Don’t be scared of needles, mama! Acupuncture and pregnancy are a winning combination, particularly in the second trimester (and the third, for that matter). Find out more from our TCM expert, Mark Chern!
If you’re pregnant and in your second trimester, congratulations! You are probably past the discomforting or even debilitating stage of morning sickness (and no, it doesn’t just appear in the morning!). The second trimester is what many would call “the honeymoon phase” of pregnancy. For the most part, things should go along smoothly but some issues may appear as the pregnancy progresses. Here we uncover some common issues and explain how acupuncture or alternative therapies can support you throughout the second trimester.
Pregnancy rash is also called PUPPP (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy). It often surfaces past week 28 when, for no apparent reason, the mother breaks out into a rash. The eruption appears as an itchy, bumpy rash that starts around the belly button, where stretching of the abdomen is greatest. It tends to flare on the breasts, the abdomen, buttocks or the legs, but it may sometimes spread to the entire body.
Occurring in 1 in every 150 pregnant women, it usually appears in the third trimester and hopefully goes away after delivery. PUPPP can be very itchy and especially unbearable during sleep. Chinese medicine associates this with excess surface wind, or with a lack of blood in the body. Acupuncture has been useful in treating this condition, especially if combined with herbs.
One commonly-used acupoint is the “Sea of Blood” location on the thigh. Another is on the skin fold at the back of the knee. The aim is to nourish the blood and expel wind, while clearing heat in the blood. Herbs are able to accomplish a reduction in inflammation without relying on the use of synthetic steroids.
Edema in Pregnancy
During pregnancy, swelling occurs when body fluids increase to nurture both the mother and baby. Pressure increases, and excess fluids end up accumulating in your lower extremities. Some mothers also see swelling in their hands and fingers.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the swelling indicates that there is a weakness in the Spleen and Kidney to absorb and transport fluid in the body. When the transportation is weak and slow, fluids get stuck in certain parts of the body.
In Acupuncture, the points chosen almost always include Yin Mound Spring, which targets the lymphatic bottleneck in the lower extremities. Other points on the Stomach Meridian are often added to aid transportation and transformation of fluid in the channels without harming the fetus.
Sciatica in Pregnancy
If you experience pain radiating from your buttocks down to your legs, you are probably suffering from sciatica.
This acute pain from nerve radiation can be addressed with acupuncture, which is an excellent complement to the articular adjustment implemented by a skilled pregnancy osteopath or chiropractor. Acupuncture is also very effective when the pain originates not at the nerve root, but due to piriformis syndrome. It is always important to target the Leap the Loop crevice point accessible past the gluteus maximus muscle.
Prenatal anxiety and depression is experienced by one out of 15 pregnant mothers and is caused by physical changes, hormonal changes, as well as all the uncertainty accompanies the advent of the first child.
Prenatal massages and prenatal yoga work well to calm the system, but some mothers do find themselves suited to regular sessions of acupuncture to help them through this time. Each session releases body tension, relaxes the mind and improve sleep quality. Points will be used to bring the tension down from the head so that energy flows fluidly throughout the body.
Read More: Postpartum Depression Resources in Singapore
Breech and Posteriors
Your baby will shift into cephalic position in preparation for birth. But in four out of 100 births, babies are in breech position. Unless you find an obstetrician who is skilled in vaginal breech births, cesareans are recommended in most hospitals these days.
Breech presentations and posterior positions are associated with reduced efficiency of labor. If you know you have a breech, it is best to start treatment early around week 34, and not to wait till past week 36, which is what some mothers do in the hope that the baby turns for some reason or another. Each situation is different, but treatment with acupuncture and moxibustion is something you need to explore if you want to turn your baby. Midwives know to refer their clients to a skilled acupuncturist in the event a breech is diagnosed.
Pre-Birth Preparations vs. Inductions
Last of all, there is the final four weeks. Research indicates that pre-birth treatments can help prepare the cervix and pelvis for labor. This is why we recommend Happy Baby sessions once a week for first time mothers past week 36. This is often a better alternative to induction with acupuncture for post-dates coming in at week 40 or 41.
Here is wishing you a smooth and fulfilling journey of pregnancy. Natural therapies like acupuncture are beneficial because they help to bring balance. Each session should bring some level of comfort and relief during this amazing time of positive transformation.
- Research by Kubista and Kucera in 1974 showed how mean duration of labor in a group of women giving birth for the first time was on average 2.5 hours less in the acupuncture group. Pre-birth acupuncture helps women prepare for a more efficient delivery, and is recommended on a weekly basis starting at week 37.
- Research by Rabl (2001) showed that acupuncture shortened duration from due date to delivery by almost 3 days. Four out of 45 women were delivered within 24 hours of their first acupuncture treatment, while no women in the control group delivered within 24 hours of their first examination. In the end, only 20% in the acupuncture group was medically induced, compared to 35% in the control group.
- Research by Zeister et al (1998) concluded that one positive effect acupuncture had was in shortening the first stage of labor. In the study, the acupuncture group had a median duration of 196 minutes, compared to 321 minutes in the control group.