written by Dr. Keith Bell
Acupuncture has steadily gained popularity over the last decade thanks to its proven track record for improving fertility, resolving nausea during pregnancy (even the Royal Windsor family touted this benefit), and decreasing muscular-skeletal and nerve pain better than opioids.
With the rise in popularity, many healthcare facilities are bringing acupuncture “on board” as a viable treatment option. We are beginning to see acupuncturists utilized in emergency rooms, integrative fertility clinics, comprehensive cancer care facilities, and even labor and delivery rooms.
Acupuncture is a two-thousand-year-old treatment modality that involves the insertion and stimulation of hair-thin pins into specific points (acupoints) on the body that facilitates change in the nervous, circulatory, lymphatic and endocrine systems. It has been proven to be safe and effective with very low risk of adverse incidents when carried out by trained and accredited professionals.
In my twenty-plus years as an acupuncturist specializing in women’s health, I have helped thousands of women conceive and maintain healthy pregnancies. I have successfully utilized acupuncture to relieve symptoms of morning sickness, fatigue, and correcting malposition and breech presentation of baby; all things that acupuncture has become famous for treating. But acupuncture can do much more; and here is my list of eight great reasons to try acupuncture during pregnancy:
History of Miscarriage
Acupuncture has been shown to increase live birth rates in those with a history of recurrent miscarriages not related to genetic abnormalities. Acupuncture causes an immuno-modulation response that effectively treats auto-immune related miscarriage and infertility. It has also been shown to increase blood flow to the uterus, creating a healthy environment for gestation.
Anxiety and Depression
Multiple studies have shown that “there is high-level evidence to support the use of acupuncture for treating major depressive disorder in pregnancy” (Sniezek, et al.). In fact, research shows that acupuncture is as good as, and oftentimes outperforms common medications used to treat both anxiety and depression.
This includes neck, back, and shoulder pain. As well as sciatic-type pain, pelvic pain, TMJ and carpal tunnel.
Oftentimes hemorrhoids can be reduced and even cured in just a couple visits. I have seen in clinical practice that with the stimulation of just three acupoints, thrombosed hemorrhoids alleviate to the point that hemorrhoid surgeries have been cancelled.
As blood volume increases, and stress on the lymphatic system occurs, swelling and congestion happen. This oftentimes manifests as swollen ankles, face and sinus cavities resulting in pain syndromes and sinus headaches. Acupuncture has been shown to support lymphatic drainage and “transport fluids” so that congestion and swelling dissipate.
Blood Pressure Control
A single-blind trial, conducted at the University of California-Irvine (UCI), is the first scientific confirmation that the ancient Chinese medical technique of acupuncture is beneficial for patients with mild to moderate hypertension.
In the journal Medical Acupuncture, the team describes finding how acupuncture can lower blood pressure for up to 6 weeks in patients with hypertension.
With the increased load of circulating hormones during pregnancy, sometimes bile thickens causing cholestasis of pregnancy, this leads to body itching and skin rashes. Acupuncture supports the liver to effectively handle the burden of increased hormones effectively thinning the bile. One study even showed that acupuncture relieved bile-induced itching in mice.
While there is no scientific evidence to support this claim; twenty years of experience has shown me that a disproportionate number of women report that they “have the calmest babies ever.” “Acu-babies,” as we call them, tend to sleep better and have a pleasant, easy going disposition. Which makes sense considering the increased sense of calm that pregnant women report while receiving acupuncture.
If you are considering adding acupuncture to your health regime, finding a qualified practitioner is of utmost importance. The easiest way to do this is visiting the website of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (nccaom.org).
Dr. Keith is a contributor with Birthpedia! See him answer more questions about acupuncture in pregnancy and birth here.
A native Virginian, Dr. R. Keith Bell (known to his patients and students as Dr. Keith) is a nationally recognized expert in the field of Holistic Health. He has spent over 20 years studying and practicing the healing arts and Oriental medicine. In 2000, Dr. Keith opened Oriental Medicine Specialists, the first medical clinic in Richmond to offer the full scope of Oriental medicine, including acupuncture and Chinese Herbology. OMS is now Richmond’s premier Holistic Health Center and in 2005 Dr. Keith expanded his practice to include his Conscious Conceptions Program, the first comprehensive holistic fertility program in our area. Dr. Keith is also committed to bringing education and inspiration to Richmond. He co-created and produced the Mid-Atlantic Holistic Health Conference in 2003 and 2004 which brought world renowned experts on holistic health to Richmond. Pioneers like, Dr. Keith’s personal friend and mentor Joan Borysenko, PhD; Larry Dossey, MD and wife Barbara Dossey, PhD, RN; and world renown scientist Candace Pert, PhD. In 2005, Dr. Keith began working extensively with James Madison University, developing and teaching new courses that brought holistic theory to several programs. Dr. Keith also welcomes Residents from Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine into his clinic, providing supervision and offering our next generation of doctors firsthand experience with Holistic medicine.