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Is It Safe to Get Acupuncture During Pregnancy?

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A pregnant woman in a bathtub holding her belly.
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Pregnancy is a time of joy and anticipation, but there are certain symptoms expecting mothers need to deal with. From consistent nausea to experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions, you should be prepared to meet the challenges head-on. And getting acupuncture during pregnancy can help you deal with many of these challenges.

The benefits of alternative therapy are still unknown to many in the West, so pregnant women are left to struggle with suboptimal and invasive solutions. In this article, we will try to raise awareness of the benefits of acupuncture during pregnancy, point to its limitations, and corroborate it all with empirical data.

However, we should start from the beginning – how safe is acupuncture for pregnant women?

Is Getting Acupuncture while Pregnant Safe?

The short answer is yes, getting acupuncture during pregnancy is safe. To be more specific, a review of existing medical literature regarding acupuncture during pregnancy found that adverse effects that were ‘certainly, probably or possibly’ caused by acupuncture happened in 1.3% of acupuncture treatments.

The review included 105 scientific studies from countries all over the world, encompassing 2,460 pregnant women and approximately 22,283 acupuncture sessions. To put the 1.3% into more practical numbers, that means that adverse effects happened 131 times from 10,000 acupuncture sessions.

Adverse Effects of Acupuncture During Pregnancy

Still, a 1.3% chance of something going wrong because of an acupuncture session during pregnancy may be too high of a risk to some and that’s understandable. So how can we claim that acupuncture during pregnancy is safe? Because the adverse effects, even when they do happen, are mild.

The risks of acupuncture are needling pain, bleeding, drowsiness, and similar transient effects. There is no evidence that serious conditions like pre-eclampsia or congenital defects in a baby are caused by acupuncture. 

So, acupuncture during pregnancy is safe because there is a 1.3% chance of experiencing side effects after treatments and even when they do happen, the side effects are mild.

How Acupuncture Helps with Pregnancy

A woman getting the acupoints in her belly stimulated.

We’ve established that acupuncture during pregnancy is safe, but what do you get from it? There are many benefits to acupuncture during pregnancy, all of which will be discussed below, but it all begins before that – before you even conceive.

Pre-Pregnancy

It has been scientifically demonstrated that acupuncture for fertility can help you deal with a wide range of issues that can cause infertility. This is primarily done by:

  • Regulating your menstrual cycle
  • Improving the blood and oxygen flow to your ovaries
  • Improving the blood flow to your uterus and increasing the thickness of the uterine lining

Then, after you have conceived, acupuncture can help with:

Morning Sickness

Morning sickness is extremely common during pregnancy and affects up to 80% of all pregnant women. Some of the most common symptoms are nausea, dry heaving, and vomiting. While morning sickness will generally not put your health at risk, the symptoms are very uncomfortable and affect your quality of life.

An extreme variation of morning sickness is called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) when all of the typical symptoms of morning sickness are exacerbated. Approximately 3% of pregnant women suffer from it. It can cause severe nausea and persistent vomiting, which can further lead to dehydration, severe weight loss, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, fainting spells, and often lead to hospitalization in early pregnancy.

While morning sickness ‘only’ affects your quality of life, HG can cause serious health concerns, in some cases even causing a termination of pregnancy. Luckily, acupuncture during pregnancy can help you manage the symptoms of morning sickness and has been proven as an effective treatment for HG.

Pain and Indigestion

During pregnancy, the body undergoes certain changes – you will experience more strain on your joints from your ligaments stretching and the baby weight puts additional pressure on your body, on top of expected hormonal changes. These changes are all too often accompanied by pelvic pain, lower back pain, and indigestion.

Acupuncture during pregnancy is an effective way to manage these symptoms. Medical studies on acupuncture have shown that it helps relieve musculoskeletal pain, with specific medical trials even focusing on lower back pain in the second and third trimesters.

Similarly, gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) is reported in approximately 80% of pregnancies, with the most common symptoms being acid reflux and heartburn. These symptoms can often be lessened with lifestyle changes but still may require medication to treat. That is, without acupuncture. Acupuncture during pregnancy can help with managing GERD and potentially remove the need for medication.

Anxiety, Stress, Insomnia, and Depression

Anxiety, stress, insomnia, depression, and other mood disorders are very common during pregnancy, with an estimated 8.5% – 11% of women suffering from perinatal depression during pregnancy. The causes for these mood disorders are many, from financial stress and inadequate social support to hormonal changes due to pregnancy. Unfortunately, some medication that is used to treat these disorders is not safe for a developing baby.

That is where acupuncture steps in – as a natural way to regulate your emotional health. In traditional Chinese medicine, it has long been known that acupuncture can help with mood disorders but that fact has been accepted by Western medicine only recently. Scientific studies have shown that acupuncture can help with stress and anxiety, symptoms of depression in the general population, and depression during pregnancy specifically.

Thus, acupuncture during pregnancy is an effective non-medication treatment for emotional betterment.

For Safer and Easier Labour

Another benefit of getting acupuncture treatments during pregnancy is to prepare your body and your baby for labor. Delivering a breach baby (when it is presenting feet-first instead of head-first) can be risky, which is why many women undergo a C-section in these situations. However, this medical intervention also carries certain risks of complications and increases the recovery time.

Pregnancy acupuncture can relax your pelvic floor muscles and help lower your baby into position, eliminating the risks of delivering a breach baby or having to undergo a C-section. Additionally, acupuncture can naturally relieve labor pain. While you will still experience pain during labor, acupuncture for pain relief can help you have as smooth a birth as possible.  

Post-Pregnancy

A woman preparing to get acupuncture during pregnancy.

The benefits of acupuncture treatments don’t stop after you’ve given birth. Like with acupuncture sessions during pregnancy, you can still get pain relief and regulate your emotional health. However, potentially the most important role acupuncture plays post-pregnancy is how it helps with postpartum depression.

Between 10% – 15% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), with symptoms ranging from extreme sadness to difficulty bonding with their baby. Typical treatment includes antidepressant drugs and psychological intervention, but acupuncture is another method that can help alleviate the symptoms of PPD.

It has been demonstrated that acupuncture is effective at treating some symptoms of PPD on its own, while a study that compared the effectiveness of antidepressants with the effectiveness of acupuncture coupled with psychological intervention found that acupuncture with psychological intervention is as effective (at a 90.7% rate) at treating symptoms of PPD as antidepressants, but without the adverse effects that are caused by the medication.

You Get Better Results with Experienced Acupuncturists

The first question we posed in this article is whether getting acupuncture during pregnancy is safe. The answer is yes, but we should add another caveat – acupuncture during pregnancy is safe if it is done by an experienced and licensed acupuncturist.

And that is precisely what you will get at BH Acuhealth Clinic. We are a licensed acupuncture clinic in Beverly Hills that provides specialized acupuncture services for pregnant women. We know which acupoints need to be stimulated to get the best results and which points need to be avoided.

You will get a full diagnosis and other medical professionals will be included, if needed. Our commitment is to compassion and care and we can provide you with the holistic treatment you deserve. Make an appointment and let us make sure you have a healthy and happy pregnancy.

Make an Appointment: (424) 466-8966