The Pregnancy Journey
The treatment of infertility with acupuncture dates back over 2,000 years. These ancient, time tested techniques improve fertility rates and support a woman’s whole body, unlocking unlimited potential for health, healing and childbearing.
A landmark study published in the medical journal Fertility & Sterility found that acupuncture dramatically improves the chances of becoming pregnant when used in conjunction with other assisted reproductive techniques. Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical Centre in New York reviewed studies and concluded that acupuncture helps to:
- Increase blood flow to the uterus, which improves the chances of an ovum implanting on the uterine wall
- Reduce anxiety, stress, and the hormones that are secreted during stressful situations that can significantly decrease fertility
- Normalize hormone and endocrine systems that regulate ovulation, especially in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Positively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which plays a key role in fertility
- Regulate menstrual cycle
In a study published in Human Reproduction Journal, an ultrasound was used to evaluate blood flow to the uterus during acupuncture treatments. The study found blood flow increases during treatment. According to Dr. Nancy Snyderman, “When acupuncture needles are placed correctly, it can affect the nervous system, you can make the uterus quiet and allow blood to flow.” Relaxing the uterus and increasing blood flow allows for the successful implant of an embryo within the uterine lining. Another study appearing in the British Medical Journal concluded that acupuncture can be offered as a significant, clinically relevant adjunct to in vitro fertilization.
Acupuncture can raise the fertility potential for women by affecting the quality, quantity, balance and flow of Qi and blood. When Qi or vital energy, and blood are circulating freely throughout the body, every cell, tissue and organ is properly nourished and functioning well. When this occurs, a woman’s health and fertility are increased.
An official study has actually been done to see if acupuncture really helps women overcome or deal with morning sickness. In the study there were over 30 women that received acupuncture treatments for a period of two weeks. The women that received the true acupuncture treatments reported an overwhelming success rate with more than 75% of the women feeling much better after just a couple days’ time. The acupuncture was able to stop the vomiting and even do away with the nausea for a lot of women, too.
Breech Presentation (Bottom First)
Breech presentation is very common in pregnancy and most babies (96-97%) will turn to headfirst by full term. If your baby persists as breech you may be offered an ECV (external cephalic version) by your obstetrician which involves manipulating the baby through your abdomen, to a headfirst (cephalic) presentation.
Moxibustion is another option to encourage your baby to turn to headfirst. It involves warming an acupuncture point located at the corner of the little toes (Bladder 67) on both feet. Studies suggest that heating this point for 10-15 minutes daily for 7-14 days increases foetal movements and encourages babies to turn to headfirst (Cardini and Huang, 1998).
Success rates of 53.6% -81% have been reported in studies. The best time to start treatment appears to be around 34 weeks. Studies have also shown that moxibustion appears to be a safe option.
Pre-birth Acupuncture to Prepare for Labour
Pre-birth acupuncture treatment involves a series of treatments 2 to 3 times a week starting at 36-37 weeks’ gestation to prepare the mother and baby for labour. The points used are chosen based on the woman’s constitution and normally consist of 4-5 points located on the arms and legs (belly points are never used in pregnant women!). Pre-birth acupuncture works on several levels. On a physical level, it helps ripen the cervix, move the baby into an anterior position, increase stamina, and help resolve other concerns often encountered in pregnancy such as back pain, insomnia, high blood pressure, and carpal tunnel syndrome. On an emotional level, it can help the mother prepare for labour and the transition to motherhood, whether it’s for the first time or a subsequent pregnancy.
A clinical study in New Zealand (Betts & Lennox, 2006) showed that women having pre-birth acupuncture had a
- 35% reduction in medical inductions (43% in women having their first baby)
- 31% reduction in the epidurals
- 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery
- 9% increase in normal vaginal births
Induction of Labour
Acupuncture for labour induction is used successfully to promote labour naturally when a woman is past her due date. On their due dates, 45 women were randomised into either an acupuncture group or a control group to assess the effects of acupuncture on cervical ripening. The study concluded that acupuncture can shorten the time interval between the women’s expected due date of delivery and time of delivery. The time from the woman’s due date to delivery was an average of 5 days in the acupuncture group and 7.9 days in the control group. Labour was medically induced in 20% of women in the acupuncture group compared to 35% in the control group (Acupuncture for cervical ripening and labour induction at term – a randomised control trial. 2001. 113 (23-24): 942-6.)
The benefits of acupuncture for labour induction are:
- Influences cervical dilation and ripening
- Naturally stimulates uterine contractions
- Reduces time from due date to delivery
- Reduces likelihood of medical induction
- Reduces the rate of epidural anaesthesia
- Provides relaxation in cases of emotional distress