Acupuncture is reported to have a number of benefits for pregnant women, but how often should they have acupuncture during the first, second, and third trimesters to receive the benefits? We discuss how often women should have acupuncture at various points in their pregnancy in order to receive, and maintain, the potential benefits.
So, how often should clients get acupuncture during the first trimester? During the first trimester, pregnant women should have weekly acupuncture appointments to help reduce the severity of pregnancy symptoms. During the second and third trimesters, women can move to monthly appointments to maintain the benefits.
Read on to learn more about acupuncture during pregnancy.
How Often Should Clients Have Acupuncture During the First Trimester?
As soon as clients know that they are pregnant, it can be a good idea to begin acupuncture as soon as possible due to its potential benefits. In healthy pregnancies, acupuncture is recommended once per week in the first trimester, moving to once per month as the pregnancy progresses.
How Often Should Clients Have Acupuncture During the Second Trimester?
As the pregnancy progresses into the second trimester, it is recommended that clients have acupuncture once per month in order to maintain the benefits. At this stage, it is reported that acupuncture can help to reduce symptoms such as back and pelvis pain, swelling, fatigue, constipation, and others.
How Often Should Clients Have Acupuncture During the Third Trimester?
Generally speaking, monthly maintenance appointments should continue until about week 37, where it may be recommended to attend more frequent sessions to prepare for labour. However, an experienced prenatal acupuncture practitioner should be able to recommend a tailored treatment plan for pregnant women, targeting their individual concerns and symptoms.
Is it Safe to Have Acupuncture When Pregnant?
According to the NHS, it is generally safe for clients to have acupuncture when pregnant, however it is vital that clients disclose this beforehand, as certain acupuncture points cannot be used during pregnancy. It is also advised that pregnant women use a licensed practitioner with experience in prenatal acupuncture in order to minimise risks.
One study found that prenatal acupuncture reported a very low rate of mild to moderate negative side effects (1.3%), most of which concerned pain at the point of needle insertion. Meanwhile, another study reported that in 20,000 cases, acupuncture did not increase the risk of preterm or stillbirth. A third study even claimed that acupuncture to ‘forbidden’ meridians also did not increase the risk of complications.
How Does Acupuncture Help With Pregnancy?
Whilst acupuncture is generally thought of as a contraindication, number of studies have shown that acupuncture may be beneficial in reducing various symptoms of pregnancy, such as:
Studies report that acupuncture may increase satisfaction with pain relief, and has the potential to reduce the use of pain medication such as an epidural, according to a number of studies (1,2). Others report that acupuncture may also be beneficial as a complementary treatment, alongside other pain relief options.
Pelvic & Back Pain
Acupuncture has the potential to reduce pelvic and back pain during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. One study reported that in 72% of patients, pain relief in relation to pelvic and lower back pain was good or excellent during the second and third trimesters, as a result of acupuncture. In another study, participants reported that in 60% of cases, pain decreased, and 43% reported that they were less bothered by pain during activity as a result of acupuncture.
Nausea & Vomiting
A 2021 review of 16 studies involving more than 1000 women with hyperemesis gravidarum found that acupuncture was significantly more effective for nausea and vomiting than standard Western treatments. For these women, acupuncture relieved nausea and increased the amount of food that they could consume.
Risks of Acupuncture During Pregnancy
When performed correctly, by a specialist prenatal acupuncture professional, acupuncture during pregnancy poses few risks. What’s more, a 2015 study reported that there is no reliable evidence that acupuncture can induce miscarriage or labour. However, it is important that practitioners are well versed in such meridians, their associated risks, and only use them with extreme caution as further research on this topic is needed.
Other risks and side effects associated with acupuncture during pregnancy are similar to those of users that are not pregnant, and include:
- Aggravation of symptoms
- Minor bleeding, bruising, or pain at the needle site
- Temporary fall in blood pressure
Both expert opinion and a number of studies agree that acupuncture is relatively safe to have during pregnancy, and even has the potential to deliver a range of benefits during each trimester.
However, to access these benefits, pregnant women should have acupuncture weekly in the first trimester, moving to monthly appointments during the second and third trimester. At around week 37, women may benefit from more frequent acupuncture appointments to prepare for labour.
It is recommended that only experienced acupuncture professionals, trained in prenatal acupuncture should carry out acupuncture on pregnant women. As such, Breeze Academy offers CPD acupuncture courses for Midwives that covers lower back pain, PPGP, nausea, carpal tunnel, hot flushes, headaches, and wellbeing.
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.