Pregnancy is a wonderful gift, but it also brings with it some challenges. Complications like sickness, back and pelvic pain, sleep problems and lethargy can’t always be resolved by conventional medical treatments, however acupuncture may be able to provide relief.
Your Pregnancy Doctor is working with one of London’s leading acupuncturists to increase awareness and understanding of this well-established eastern therapy. Archna Patel from The Acupuncturists has extensive experience and expertise in treating women during pregnancy and addressing both male and female fertility issues.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of healing that has evolved over thousands of years. It treats the whole person to rebalance the body’s energy, stimulate natural healing and help each woman become better equipped, physically and emotionally, to deal with the problems and pitfalls of pregnancy.
According to traditional Chinese philosophy, health is dependent on the body’s energy or Qi moving smoothly through a series of channels under the skin. Qi is made up of equal and opposite parts, the Yin and the Yang. When these become unbalanced, then we may experience pain, feel unwell, or develop disease.
Top therapist Archna Patel told Your Pregnancy Doctor:
‘With acupuncture, it’s not just a case of needling and treating the symptoms. More importantly it’s about finding out what the underlying energetic imbalance is and dealing with that as well.’
Acupuncture can be particularly beneficial in pregnancy, helping expectant mums deal with nausea and many of the other niggles. Archna said:
‘Research has shown that the less-desirable side-effects of pregnancy can be significantly mitigated and, in many cases, completely resolved through acupuncture or the use of an herbal remedy known as Moxibustion.
The case for the benefits of acupuncture in pregnancy is growing, with increasing numbers of studies showing its effectiveness in natural antenatal care. One of the primary attractions of acupuncture is that it offers drug-free relief during a stage in life when mums-to-be are naturally and understandably concerned about the risks of medicating whilst carrying a child.
Patients have credited acupuncture with helping to resolve the effects of conditions from morning sickness to lower back and pelvic pain, headaches to depression, sleep problems to lethargy, heartburn, swelling of the legs, constipation and carpal tunnel syndrome.’
What Happens in Acupuncture?
Trained acupuncturists, like Archna insert fine needles into the skin at very specific points on the body, This restores the natural energy balance and encourages the body to heal itself. There are over 500 acupuncture points across the body, and they’re often located far away from the place where you feel the pain.
Needles can be inserted either for a second or two, or left in place for thirty minutes or more, depending on the effect needed. They’re finer than medical needles, so they don’t usually hurt in the same way as an injection might. Instead you may feel a tingling or dull ache, followed by a heaviness in your arms and legs, or just a sense of pleasant relaxation.
Acupuncture may offer relief from a particular condition and also lead to increased energy levels, better appetite and sleep and an enhanced sense of overall wellbeing.
Moxibustion and Pregnancy
Moxibustion is another ancient Chinese remedy. Instead of using acupuncture needles to stimulate healing energy in the body, moxibustion involves burning herbs close to specific acupuncture points. When applied regularly, the burning herb’s heat and natural healing powers can encourage a biological response within the body. Archna said:
‘Moxibustion has been shown by some research studies to increase your baby’s movement in the womb, reducing the likelihood of him or her breeching at birth and instead encouraging a more birth-friendly head-down position’.
Acupuncture and Breech Presentation
Sometimes a baby will stay with their head up, away from the entrance to the womb. This is known as being breech and is associated with an increased risk of birth problems and Caesarean section. Archna has used acupuncture and moxibustion to help encourage breech babies to turn in the womb:
‘If a baby presents in breech, health professionals either wait for them to turn or a manual manipulation is performed. This can be quite uncomfortable.
If we see a baby in breech presentation at 32 or 34 weeks, moxa and acupuncture together can really help turn baby without any need for manual manipulation. It’s to do with the energy flow. The acupuncture needles are used to really relax the mother. When she is relaxed, energy flows around the body more easily.
Moxa can be applied on the little pinkie toe. You don’t actually touch the toe; the moxa is held about an inch from the body to warm the acupuncture point. The mother is taught this technique and when she continues to do this for about twenty minutes on each side, each day for the following four days, the baby is likely to turn.
For some women, another five days of treatment may be necessary, but this can only happen if there isn’t something stopping the baby turning, like a cord around the neck for example. Acupuncture together with Moxibustion can really help the baby move into the most natural position, which is head down.’
Making Sure Acupuncture Is Safe
Scientific research published in the British Medical journal confirmed that acupuncture is generally safe, when carried out by a trained and qualified professional. Serious side effects are rare, affecting fewer than 1 in every 10,000 treatments.
A review of the treatment in pregnancy showed that side-effects were also uncommon. However, acupuncture can have a clinical impact, so it’s important to make sure you have an experienced practitioner. Archna advises:
‘Make sure your acupuncturist is a member of The British Acupuncture Council. It’s one of the biggest professional bodies for acupuncture. All the acupuncturists that belong to that body will have gone through at least three years training and will have reached a level of competency and professionalism. You should also check that they have appropriate insurance.
All acupuncturists will have covered common obstetric problems, like sickness, during their training. However, if you’re talking about more complex conditions in pregnancy, like addressing growth retardation or pregnancy hypertension, I would advise seeing someone who has post-graduate training in obstetrics.’
Archna emphasized that she always works as part of a health-care team, together with the midwife, GP, obstetrician and other therapists. All the professionals come together to support the health and wellbeing of mother and baby.
‘When we are working with women in pregnancy, we are working as part of a team. It would be naive for any practitioner, whether we’re medically trained or eastern, to believe we can do everything alone. It’s important to have a really great team of professionals working together.’
Over the next few weeks, we will share more articles and information from Archna about acupuncture, fertility and childbirth.
‘I am working with YPD because I can only see a limited number of people in my clinical practice. The benefits of acupuncture are so good that I want to spread the message more widely, educate women on how to access acupuncture safely and make them aware that acupuncture can really help.’
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