About Lynn

lynn jaffeeLynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health, a clear and concise explanation of Chinese medicine for the lay person. She is co-author of the book, The BodyWise Woman, a personal health manual for physically active women and girls. Read more about Lynn...

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Is Acupuncture Safe During Pregnancy?

I remember the first pregnant woman I treated with acupuncture. I was in acupuncture school at the time, and putting in my hours in the teaching clinic. A classmate of mine had become pregnant and had a wicked case of morning sickness. Most of the time she was a rock; she was young, strong, smart, and the person you wanted to work with in class. However, her morning sickness had become all-day sickness, and had turned her into a whimpering mess. With regular acupuncture treatments, she got through both the pregnancy and school, but there were some rocky days.

Acupuncture can be an incredibly effective treatment for a variety of conditions related to pregnancy. Besides morning sickness, it can treat depression and anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, high blood pressure, bladder discomfort, low back pain, and sciatica.

Acupuncture can actually play a role in enhancing the outcome of your pregnancy in a couple of ways. First, I have found acupuncture effective in treating women who have a history of frequent miscarriages. Treating them them prior to their pregnancy and through their first trimester has resulted in several successful full-term pregnancies. Second, acupuncture and moxabustion has been used successfully to turn babies who are in a breech position (with an okay from your doctor). Third, acupuncture can help with a number of conditions during a time when certain medications need to be avoided. And fourth, the ability of acupuncture to relieve stress can be a life-saver, especially during pregnancy.

Many women wonder if it’s safe to have acupuncture during their pregnancy, and the answer is yes, with one precaution. There are a handful of acupuncture points that are contraindicated for pregnant women because they are energetically too active, or moving, and run a risk of causing premature labor. In addition, there are certain areas of the body that should be needled with care, including the lower back and sacrum. That said, a well-trained practitioner who has had three to four thousand hours of education in acupuncture is well aware of which acupuncture points should not be used on pregnant women. There are a number of practitioners (most notably, chiropractors), who perform acupuncture with far less training, so it’s important that you ask a prospective acupuncturist about their training. A couple hundred hours of training over seven or eight weekends is not enough in this case.

A second issue is whether or not taking a Chinese herbal formula is safe during pregnancy. Many of the formulas are in fact safe for pregnant women, but in the United States, many practitioners of Chinese medicine are hesitant to prescribe herbs to a pregnant woman. Personally, I’m in that group, not because I question the safety of the herbs, but because if the woman has a problem with her pregnancy, she may question her decision to use herbs and wonder if she had done something to jeopardize her pregnancy. Instead, I am far more likely to combine acupuncture with Chinese food therapy to treat health-related conditions in pregnant women.

There is nothing more satisfying as a practitioner than to have a patient I’ve treated during her pregnancy come into my clinic with her baby. The bottom line is that acupuncture can be a great tool for having healthy pregnancy. It’s safe, natural, drug-free, relaxing, and effective for a number of pregnancy-related conditions. What could be better than that?

2 comments to Is Acupuncture Safe During Pregnancy?

  • Ron

    Great article Lynn! I completely agree. Patients should seek a competent acupuncturist with a minimum of a masters degree in acupuncture and oriental medicine. There are many picking up the needle for its natural benefits, among them are MD’s, Physical Therapists, Nurse Practitioners, most of whom only receive a few hundred hours of training. It should be acknowledged that several chiropractic medicine schools training chiropractic physicians also provide a masters level program in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, whereas I know of no such effort made by the other professionals listed above. Therefore a patients chances of finding a physician or other health care professional who also happens to be a well trained acupuncturist is greatest among the chiropractic physician group.

  • Lynn Jaffee

    Great point, Ron. There are chiropractors out there that have Masters level training, but in Minnesota, they’re rare. I tend to get a little judgemental, because there are a number of health providers performing acupuncture without adequate training, which is a consumer issue as well as an issue for the acupuncture profession as a whole. Thanks for reminding me that there are a number of chiropractors who see the value in fully trained in acupuncture and Chinese medicine.