Does Acupuncture Help with Pregnancy Pain?

Breeze Academy September 25, 2022
Pregnant woman in green dress holding tummy

Acupuncture has often been reported to have a number of benefits during pregnancy, but does it work for pregnancy pains, aches and other ailments? In this article, we determine whether or not Acupuncture can relieve pregnancy-related pains, and how often it’s best to have treatment. 

So, does Acupuncture help with pregnancy pain? A wide range of studies suggest that Acupuncture can indeed help to relieve a variety of pregnancy-related pains and other ailments such as morning sickness, general aches, pelvic and back pain, labour and delivery pains, and even postnatal concerns. 

Read on to learn more about how Acupuncture can help to alleviate pregnancy pain and other related concerns. 

Can Acupuncture Help to Relieve Pregnancy Pain?

There is a growing body of research to suggest that Acupuncture can indeed help with a variety of pregnancy pains, aches, and the general discomfort that comes with carrying a child. From morning sickness in the first trimester, through to labour and delivery, Acupuncture is thought to be able to relieve a number of pregnancy ailments, but it is imperative that it is conducted by a practitioner that is trained in prenatal Acupuncture.

Here are just a few of the ways in which research shows Acupuncture to be a promising solution for pregnancy pain.

Labour Pain

There are various studies into the use of Acupuncture for labour pain with promising results; some report (1 ,2, 3) that Acupuncture has the potential to increase a patient’s satisfaction with pain relief, meaning that less pain medication needs to be administered, which reduces the need for an epidural. On the other hand, other studies show that Acupuncture can be beneficial during labour as a complementary treatment to other pain relief options.

Pelvic and Back Pain

It is thought that Acupuncture may offer pelvic and back pain relief during the second and third trimesters. One study in particular showed that, as a result of Acupuncture, 72% of participants experienced pain relief in relation to pelvic and back pain. Other studies have reported similar results, implying that Acupuncture may indeed be a suitable pain relief option for pelvic and back pain during pregnancy. In one case participants showed a 60% reduction in pain, whilst other participants reported that they felt less bothered by their pelvic or back pain.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting is a common ailment during the first trimester of pregnancy. However, a 2021 review found that Acupuncture could be significantly more effective for nausea and vomiting than Western treatments, with findings reporting that participants experienced reduced nausea and an increased appetite. 

Similar results have been reported for nausea outside of pregnancy, with participants finding more relief from Acupuncture than standard medications.

General Aches and Pains

During pregnancy, the hormone Relaxin loosens joints. Combined with the added weight carried during pregnancy, women may experience general aches and pains, particularly as the pregnancy progresses. However, Acupuncture has been found to be both safe and effective for a number of aches and pains by a variety of recent studies (1, 2).

Postnatal Pain

As well as prenatal, Acupuncture is thought to also be beneficial for postnatal pain and other ailments such as, 

  • Mastitis
  • Urinary incontinence (after vaginal tearing)
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Pelvic pain
  • C-section recovery and related pain
  • Constipation and/or haemorrhoids
  • Postpartum depression and anxiety

When Should Clients Start Having Acupuncture for Pregnancy Pain?

Acupuncture can be beneficial throughout pregnancy, and some women find it useful to begin treatments as soon as possible in order to receive maximum benefits. But how often should women have Acupuncture during pregnancy to maintain the benefits?

As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that women receive Acupuncture weekly in the first trimester to help with ailments such as nausea and vomiting (morning sickness), fatigue, and general aches and pains. Treatment frequency can change to once per month in the second and third trimesters. 

2nd Trimester

Once women begin to feel the benefits of Acupuncture, they can change their treatment frequency from weekly to monthly going into the second trimester. At this stage, Acupuncture can help to relieve back and pelvis pain, swelling, fatigue, constipation, and other common pregnancy ailments. 

3rd Trimester

The monthly maintenance treatments from the second trimester can continue until around week 37 of pregnancy, where it may be recommended to increase the frequency of appointments in order to prepare for labour. An experienced prenatal Acupuncture practitioner will be able to recommend a tailored care plan that targets woman's individual aches, pains and other concerns at this stage.

Are There any Risks Associated with Acupuncture During Pregnancy?

Current research suggests that Acupuncture is relatively safe throughout pregnancy provided that the practitioner is trained in prenatal Acupuncture. In this case, severe reactions or complications are rare, however women may experience mild reactions, such as swelling at the needle point, which tend to be short-lasting. 

There is industry discussion around Acupuncture points to be avoided during pregnancy for safety reasons (often, miscarriage, preterm labour, and premature rupture of membranes are cited as risks), however research shows that bad outcomes are actually on par with those that never received Acupuncture during pregnancy. 

That being said, women should always consult with their Doctor before proceeding with Acupuncture during pregnancy in order to check whether there are any concerns or reasons why Acupuncture should not be given. 

Final Thoughts

There is a growing number of studies and reviews that all point towards Acupuncture being both safe and effective for pregnancy pain and other pregnancy-related ailments such as morning sickness and general aches. But, in order to really maximise the benefits, it is recommended that women have weekly Acupuncture appointments during the first trimester, moving to monthly appointments up to around 37 weeks. After this, a trained prenatal Acupuncture practitioner should be able to offer a tailored care plan to suit the individual requirements of each client in preparation for labour. 

At Breeze Academy, we offer an intermediate Acupuncture CPD course specially for women’s health which teaches a number of Acupuncture principles related to pregnancy. This is a specialist course for those already trained in the fundamentals of Acupuncture, and focuses on concerns such as pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PPGP) and nausea and vomiting. 

Alternatively, we also offer foundation-level Acupuncture courses for healthcare professionals that teaches students to use Acupuncture and dry needling as part of their everyday practice safely, confidently and effectively. Learn more online, or get in touch for more information.

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