Pregnancy Support Utilizing Chinese Medicine

 Today's Blog will discuss how Chinese Medicine can support you through your pregancy, helping you achieve and experience the healthiest pregnancy possible.


For Centuries, Chinese Medicine has been used to relieve an array of symptoms and issues during pregnancy and there is strong evidence supporting the efficacy of Chinese medicine for pregnancy disorders, childbirth preparation and post-partum conditions.


Gina at Healing Traditions offers Pregnancy, Childbirth and Post-Partum Care programs based on Chinese medical principles and treatment strategies, nutritional requirements and current Chinese medical and biomedical research.


For over 3000 years Traditional Chinese Medicine has promoted specialized treatment for women in pregnancy care and postpartum recovery. 


Today this care is becoming increasingly popular and used by acupuncturists and specially trained midwives in countries such as Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland, Norway, Sweden, and New Zealand where acupuncture is available in specialized antenatal clinics and maternity hospitals. 


Pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal recovery are viewed in traditional Chinese medicine as a window of opportunity to enhance the woman’s well being. Conversely if adequate care is not taken the resulting problems may continue long after the birth. Value is therefore placed on promoting preventive care to strengthen the mother and baby, as well as, dealing with problems as they occur during pregnancy.


Acupuncture can be used in a variety of ways to promote fetal and maternal health. 


Chinese medicine offers a safe, effective and relatively inexpensive health care option for many women who are cautious about using drugs during pregnancy, for labor induction, or while breast-feeding.

For Centuries, Chinese Medicine has been used to relieve an array of symptoms and issues during pregnancy and there is strong evidence supporting the efficacy of Chinese medicine for pregnancy disorders, childbirth preparation and post-partum conditions based on the following substantiated effects:



Through the use of Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine a wide range of obstetric conditions can be addressed and supported such as:


Pregnancy is both an exciting and anxiety-provoking experience for a couple. Once pregnant, a woman goes through dramatic physical and emotional changes. By understanding and preparing her body for these changes and acquiring the know-how in maximizing her own health and that of the fetus, a woman can experience her pregnancy in a meaningful and enjoyable way. Chinese medicine can be an effective and safe supplementary tool for the successful management of various pregnancy symptoms with the absence of side effects to the mother and fetus.


Clinical studies of Chinese medicine & obstetric disorders:


Morning Sickness & Nausea:


Vickers conducted a meta-analysis of 33 clinical trials in 1996 to assess the efficacy of acupuncture on nausea. His analysis determined there is substantial evidence that acupuncture reduces various types of mild to moderate nausea /vomiting including morning sickness.


A 2002 Australian study published in Birth involving 600 pregnant women in their first trimester demonstrated the efficacy of acupuncture for morning sickness. The acupuncture group was given weekly 20-minute sessions of acupuncture for four weeks. Research co-ordinator Dr. Caroline Smith, from the Women's and Children's Hospital & Adelaide University stated: ‘We found that traditional acupuncture reduced nausea throughout the trial with dry retching being reduced from the second week’.



Smith et al. in 2002 published two articles from their research on nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. The first looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture[2] and the second at the safety of acupuncture treatment in early pregnancy.[3]



The objective was to compare i. traditional acupuncture treatment, ii. acupuncture at Neiguan P-6 only, iii. sham acupuncture and iv. no acupuncture treatment for nausea and vomiting.


593 women who were less than 14 weeks pregnant and were suffering nausea and vomiting of pregnancy were randomized into 4 groups and received treatment weekly.


The acupuncture group, in which points were chosen according to a traditional acupuncture diagnosis, received two 20 minute acupuncture treatments in the first week followed by one weekly treatment for the next four weeks.


The sham acupuncture group were needled at points close to but not on acupuncture points and both the sham and Neiguan P-6 acupuncture groups were treated with the same frequency as the traditional acupuncture group.


All group received their treatment from the same acupuncturist.
 The outcomes of treatment were measured in terms of nausea, dry retching, vomiting and health status.


When compared to the women who received no treatment, the traditional acupuncture group reported less nausea throughout the study and less dry retching from the second week. The Neiguan P-6 acupuncture group reported less nausea from the second week and less dry retching from the third week. The sham acupuncture group reported less nausea and dry retching from the third week.


So while all three acupuncture groups reported improvement with nausea and dry retching, it was the traditional acupuncture group that had the fastest response.



Patients receiving traditional acupuncture also reported improvement in five aspects of general health status (vitality, social function, physical function, mental health and emotional role function) compared to improvement in two aspects with both the Neiguan P-6 and sham acupuncture groups. In the no treatment group there was improvement in only one aspect.


Although there were no differences in vomiting found in any of the treatment groups the authors speculated that more frequent treatments might have produced greater benefits.

In assessing the safety of acupuncture in early pregnancy data was collected on perinatal outcome, congenital abnormalities, pregnancy complications and problems of the newborn.


