Acupuncture may seem like an extreme alternative treatment for pregnancy troubles, but it can actually be very effective for many women who struggle with the effects of pregnancy. Acupuncture is used to treat all sorts of different ailments using thin needles to access specific nerve and pressure points in the body. For pregnant women, acupuncture can be especially effective for relieving these common forms of discomfort:
1. Morning Sickness
Many women struggle with nausea during the first trimester of pregnancy, and some will continue to struggle even after they pass into the second and third trimesters. Pregnancy nausea, when severe, can be debilitating, as it can prevent the mother form getting enough nourishment and can lead to dehydration. One study of 593 women in the first trimester showed that acupuncture effectively reduced dry-heaving and nausea levels in pregnant women experiencing morning sickness.
Sciatica is a common ailment for pregnant women. It occurs when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back all the way down the back of each leg, becomes inflamed. Sometimes, the inflammation is caused because the nerve is pinched. Other times, it is because the nerve is irritated. Because the muscles and joints in the pelvic area and lower back become loose during pregnancy, the chances of developing sciatica are greater, simply because it's easier for the hips and pelvis to become misaligned or for muscles that aren't morally used to tighten in order to compensate for the looseness of the area. The pressure of the fetus can also cause pinching.
Before getting acupuncture, you should see a health care professional first to make sure that your leg, butt, or hip pain is not caused by a more immediate problem. Sometimes, intense pain the leg during pregnancy can be a sign of blood clots, which are very serious. However, once the source of the pain is discovered, acupuncture and massage therapy can help. Acupuncture needles can help tap into the nerve itself, helping to reduce the pain signals that go from this nerve to the brain. If the sciatic nerve is being pinched because the surrounding muscles (namely the piriformis) have shifted or tightened, massaging these muscles can loosen them.
Unfortunately, depression affects up to 23% of pregnant women. While this condition may be different than a pulled muscle or pinched nerve, it can make pregnancy unbearable and cause significant disruption to your daily life. Studies show that acupuncture is an excellent alternative treatment for depression. This is especially good news for those who are expecting, because medications for depression while pregnant are limited in type and dose due to the effect they could have on the fetus.
Depression is actually an ideal condition for acupuncture to treat. According to tradition, emotional imbalances reflect an imbalance in a person's Qi. While physical conditions can also affect Qi, depression is the manifestation that something in the body is out of balance. Therefore, during an acupuncture treatment for depression, the acupuncturist will try to restore the flow of Qi by stimulating the liver, spleen, and heart. You can expect some needles in these areas, as well as in the hands and feet, which provide secondary stimulators for the internal organs.
Living with pregnancy symptoms is difficult, especially if they are severe enough to affect your ability to care for yourself and your family. Acupuncture is a safe alternative form of treatment for pregnant women, and it can be a lifesaver for relieving pain. Be sure you let your OBGYN know that you are considering acupuncture as an option for your pregnancy symptoms and be sure to continue your mainstream pregnancy wellness and treatment plans, especially if they are prescribed by your care provider.