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Acupuncture and Massage Therapy During Pregnancy and Childbirth

November 2nd, 2010 by Lori-Ellen Grant from Wholebody Health

As I write this, I have Maja (17 days old) sitting on my lap. Her mother had a homebirth in Wanaka and I had planned to be at the birth, yet Maja decided to arrive 2 weeks early…the beauty of letting life take its own course…

Acupuncture and Massage Therapy are great additions to any woman’s experience; from fertility, to pregnancy, the childbirth itself and then post-natal care. Chinese medicine has been well designed to create balance, physically, mentally and emotionally. Relationships strengthen, bodies change shape, a deeper sense of home is created and careers make room during the transformational period surrounding childbirth. Embarking on this journey to nourish a child means that supporting oneself is well worth cultivating.

How does Acupuncture work?

Every phenomenon in the Universe is a manifestation of Qi originating from the Tao (Oneness). The character for Qi is ’cooking rice’. It can be as immaterial as vapour and as dense/material as rice. This is how Acupuncture, which influences the Qi, can treat simultaneously on a physical and mental/spiritual level. Qi energizes, stimulates and transforms. The principle behind the use of Acupuncture is to increase the circulation and functioning of Qi through the meridians that connect the body both inside and out. “Meridians/Channels are an invisible network linking vital substances to organs and carrying nourishment and strength. Meridians/Channels unify all parts of the body which is essential to remaining in a harmonious balance.”

Treatment

In your first Acupuncture treatment you will be asked about all aspects of your life, including your present and past well being, in order to develop a clear picture of your overall health. This assists with diagnosis and treatment and helps the practitioner to make appropriate lifestyle and dietary recommendations. Treatment may include acupuncture, moxibustion (herbal heat treatment), massage or tuning forks (sound healing).

It is important to note that while a woman is pregnant it is not necessary for needles to be inserted on the abdomen. Points away from the belly can be stimulated since the Qi moves through the meridians/channels to treat the local area.

How can Chinese Medicine help me conceive?

We can begin to look after ourselves before conception, to ensure the health of the baby. Acupuncture is useful to regulate and harmonise the menses which makes conception easier. The body can get into a clear rhythm ensuring the release of a healthy egg. Chinese medicine can support internal organ functions, stimulate blood circulation, release muscle tension and is excellent for promoting and maintaining general health.

How can Chinese Medicine help me during pregnancy?

Acupuncture offers women drug-free pain relief which can be a useful preventative treatment before medical intervention. It can assist with many discomforts that are often considered normal in pregnancy; morning sickness (nausea), urinary tract infections, fatigue, oedema, constipation, and musculoskeletal problems to name a few.

Due to the body changing shape, support for the tendons and ligaments can be particularly useful. Massage can help by stimulating blood circulation and relaxing the muscles and tendons, which assists the body to adjust to the physical changes of pregnancy. Back pain, hip pain, pubic symphysis discomfort can all be well supported with massage and acupuncture.

Pre-birth Acupuncture from week 37-39 is a safe and effective treatment to promote natural labour. It involves certain points that assist with dilating the cervix, relaxing the ligaments, and promote the descending of the head. Also at this time, the practitioner can include points to treat other ailments. Research has demonstrated that the mean duration of labour in a group of women giving birth for the first time was reduced from 8 hours and 2 minutes to 6 hours and 36 minutes in the group of women that received pre-birth acupuncture. Midwives have reported a reduced rate of medical interventions with the use of pre-birth-acupuncture.

Using the heat treatment, moxabustion, is an effective way to change the position of the baby when there is a posterior or breech presentation. This can be self administered by the mother with guidance from their acupuncturist. An Italian study showed that 75.4% of babies in the moxabustion group turned compared to 47.7% in the control group.

How can Chinese medicine help me after birth?

Post-birth, women in China would traditionally stay home for a month. In our society this may be considered a long time, yet the less that is done actively at this time then more energy is able to go into restoring the body while caring for the newborn child. Rest is important.

Directly after birth the partner or a support person can massage down the mother’s chest to the abdomen, breathe in on the down stroke, remove the hand and breathe out. This helps to release any blood that may become stuck. Also, in the first week, it can be helpful to gently massage the feet, every night before sleeping. This descends the Qi which can also help release any old blood in the uterus. On the 4-5th day after birth ‘mother warming’ can be used to tonify after birth. This is using moxabustion on the abdomen to energise and aid post-birth recovery. This can be guided by your acupuncturist and is best not to be used if the mother has a fever or has been feeling hot at night. It can be done in the comfort of the mother’s own home by her partner or support person.

Support for regaining strength, haemorrhoids, constipation, bleeding, abdominal pain, post-natal depression, and breast feeding is all available with Chinese medicine.

As women we are so beautiful, so resourceful and so full of creativity. I watch my friend with her first baby and hear her saying how amazed she is that her body knows what to do so naturally. Being here to cook for her, hold Maja so she can sleep, massage her neck and shoulders after breast feeding and treat her fever is a joy. A deeper sense of love and care emanates giving me the drive to share the knowledge of these tools with women in all stages of their journey.

Arohanui
Lori-Ellen Grant
Acupuncturist and Massage Therapist
www.wholebody.co.nz

Footnotes:
Tukapua, Cameron, Form and Movement Notes, CCHH 2005
‘Huang-di Nei Jing Su-wen’(Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor), Beijing, People’s Press, 1963
Kubista E, Kucera H (1974) Uber die Anwendung der Akupunktur zur Geburtsvorbereitung, Geburtshilfe Perinatol: 178, 224-9
Cardini et al (1998) Journal of the American Medical Association
McBride, Paddy, Gynaecology Notes CCHH Feb 2005
Betts, Debra, (2006) ‘The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth’ The Journal of Chinese

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