No differences were found between study groups in the incidence of these outcomes suggesting that there are no serious adverse effects from the use of acupuncture treatment in early pregnancy.

Breech & Posterior Presentation:


In 1998 Cardini & Weixin studied 260 women in their 33rd week of a 1st pregnancy with ultrasound diagnosis of breech presentation. Half received a daily 30 minute treatment of a Chinese medicine therapy called moxa for 1-2 weeks while the other half served as a control group. The researchers concluded that performing moxa from week 33 for 1 or 2 weeks is a safe and effective method for converting breech presentations after observing the following results:


Moxa can markedly reduce the risk of breech birth by increasing fetal movement.


Moxa can turn the fetus so a normal cephalic presentation is achieved.

During the 35th week 75.4% of fetuses in moxa group had changed to cephalic position compared to only 47.7% in control group.


Fetuses in the moxa group showed greater mobility, averaging 48.45 movements per hour 
compared to 35.35 in control group.

24 women in control group and one in moxa group later underwent ECV to turn fetus.


Despite greater use of ECV in control group the number of babies delivered head-first was 
still significantly higher (75.4 %) in moxa group than in control group (62.3 %).



Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy:


Elden et al. 2005[1] published a randomised single blind controlled trial involving 386 pregnant women in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).



The objective was to compare the efficacy of standard treatment for pelvic pain (a pelvic belt, patient education and home exercises for the abdominal and gluteal muscles) with standard treatment plus acupuncture or standard treatment plus physiotherapy stabilizing exercises (for the deep lumbo-pelvic muscles).


The study time frame consisted of one week which was used to establish a baseline, followed by six weeks of treatment. The acupuncture treatment was given twice a week and the stabilizing exercise sessions one hour per week (with patients then doing these exercises several times a day on a daily basis).


Follow up was carried out one week after treatment finished. Three physiotherapists gave standard treatment, two medical acupuncturists delivered the acupuncture treatment and two physiotherapists gave the stabilizing exercises.


Pain was measured by a visual analogue scale and by an independent examiner before and after treatment.



Acupuncture was superior to stabilizing exercises in the management of pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy, with acupuncture the treatment of choice for patients with one sided sacroiliac pain, one sided sacroiliac pain combined with symphysis pubis pain and bilateral sacroiliac pain.



Pre-Birth Treatment & Labor Preparation:


The first pre-birth study in 1974 by Kubista & Kucera was verified by later studies which also concluded acupuncture from week 37 + was successful in reducing mean labor time.


A 2001 randomized study headed by Rabl involving 45 women investigated the effect of acupuncture on cervical ripening to reduce post-date inductions. The authors concluded acupuncture supports cervical ripening and shortens the time interval between the woman’s expected due date and the actual time of delivery.


A New Zealand observational study undertaken by Betts & Lennox involving midwives and 169 women over a 4 month period concluded that pre-birth acupuncture treatment provided many positive therapeutic results that promoted a normal vaginal delivery, reduced medical interventions with lower inductions and emergency Caesareans and shortened labour. Treatments were given from the 37th-40th week of gestation.



Betts D & Lennox S. 2006, ‘Acupuncture pre-birth treatment: an observational study of its use in midwifery practice’, Journal of Medical Acupuncture, May 2006, Vol 17, Issue 3, pp.17-20.


Cardini, F & Weixin, H 1998, ‘Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation: a randomized controlled trial’, Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 280, Issue 18, pp. 1580-84.


Elden H, Ladfors I, Fagevik Olsen M. Ostaard H, Hagberg H. ‘Effects of acupuncture and stabilizing exercises as adjunct to standard treatment in pregnant women with pelvic girdle pain: a randomized single blind controlled trial’, British Medical Journal, 330(7494), p. 761.


Kubista E & Kucera H. 1974, ‘Acupuncture as a method of preparation in obstetrics’, American Journal of Acupuncture, Vol. 2, Issue 3, pp 283-7.


Rabl M, Ahner R, Bitschnau M, Zeisler H, Husslein P. 2001, ‘Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term – a randomized controlled trial’, Wien Klin Wochenschr ; Vol. 113 (23-24), pp. 942-6.


Smith C, Crowther C, Bellby J. ‘Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy’, Birth, 2002, Vol 29, pp. 1-9.


Vickers, A.J. 1996, ‘Can acupuncture have specific effects on health? A systematic review of
acupuncture antiemesis trials’, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Vol. 89, pp. 303-11.

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Tags: Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, acupuncture and infertility, Chinese Medicine and IVF, Chinese Medicine and Infertility, acupuncture and IVF, Pregnancy and Chinese Medicine, Pregnancy and acupuncture, morning sickness and acupuncture, nausea and vomiting and acupuncture, miscarriage prevention and acupuncture, miscarriage prevention and Chinese Medicine