Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicinal (TCM) practice that uses thin needles to stimulate different points on the body to produce a range of benefits. Acupuncture has a long history of anecdotal evidence in eastern medicine as a cure-all to alleviate pain, boost immunity, and promote healing. While the scientific study has only recently documented some of the positive benefits that acupuncture may provide, the physiology behind how it works is still not well understood. While acupuncture is growing in popularity, it is still a complementary medicine even within the medical community. And that designation has some women questioning if acupuncture is safe during pregnancy. The treatment can potentially alleviate a wide range of unpleasant side effects that tend to come along with pregnancy, like nausea and vomiting, stress, depression, general pain and discomfort, fatigue, and much more.

What we Know About Acupuncture and Pregnancy

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of research available on acupuncture use during pregnancy. While we have thousands of years of anecdotal evidence, those in the western world prefer to have analytical data to make calculated decisions about our healthcare rather than trusting our belief system as the eastern world does. We know based on a limited number of studies and supported by volumes of anecdotal evidence that acupuncture may help improve fertility and effectively reduce pain. But as far as the efficacy of acupuncture to cure common ailments like morning sickness, we’ll put that in the maybe pile because there simply isn’t any hard evidence behind it. Related: Acupuncture vs Massage: What’s the Difference? Acupuncture also doesn’t use pharmaceutical drugs to produce results, so that is promising as well. Many of the common drugs on the market are not intended for pregnant women, limiting pain relief options during pregnancy. In comparison to those drugs, acupuncture is considered a safe alternative.

Woman receiving acupuncture treatment

Why People Use Acupuncture During Pregnancy

Pregnancy, while miraculous, is hard on the body. Rapid hormonal changes tend to cause physical illness and breast tenderness. The growing fetus is often blamed for severe fatigue, heartburn, and pelvic discomfort. And if you are really lucky, you might get saddled with constipation, hemorrhoids, or sciatica pain. While many women make it through pregnancy with little to no lasting symptoms, others are bedridden for months at a time. And for the latter group, there are limited options to alleviate their symptoms outside of complementary medicine. Acupuncture is believed to help with these common pregnancy-related ailments:
  • Chronic Pain and Discomfort
  • Labor Management
  • Mental Health
  • Fertility
Related: Prenatal Chiropractor: What is It and Why do you Need One?

Pain Management

The medical community is more open to trying acupuncture and other alternative medicinal interventions for pain management to reduce the number of opioid drugs prescribed. Most of the pharmaceutical pain relief options are highly addictive, and new mothers are a high-risk group for opioid addictions.

Labor Management

Women hoping for a med-free birth can try acupuncture. Some limited research indicates that acupuncture can successfully induce labor and may be beneficial in correcting breech positions. For acupuncture treatments from a team of experts dedicated to helping you heal, contact Inner Gate Health & Wellness. Our services include chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, naturopathic medicine, and more.

Mental Health

Fluctuating hormones and major life changes increase the likelihood of mental health issues during pregnancy and postpartum. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in every five women experiences postpartum depression. In extreme cases, this can lead to neglect and harm to the patient and their child. So, mental health treatment is important during and following pregnancy. Unfortunately, many of the mental health prescription drugs we use are not safe during pregnancy. That means anyone who was taking these medications may need to stop treatment for pre-existing mental health conditions. Whether the condition is new or the patient has been living with it prior to the pregnancy, acupuncture may relieve anxiety and depression.

Fertility

To date, there is no scientific research that supports a direct correlation between acupuncture and fertility. However, centuries of anecdotal evidence indicate that the treatment has benefited fertility, and even many modern-day western doctors are embracing the treatment despite the lack of data available. And there is good reason why. Acupuncture does allow the patient to relax and relieve stress. And stress may be a major reason why some women have trouble conceiving. Therefore, while we cannot prove that acupuncture directly improves fertility, we can say that it supports a fertile environment.

Pregnant woman sitting in chair with dog

Are There Any Concerns of Using Acupuncture During Pregnancy?

The good news is that acupuncture is a low-risk treatment with very few negative side effects. In most cases, patients experience mild to moderate soreness or bruising at the needle site. Occasionally a patient may experience weakness, fatigue, dizziness, or nausea following treatment. While the use of acupuncture has not been widely studied during pregnancy, there have been a minimal number of these adverse reactions in pregnant patients. We could only find one documented case that was secondary to an asthma complication and did not affect the fetus. But there is one notable concern about using acupuncture during pregnancy. One of the benefits is that acupuncture may induce labor in healthy, full-term pregnancies. But that also means that if used inappropriately, it could potentially induce premature labor.  We recommend playing it safe and stick with a certified practitioner who is knowledgeable and well-trained in the correct and appropriate use of acupuncture. This will help prevent these types of problems, as well as more obvious concerns with poor hygiene practices and potential bloodborne pathogens resulting from dirty needle use. Related: Chiropractic vs Acupuncture Treatment

Final Thoughts on Acupuncture During Pregnancy

An increasing number of women are turning to treatments like acupuncture to cure what ails them. And for pregnant women, the needs are diverse. Acupuncture appears to be a fairly safe alternative medicine option with few side effects. It can calm the nerves of a new mother, ease the discomfort of morning sickness, and even aid in labor and delivery. The key is to find an experienced and knowledgeable practitioner that you trust to perform the treatments. And, of course, we recommend sharing your holistic care plan with your OBGYN so that you can receive the best care possible. Inner Gate Health & Wellness is committed to helping you feel better today using a variety of alternative medicine treatments. We are home to the best chiropractor in Portland and supplement our services with an expert acupuncture team, massage therapy, and naturopathic medicine. Book a consultation today.