With all the poking and prodding that comes along with pregnancy, getting stuck with needles voluntarily probably seems like the last thing you’d want to do. But when it comes to banishing some pregnancy woes, many moms-to-be sing the praises of acupuncture. In fact, both scientific research too says acupuncture can help ease many of the common aches and discomforts of pregnancy.
BENEFITS OF ACUPUNCTURE DURING PREGNANCY
Many people credit acupuncture for easing a wide range of pregnancy symptoms including heartburn, swelling in the legs, constipation, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica and more.
Here are some of the pregnancy symptoms acupuncture can relieve that science has studied:
- Morning sickness. Some studies have shown that traditional acupuncture that targets the wrist can reduce the nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness.
- Lower back and pelvic pain. Research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology reports acupuncture could reduce pain in the lower back along with pelvic pain. Pregnant women in their late second and third trimesters received acupuncture on points on the ear; sham acupuncture (so-called “fake” acupuncture, done at nonspecific points); or no treatment at all. At the one-week follow-up, about 80 percent of women in the acupuncture group had a clinically significant reduction in pain, compared to 56 percent in the sham acupuncture group and only 36 percent for the group who received no treatment.
- Depression. Depression during pregnancy is common, affecting nearly one in four women — but a targeted type of acupuncture may help. For a study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, during eight weeks clinically-depressed pregnant women who weren’t previously taking antidepressants received general acupuncture, acupuncture specific for depression, or massage. The severity of depression symptoms decreased most among women who received acupuncture for depression. And 63 percent of the women who received the depression-specific acupuncture responded to the treatment, compared to 44 percent in the general acupuncture and massage groups.
- Headaches. Research has shown that acupuncture can reduce pregnancy-induced headaches; women who received it also used less medication.
- Sleep Problems. Getting to sleep and staying asleep is trickier than ever during pregnancy — but some research has shown that women who receive acupuncture sleep better during pregnancy, too.
MOXIBUSTION DURING PREGNANCY
Moxibustion works on the same basic principles as acupuncture, but instead of actually puncturing your skin with a needle, long sticks of the mugwort herb are burned near certain acupuncture points along your body. Both the heat from the burning and properties of the herb itself are thought to provide physical benefits. Some studies have shown that daily sessions of moxibustion (either alone or combined with acupuncture) can increase fetal activity and therefore help turn a baby from a breech position to the more delivery-friendly heads-down position. However, some others studies have found moxibustion to be no more effective than doing nothing.
ACUPRESSURE DURING PREGNANCY
The points treated in acupressure are usually the same areas used in acupuncture — but instead of using needles, pressure is applied through a firm massage. Fingers (especially thumbs), hands, elbows, knees and feet are used as tools to rub, knead, drum on and vibrate against skin on certain parts of the body. Shiatsu, the most well-known style of acupressure, is fairly vigorous, with the therapist applying firm pressure to each trigger point for three to five seconds. Studies have shown that acupressure can help ease lower back pain, labor pain, nausea and headaches, as well as help naturally induce labor and reduce stress and anxiety during labor.