Acupuncture in Pregnancy

More and more women are seeking natural ways to help with their pregnancy and birth. Acupuncture is an ideal form of treatment as it offers drug-free relief for a multitude of medical problems. For example miscarriage, morning sickness and other digestive disorders, anxiety and depression, insomnia, fatigue, musculoskeletal conditions including Pelvic Girgle pain, rib pain, neck and upper back pain, carpel tunnel syndrome, small for date babies Iintrauterine growth retardation), breech and posterior positions, etc. I find that women who have acupuncture tend to enjoy their health pregnancy, as well as health babies!

Morning Sickness/Hyperemesis gravidarum

There are a number of factors as to why nausea and vomitting occur in pregnancy: hormone level, fatigue and high stress level, emotional factors. From Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, the commonly seen patterns are Liver Qi attacking Stomach, Stomach heat(Ginger actually worsens this type of morning sickness). This condition responds to acupuncture extremely well.


Smith et al.(2002), published two articles which looked at the effectiveness and safety of acupuncture in early pregnancy. Conclusion: Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for women who experience nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy.

Case History

L, 33, had hyperemesis gravidarum with her first pregnancy. Her hyeremesis came back at 7 weeks in her second pregnancy. She had been tried on Cyclizine and Buccastem, neither of which had touched it. And then she was put on Ondansetron which is only used for nausea and vomiting caused by chemo or surgery for 5-10 days, but she was on it for 4 weeks. The sickness was reduced but doctors were concened she had been on it for too long and suggested large dose of Piriton. She was nearly 15 weeks when she came to me. To my surprise her vomiting stopped after the first session of acupuncture! Her nausea completely stopped at 18 weeks. She continued with acupuncture for the rest of her pregnancy to heal with heartburns, constipation and pelvic pain. She had a healthy baby boy at 35 weeks, weighed 2.55kg, who was "an absolute delight". The premature birth might have been to do with the flu jab she had a few days before I suspect.

 Musculoskeletal conditions

There are a variety of musculoskeletal conditions such as backache, sciatica, rib, hip and pelvic pain that are all too often viewed a s part of the ‘normal’ discomforts of pregnancy. Among them pelvic girdle pain (PGP), which used to be known as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) can be debilitating. It is estimated that PGP affects up to one in five pregnant women to some degree. It is mainly due to the hormonal effect on the ligaments. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine these conditions are viewed as manifestation of blockage or stagnation in the channels. Acupuncture works by facilitating the flow of energy. I find acupuncture provides a very effective and safe treatment for PGP. As it addresses the hormonal factor it provide a more lasting effect than manipulative treatment.


Elden et al.(2005) published a trial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) which looked into Acupuncture and pelvic pain in pregnancy. Conclusion: Acupuncture is superior to stabilising exercises in the management of pelvic pain in pregnancy.

Case history

C, 35, twin pregnancy. She developed hip pain on both sides around 20 weeks, probably due to increasing weight of her bump and being on her feet all day at work as a primary school teacher. Acupuncture had kept her going. Beautiful twin girls were born at 37 weeks, weighed 6lb9 and 6lb4.

A, 37, twin pregnancy. After the positive test from her first IVF, A continued to use acupuncture (some herbs at th early stage of pregnancy) to maintain the health of her pregnancy. She hardly had any complications at all. She gave birth to two healthy boys- 6lb7oz and 6lb3oz. 

 Small-for-dates babies (intrauterine growth retardation)

There are a variety of reasons why a baby may not be growing as expected, constitution, life style(diet, exercise habbit, not enough rest), stress etc

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, during pregnancy a mother’s blood and Kidney energy are diverted to nourish the foetus. The Spleen energy( Spleen generates Qi and Blood) is also important.

Case history

N, 37, came to me at 16 weeks pregnant. She has history of ME. Her PAPP-A had been low (associated with Down syndrome, miscariage, severe intrauterine growth retardation, premature birth etc), and there was hardly any bump. The hospital was unable to expain the blood test. She was anxious and wondering should she keep the pregnancy. Since she started acupuncture, her sleep and energy had much improved and her baby started to grow well. Her 20 weeks scan was normal. She continued with acupuncure and delivered a health baby boy at 37 weeks, weighed 5lb13oz.

N came back 3 years later when she was 16 weeks in her second pregnancy. Blood tests and scan were all normal this time. I treated her fatigue, acid reflux, abdominal cramping, leg cramping throughtout the pregnancy. She gave birth to a health baby girl naturally at 38 weeks plus 2 days, baby weighed 7 lb 3oz.


 Insufficient Lactation

Insufficient lactation may be due to an increase in oxytocin and prolactin levels. Acupuncture has a strong influence on hormone levels. In Chinese medicine, commonly seen patterns are Qi and Blood deficiency, Liver Qi stagnation( stress, emotional upset). In my practice I haven't seen any women who has acupuncture during pregnancy has any lactation problem. 

Case History

N, 35. She didn't have enough milk to feed when her first child was born 3 years ago. She has a history of Ulcerative Colitis for ten years, for which she took 1.5-3g of Mesalazine. I think her lack of lactation was due to her Qi and Blood deficinecy, which is cause by her Spleen deficiency, the cause of her UC. She was reluctant to take herbs so we had to reply on acupuncture to strengthen her spleen during her pregnancy. This time her breast feeding was going well.


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