Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are immensely beneficial during all stages of pregnancy. In the first trimester, Chinese medicine can relieve the uncomfortable symptoms associated with early pregnancy, such as morning sickness, fatigue, and mood swings, as well as reduce the risk of threatened miscarriage. Weekly acupuncture treatment from weeks 8-16 help ensure adequate blood flow to the placenta. During the second trimester, acupuncture supports a healthy pregnancy and, if complications arise, can be used in conjunction with Western medicine to reduce their severity. In the third trimester, acupuncture is used to prepare a woman's body for labor and delivery, and is sometimes utilized during labor to strengthen contractions and reduce pain. It has been shown that women who receive acupuncture during pregnancy often have easier deliveries and a shorter recovery time.
Conditions of pregnancy that can be successfully treated with Chinese medicine include:
• Back pain
• Breech presentation
• Digestive problems
• Excessive or low amniotic fluid levels
• Gestational diabetes
• Labor induction• Labor preparation
• Morning sickness and hyperemesis
• Placenta previa
• Preterm labor
• Sacro-iliac joint pain
• Threatened miscarriage
• Urinary tract infections
• Uterine ligament pain
• Vaginal infections
The 12 weeks following childbirth are a critical time in a woman's life when self-care can have lasting effects on her personal health for many years to come. After childbirth, a woman's qi and blood become deficient as a result of the taxation from labor and blood loss of delivery. However, simple steps can be taken to ensure that both qi and blood are replenished during this important time period:
• Chinese herbs administered in the first 24 hours post-delivery can hasten the recovery of qi and blood, allowing for a quicker recovery.
• For the first 21 days following delivery, avoid running errands and limit housework to only what is absolutely necessary. Stay in with your baby and rest often. Enjoy sunlight daily if possible.
• Rest, rest, rest.
• Eat nutritious meals that are high in protein and whole grains, especially if breastfeeding.
• Supplement with a quality multi-vitamin and DHA. DHA is an essential fatty acid that will benefit your newborn's brain development and will support your mental-emotional health as your hormones adjust.
• Enjoy fresh air as often as possible, but avoid becoming cold or exposed to wind.
• Accept offers for help (as long as they are beneficial)
• Consider having your placenta prepared for postpartum supplementation. In Chinese medicine, this is considered to be the most nutritive substance a woman can consume to support her health and vitality. (click here for a link to local resources)
While it is natural to focus completely on the baby in those first few months, it is important to incorporate self-care into your daily schedule. If possible, schedule acupuncture once every week to two weeks to focus on such issues as:
• Excessive lochia
• Insufficient lactation
• Joint pain
• Postpartum depression
If you experience fever, night sweats, or diarrhea, call your acupuncturist or healthcare provider right away to avoid excessive loss of fluids.