supporting pregnancy & easing delivery
supporting pregnancy and easing delivery
Pregnancy is a time of wonder and awe. The life growing inside the womb brings excitement and anticipation to expecting families. Parents come together in preparation for the coming changes.
Pregnancy also brings physical challenges to expecting mothers. For better and sometimes for worse, hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can alter the function of nearly every system in the body: the circulatory system increases blood flow to the womb almost immediately; the digestive system may bring morning sickness; the muscles and tendons change to accommodate the growing belly. These changes put strain on a pregnant woman, sometimes making pregnancy very uncomfortable.
One of the most common problems associated with pregnancy in the first trimester is hyperemesis gravidarum, commonly called “morning sickness”. For some women, it affects them only in the morning they have eaten, hence the name morning sickness, but it may occur any time of day. For some women, they are nauseous for their entire term. In serious cases, getting adequate nutrition is threatened, and sometimes intravenous nutrition becomes necessary.
Chinese medicine offers very effective treatment this problem. During pregnancy, the energy of the reproductive system shifts from the menstrual flow downward to upward holding and lifting. A concurrent effect of this upward energy is called “Rebellious Stomach Qi” (morning sickness). Acupuncture at the “Inner Gate” point, and Chinese herbal formulas, including herbs such as ginger, bamboo and citrus peel, can quiet this rebellious qi, sometimes immediately, reducing and eliminating the morning sickness.
Another common first trimester problem is threatened miscarriage. Statistically, one out of three first-time pregnancies ends in miscarriage. But for some women, miscarriage is a common recurrent problem. There is no clear way to predict if a pregnancy is strong or not. If you had menstrual problems or difficulty getting pregnant, it is advised that you be a bit careful in the first trimester, paying special attention to rest, nutrition, and stress-reduction. Acupuncture treatment and herbal medicine can treat threatened miscarriage, depending on what signs and symptoms you may have, i.e. cramping, back pain, bleeding, etc.
Also during the first trimester and sometimes continuing through the entire pregnancy, the increased need for blood often results in anemia. This produces fatigue, restlessness, and sleeplessness. Dietary recommendations specific to each woman coupled with individualized herbal prescriptions can swiftly and effectively alleviate this problem.
One treatment that is used for all pregnant women in my practice is called the “Healthy Baby Treatment” or the “Pretty Baby Treatment”. It employs several powerful points to help clear away toxins and keep the energy flowing properly to and from the fetus and womb. It is administered at the end of the first and second trimesters. This treatment supports the overall pregnancy and embryo and fetus development as a general supplement.
In the third trimester, there are several issues that affect pregnant women. Pre-term labor can threaten and result in premature delivery. Strict bed rest is often prescribed for this problem. Pregnancy continuing past the due date is another third trimester problem, sort of the opposite of pre-term labor. Both of these conditions can be addressed with acupuncture: in one situation, treatment reduces uterine contractions and “calms the fetus”; in the other, specific points are strongly stimulated to initiate and sustain uterine contractions. Herbal formulae are also administered.
Another third trimester problem is breech presentation, where the baby is head up in the womb. If the baby is breeched, it is best to begin with treatment at around seven months. An adjunctive technique, called moxibustion, is used to warm a point on the outside of the little toe. It is a simple and enjoyable procedure, and one which can be done at home with the help of a partner or older child. I have heard of seemingly miraculous results from patients who have used this technique. Compared to the usually rough manual repositioning that is used for some breech presentations, this method is a welcomed alternative which, if done regularly and properly, is extremely effective.
Many women also experience joint and muscle problems in the third trimester. Approaching labor and delivery, muscles and tendons are strained by the excess weight of the baby and fluid in the womb. Back and lower limb pains are common, neck pain to a lesser degree, but any joint in the body can be affected. Water retention in the joints can also be a factor in the latter part of pregnancy. Because of the excess blood flow and volume during the third trimester, very rapid results can be attained with acupuncture for these conditions.
Finally, at the end of pregnancy comes labor and delivery. If you are pregnant for the first time, you can’t really tell if you will have a difficult labor or not. Some women have familial patterns, and can ask mothers and sisters about their experience. But that is not always a reliable predictor. If you have already had one child, you might expect that to forecast the subsequent births. Often this is true, but not always. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be used during labor to stimulate uterine contractions, dilate the cervix, reduce pain, and sustain energy until delivering your baby.
If you hope to have a natural pregnancy and (vaginal) birth, the best way to prepare for an easy labor is to maintain your health throughout the entire pregnancy. Adequate nutrition, rest, fresh air and exercise are the foundation of your health. To make your pregnancy and delivery as easy as possible, a general suggestion is to have monthly acupuncture treatments for seven months, then weekly thereafter. Along with acupuncture, dietary and exercise recommendations unique to your needs will be given, and tailored herbal formulas are prescribed.
The path of pregnancy is an amazing one, with joys and sadness, pleasure and pain, all culminating with the life-changing experience of birth. Appropriately administered, acupuncture treatment and Chinese herbal medicine help to support this process and ease any difficulties and discomforts.