By Dr. Amy Dobbie, Naturopath
With all the testing, poking and prodding, therapies and preparation, it seems like there are so many things "to do" or try in pregnancy. What about acupuncture? Clients have experienced the most amazing results just from those wee needles we use! Here are the most common questions I am asked in my practice as a naturopathic doctor.
“I’ve heard acupuncture helps in pregnancy – is this true? Is it safe?”
My answer is always YES! Acupuncture is completely safe during pregnancy, and is proven to be extremely beneficial and effective. In the first trimester it helps to maintain a pregnancy, nourish the body and alleviates early symptoms such as fatigue, nausea and heartburn. Later, the aches, pains, constipation and swelling that go along with pregnancy can be greatly alleviated by acupuncture treatment as well.
One of the most important times to have acupuncture during pregnancy is the third trimester, to help prepare the body for labour. Routinely, I recommend a set of pre-birth acupuncture points, and add in specific points based on individual needs.
How does it work?
Pre-birth acupuncture prepares a woman’s body for labour by tonifying and nourishing the body. The acupuncture points help to relax and soften uterine ligaments and bring blood flow to the pelvis. This encourages the baby to descend into the birth canal in the proper position, while preparing the cervix to soften and dilate and the uterine muscles to effectively contract when needed.
What are the benefits?
o Increased likelihood of spontaneous labour around due date, meaning reduced likelihood of induction
o Reduced risk of medical intervention (C-section, forceps, epidural, etc.)
o Faster, easier birth (on average, 1.5 hours shorter)
o When acupuncture has been done routinely, there is an increased effectiveness of natural “induction” acupuncture.
When should a woman begin pre-birth acupuncture?
She should start weekly 30 minute treatments, beginning at 36 weeks, and continuing until her due date.
If I am overdue, will acupuncture help induce me?
Yes, additional acupuncture points can be added if you are past your due date to: help your baby engage into the birth canal, gently promote cervical softening and dilation, and strengthen birth sensations (contractions). These treatments can be done more frequently (every 1-3 days) until labour begins.
Acupuncture also helps to build energy and calm anxieties and frustrations, which often arise when a woman is past her due date.
Does acupuncture help with turning breech babies?
Yes. Often I will combine acupuncture with moxa (herbs heated over specific acupuncture points) to encourage babies to move to the proper position.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Typically no. Most people find acupuncture relaxing, and often fall asleep during the treatment. It is normal to feel some heaviness or warmth around points, but generally acupuncture is quite painless.
Does acupuncture cause pre-term labour?
No. Specific points are avoided until your due date, as they are known to promote labour. The points used for pre-birth acupuncture will not bring on early labour.
Why should I see a Naturopathic Doctor for this treatment?
Aside from acupuncture, I help women prepare for labour using other therapies such as homeopathics, herbs, supplements, hydrotherapy and hands on techniques. I always teach women how to apply acupressure at home and how to use these points as comfort measures during labour. Diet and lifestyle will also be discussed to ensure you are healthy throughout the remainder of your pregnancy and the post-partum period.
The other major benefit of seeing a Naturopathic Doctor is all of my treatment plans are tailored to your specific needs. We will discuss your questions about labour and birth, post-partum, breastfeeding, vaccinations, etc. and review your family history to make sure that your baby has the best possible start to life! I can even become your baby's primary health care provider!
Dr. Amy Dobbie is the Naturopathic Doctor at The WOMB - The World of My Baby. Dr. Amy works with all members of the family but holds pregnancy, women's health and paediatrics close to her heart.