The Pregnancy Journey
Acupuncture to support pregnancy
Pregnancy is always a very exciting and precious experience, however for some it can also be physically and emotionally challenging. It’s a time when most women do not, or cannot, take drugs to alleviate or reduce the common symptoms of pregnancy and prepare for birth. This which is why Acupuncture is so well suited to assist as it is entirely chemical free and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to assist with pregnancy for over 2,000 years.
For pre-conception and IVF support we focus heavily on treating the nervous system with a particular focus on switching off the parasympathetic stress response, or ‘fight or flight’ reaction. This can be a very challenging time for couples and can result in heightened levels of anxiety as well as a number of other physical concerns that can present. The ‘fight or flight’ response often triggers a cascade of stress hormones that supress optimal production of the necessary fertility hormones, which we can help manage through consistent and regular treatment. Acupuncture is a very well known treatment adjacent to IVF and fertility procedures and through these individually tailored sessions we will support the immune and hormone centres to help cope with the massive changes occurring in the body during IVF.
In the 1st trimester from 1 to 12 weeks, expecting mothers undergo enormous hormonal and physical changes as the development of all of the foetus’s major organs and appendages occur. In this period, we work on easing nausea and vomiting as well as back hip, pelvic pain and other musculoskeletal problems that can flare from the rapid changes occurring in the body. Pressure point tacks are a popular option for those that suffer from morning sickness as they can be placed and left in specific acupressure points allowing you to press and relieve symptoms between your treatment sessions.
The 2nd trimester treatments range from 13 to 35 weeks. It is a period of intense growth in both mother and child and we continually alter sessions throughout to focus on Mum’s individual constitution and best support her through these changes. No two pregnancies are alike, so this process is entirely tailored for each woman to support her through her journey and make her pregnancy as comfortable as possible.
The 3rd trimester treatments range from 36 weeks through until the arrival of your baby. We begin work on the descending points and start gentle pre-birth acupuncture to prepare the babe and the body for labour. A lot of focus is placed on softening the hip and lower back and leg muscles both to alleviate the intense discomfort associated with the later stages of pregnancy, but also to help facilitate the widening of the pelvis allowing the baby’s head to engage and initiate labour. For mum’s that pass their due date we offer labour induction treatments where we turn up the intensity on the descending points to help speed the process up.
We also offer one on one sessions in this trimester to expecting mothers and their Birth Partners to work through the acupressure points that provide pain relief through labour. You and your partner will have a private session dedicated entirely to the position, pressure and process of working through contractions along with a number of other helpful techniques to assist with labour. This is an excellent skill for partners to add to their birthing toolkit and support their partners while they bring their child into the world
Pre-birth Acupuncture and Labour Induction – What’s the Difference?
Prebirth Acupuncture is a gentle and relaxing course of treatments usually commenced weekly from 36 weeks through until your baby arrives – usually 5 to 6 treatments in total. We focus on the descending points to aid cervical ripening, pelvic alignment, softening the hip muscles and helping a mother-to-be feel relaxed and calm in preparation for labour. This is also a great opportunity to help to address some of the discomforts of late pregnancy like sciatic, back, or hip pain and muscle cramps. We work on calming the nervous system to assist with feelings of overwhelm or anxiety that can arise around this major life transition and help reduce the stress response that can inhibit the production Oxytocin, the primary hormone necessary for the commencement of labour.
Induction Acupuncture tends to be a much stronger style of treatment and includes some of the points used in pre-birth acupuncture as well as some additional strong descending points to encourage uterine contractions to commence. We typically use electro-stim for a more powerful response in these treatments as the aim is to get labour to start as quickly as possible rather than the more subtle approach of preparing the body over several weeks. It can take a few sessions until the body is prepared for established labour (often 2 or 3 within a short space of time) to really get things moving. Generally, it is recommended to first commence with pre-birth acupuncture where possible, as there is wisdom in gently encouraging efficient and optimal hormonal cascade to support our natural process over trying to intervene. If you have had pre-birth acupuncture and you still start heading to 42 weeks (which is quite common for first time Mum’s), then it does tend to be a little easier to get labour started with an induction treatment and could be a suitable alternative to consider before resorting to chemical induction.
