PREGNANCY CARE

ANTE-NATAL LABOUR PREPARATION POST-NATAL

 

Welcome and congratulations on your pregnancy!

Wherever you are on your journey, rest assured that you have now found safe, effective, drug-free treatments for you and your baby for a multitude of concerns that might arise during pregnancy and childbirth.

Becoming pregnant is a wonder of life and from the very first instant, many changes occur in your body, physically and mentally. Acupuncture can be used to treat conditions that are considered to be normal in pregnancy ('morning' sickness, sciatica, symphysis pubis pain etc.) and improve your quality of life as well as prevent conditions from worsening and needing medical intervention.

Please read on for specific acupuncture programmes to assist you throughout your pregnancy from the first trimester to postnatal care.

Ante-natal

First trimester (0 – 12 weeks)
- Weekly treatment is recommended during this stage for any discomfort you are experiencing (such as nausea, fatigue, anxiety, constipation) as there is an increased risk of miscarriage, which rises with IVF pregnancies and where there is a history of miscarriage.

Second trimester (14 – 27 weeks)
- Monthly or bi-monthly treatments are recommended depending on how you are feeling and what you are experiencing.
- Some symptoms that you may notice are heartburn, constipation, haemorrhoids, headaches, stress and pelvic pain.

Third trimester (29 – 36 weeks)
- Monthly or bi-monthly treatments are recommended depending on your state of health.
- At this stage you might feel physically well, and you may also feel heavy and tired. You may notice some back pain or sciatica, pelvic of pubic pain, anxiety about birth or be informed your baby is breech.
- Now is the time to consider rest and relaxation and making the most of the time you have to yourself (if this is your first!).

Labour preparation begins at week 36 with a pre-birth programme and consist of 4 weekly treatments.

Breech presentation

The turning of breech babies with moxibustion (the burning of a fragrant herb in the form of a stick) is safe and relaxing, and when combined with acupuncture treatment, research has shown that the chances of your baby turning spontaneously are significantly increased (1, 2, 3).

- Personal experience so far has shown a 100% success rate.
- The ideal time in which to administer treatment is between week 33 – 35
- Women with a late diagnosis of breech presentation have found that their babies have still turned at week 38 or 39

Your body will respond more effectively if you are already in a course of acupuncture treatment, and if not, this is the time to start.

Moxibustion
- Is very pleasant, completely painless, and there are no adverse effects for mother or child.
- There is no direct contact with your baby, the treatment provokes spontaneous turning through a series of processes within your body.
- The moxa stick is lit and held over an acupuncture point on your little toe, creating a lovely warming sensation, and the wonderful benefit of this treatment is that you can (and must) easily continue to administer it in the comfort of your own home for 10 days.

Pre-birth programme for labour preparation

This is an excellent time to receive weekly treatments from week 36 in preparation for labour to
- To support both the mind and body
- Ripen your cervix
- Promote optimal foetal positioning
- Boost your energy and stamina to prepare for labour

A summary of studies (4, 5) gathered by midwives in New Zealand found that acupuncture treatments given in the final weeks of pregnancy in preparation for birth
- Encouraged women to go into spontaneous labour around their due date
- Reduced the length of time in labour
- Contributed to a reduction in medical inductions, epidural rate and emergency C-sections
- Increased the chances of a natural efficient vaginal birth

Labour induction
If it has been deemed necessary by your midwife or doctor to medically induce your labour you can use acupuncture prior to this from 40 weeks gestation to
- Encourage your baby's head to engage
- Stimulate your uterus
- Establish contractions
- Promote cervical dilation

You can have three or four treatments or just one. However, the benefits of acupuncture treatments are cumulative, i.e. the more you have, the more effective they are. If you would prefer to have just one then try and book in for it between 24 – 48 hours prior to your medical induction.

Even if labour does not initiate, feedback from midwives and a RCT trial (6) have suggested that your cervix will be more favourable and there is an increased chance that you will progress through your induction with minimal intervention.

Acupressure massage for you by your birth partner
Acupressure may also be used to provide pain relief during labour and you are encouraged to bring your birth partner for a partner session to show them how important acupressure points can be massaged during labour for pain relief. These acupressure points are easy to use, encourage close partner involvement and provide you with an effective tool to calm your mind, reduce pain and improve your overall birthing experience.

A note on induction – whilst acupuncture is a more 'natural' alternative to a medical induction it is still an intervention and we advise against the induction of labour unless specifically advised by your doctor or midwife. Estimated due dates vary depending on the country you are in do not indicate the exact day your baby will be born but when you can roughly expect to meet them.

Post-Natal

The post-partum period is considered to be the six weeks directly after child birth and an important time for rest and healing for you. In some Chinese texts the post-partum period is quoted as 100 days! This may sound a little excessive to some but it is very common in Middle Eastern and Eastern cultures for a mother to be given a rest period of six weeks in which she is expected to rest, receive support and care for her baby. Certainly a very different perspective to what we have here in our culture. Saying that, it is easier if there is extended family nearby to make this possible.

It is now more common to expect women to return to normal activities within a few weeks and although this is easily done for some, it is not a reality for many, and it can be hard to shake off the tiredness and exhaustion several months later.

This post-partum period is a very important time for your recovery and is a reasonable period to compensate for the experience of birth and the ten months of pregnancy. It is not a time for absolute bed rest but for a time where physical rest is taken and there is an emphasis on a blood nourishing and energy replenishing diet.

Use post-partum acupuncture
- From week one to week four to improve stamina and aid efficient recovery in this exhilarating and exhausting time
- To balance the swing of emotions due to hormonal fluctuations – helping you to feel more stable and prevent potential post-partum depression
- To aid milk production in breastfeeding problems
- To assist with perineal or abdominal healing

You can also use acupuncture for
- Post-natal depression
- Emotional sensitivity
- Fatigue
- Breastfeeding problems, mastitis
- Aid healing from a Caesarean section
- Night sweats
- Aches and pains
- Anaemia
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Haemorrhoids

As it may not always be possible for you to come to the clinic a home visit may be possible.