood and help the mother relax. Many pregnant women report the baby beginning to kick during the treatment. Moxibustion techniques are taught to the mother to do at home but breech or posterior babies may turn from the first session.
Toward the end of the third trimester regular acupuncture treatments are recommended to help you to prepare for your labour and delivery. From 36 weeks acupuncture works to improve blood flow to the reproductive organs to help soften the cervix and encourage a smoother labour. The points needled during treatments also focus on relaxing the ligaments in the pelvis and help calm the mind and body to prepare for the labour.
Studies show that women who receive regular acupuncture during the third trimester typically have a shorter and less complicated labour. There also is a noticeable reduction in medical intervention, including induction of labour, use of epidural anesthesia and cesarean delivery.
Once you have reached your due date acupuncture can be used to help initiate labour and decrease the need for medical intervention. Acupuncture is normally recommended 3 days prior to a medical delivery and usually consists of 1-3 acupuncture treatments over 3 days. The combination of acupuncture points used to trigger labour can be extremely effective once your baby is ready. The treatment is safe and natural and treatment is customised or modified on a case-by-case basis.
What to expect from your acupuncture visit during the second and third trimester of pregnancy.
- After taking a detailed history of your health and pregnancy profile we will check your body with Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis methods including checking your tongue and pulse and physical palpation of the body if necessary (e.g. neck and shoulder pain, tension, bloating).
- We will discuss and advise a principle of acupuncture treatment for your specific symptoms to nourish your mind and body. (This may include acupuncture needles, moxibustion and/or cupping.)
- You get to relax for at least 20 minutes while the acupuncture needles do their energy work on you.
We will give you suggestions for individual cases on lifestyle, diet and exercise where relevant to your pregnancy and symptoms.
Pregnancy should be a happy and positive time for the new mum-to-be but unfortunately for some, unwanted symptoms can dramatically affect quality of life. If you are experiencing unwanted pregnancy symptoms or feel you need some TLC remember that acupuncture is an effective, safe and natural option to help you through the (unwelcome) bumps on this amazing journey.