For both treatments there are a number of supporting activities we recommend adjacent to your acupuncture that can be done in the comfort of your own home to really encourage things to move along. You and your birthing partner should start equipping your ‘Birthing Toolkit’ in the early stages of the 3rd trimester (preferably between 30-36 weeks) with as many activities as you can to prepare yourself for a smooth and relaxed transition into childbirth. These are equally important for those preparing for either vaginal or caesarean delivery:
- Acupressure – we offer Acupressure sessions for you and your birthing partner (optimally between 30-36 weeks) to learn to manipulate the labour points for relieving pain and assisting during labour. In addition to breathing exercises, this is an excellent activity for birthing partners to learn so they can be more actively involved during labour
- Fit ball exercises/pelvic rotations. Refer to https://youtu.be/VbwLDzn9nCk and begin immediately being practicing these exercises at home. Alternatively, attend an antenatal course – Calm Birth and Hypnobirthing courses are available in Toowoomba and offer a myriad of activities to prepare both your body and your birth partner leading up to and during the arrival of your babe. For first time Mum’s this will also help to answer a lot of questions you may have around the birthing process
- Pre-labour yoga will support the softening of the hip, leg and pelvic regions and strengthen the muscles required for the positions of labour. If you are local, refer to Bellies & Bubs in Toowoomba. Alternatively, refer to https://youtu.be/0cKnStmV1dI and start doing regular doing sessions at home
- Positioning the baby. Refer to spinningbabies.com for a number of stretches, poses and activities that you and your birth partner can do in the comfort of your own home to help position and re-position the babe both leading up to and during labour. These are particularly helpful techniques if your babe is transverse or breach.
- Breathing Techniques. Possibly the most underrated activity leading up to birth that can have the most profound effect on the outcome. These techniques are incredibly important to get the best physical response out of each contraction, help reduce the duration of your labour and give you a focal point to maintain a calm and relaxed state and keep the Oxytocin flowing. Your Birth Partner will support you through your breathing so it’s important you both practice in the weeks leading up to labour, so you are both ready. The techniques are often taught at antenatal classes but refer to YouTube here: https://youtu.be/NFucr46N308 and begin practicing immediately
- Walking, nipple stimulation and ante-natal expressing also tend to be cumulative and will build on each other to support the desired hormones to flow as well as helping the head engage and encourage readiness for labour
These activities are all excellent to undertake during your pre-birth Acupuncture sessions however some preparation will be required to learn some of these skills in the lead up to labour. If you intend to use them for induction support, it’s imperative to prepare your ‘Birthing Toolkit’ early and begin practicing at home.
The importance of post-partum care
Proper rest, diet and post-partum care in the earliest days and weeks after birth will do more to replenish a new mother than any subsequent treatments later on. The wound from the detachment of the placenta takes up 6 weeks to repair as the uterus contracts to its former size and place and it is imperative you take the time to replenish and rebuild a more mature, beautiful, strong body as a new mother to give yourself the best start to parenthood. The post-partum period, often referred to as the ‘Golden Month’ in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is an important time for the mother and baby to build a strong, loving connection, establish breastfeeding and milk supply and for the mother to heal and replenish her resources after the pregnancy, birth, and labour. It is considered a watershed for a woman’s health. Her care during this time will influence her health for the rest of her life. From a Chinese Medicine viewpoint, it is very important that the mother receives enough rest and nourishing food to replenish her reserves, help her body to heal and establish a milk supply. Our modern society tends to overlook or outright neglect mothers during this brief but imperative period and as a rule the status quo does not encourage adequate rest. This in turn results in exhaustion, postpartum depression and numerous health complaints for months and even years later. It is never too late to begin recovery however, and Acupuncture may assist with specific conditions that arise in the post-natal period such as: Haemorrhoids, Diastasis Recti, Prolapse (rectocele, vaginal, bladder), Pelvic Pain, Anxiety, Depression
For more information, book a consultation with John-Paul to work through your specific needs and how best to treat them. You’ll receive the highest standard of care based on an attitude of gentleness, warmth, professionalism and respect. We look forward to being a part of your journey