Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine often are over looked when it comes to fertility, pregnancy, birth and postpartum health. So, in this post I chat to Rachael about the benefits of acupuncture for fertility and pregnancy.
Our PregActive Community enjoyed asking experienced Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Rachael West their questions. And here are the most common questions and answers I want to share with you.
Rachael is a Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist and has a special interest in fertility, women's health, pregnancy, menopause and pain management. Additionally she focuses on post-partum care to support lactation, healing and to restore energy levels.
There is strong scientific evidence that Acupuncture can reduce the symptoms of nausea and vomiting (N&V). Chinese medicine is a holistic form of medicine and we always try to determine the underlying cause of a condition.
There is no one cause of N&V during pregnancy but changes in hormonal levels are key. Some women may experience increased symptoms when they are fatigued, stressed or anxious, hungry or low in blood sugar, or even in response to certain smells.
The role of the stomach Qi (energy) is to digest food and send it down the digestive tract when a patient is experiencing N&V we say that the stomach Qi is rebelling and flowing upwards instead of downwards.
Our primary focus in treatment is to subdue the rebellious Qi (to stop the N&V) and then address the underlying cause such as fatigue, anxiety etc.
The metabolic demands of growing a placenta and baby are extreme. All of this growth and transformation takes a toll on the body so it is no surprise that many women experience fatigue during pregnancy.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines can help to reduce the symptoms of fatigue by nourishing and tonifying your body, balancing Qi flow (energy) and supporting the metabolic process.
Some things you can do at home include; walking 15 minutes at least twice per day (moving reduces fatigue), avoiding cold foods and eating warming nourishing foods such as bone broths, taking a nap when you need it and a warm foot and calf soak.
From 34-36 weeks we start to work on preparing the body for labour. During this period we use acupuncture, herbal medicines, hip opening exercises and relaxation techniques. These focus on ripening the cervix, calming the mind and body, loosening tendons and ligaments and tonifying and energising Qi (energy) to provide the energy for labour.
Question 4. Treatment for PCOS?
Regular Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture treatments can focus on regulating hormones and supporting Qi (energy) and blood flow to the uterus and ovaries to support ovulation and menstruation.
From a Chinese Medicine perspective there can be a number of causes for PCOS there maybe underlying deficiencies or an accumulation of Damp and Stagnation.
Damp occurs when the bodies metabolic processes are slowed and can hinder the correct functioning of the ovaries and hormones, whilst stagnation may inhibit the flow of Qi and blood to the ovaries and uterus.
Question 5. I saw 3 acupuncturists for fertility and one of them put the needles in deep and it was painful, what is that?
Acupuncture needles are extremely fine and are inserted into the body at different depths depending upon the point needled. You may feel a change in sensation at the point such as heaviness or tingling but the focus of the treatment is not to illicit pain.
This is different from a dry needling treatment from an Osteopath, Myotherapist or Physiotherapist which intends to stimulate a twitch response from the muscle. Acupuncture treatments are not intended to be painful but you will feel a change in sensation.
Question 6. Is there specific acupuncture techniques for PCOS?
PCOs - yes we concentrate on damp and stagnation. As far as specific techniques every case is different so we treat accordingly. Herbs are very important for PCOS
Question 7. Can acupuncture help to alleviate my pregnancy sciatica?
There is good scientific evidence to support the use of Acupuncture to reduce the aches and pains associated with pregnancy. Acupuncture can help alleviate the pain associated with conditions such as sciatica, thoracic, neck and pelvic pain by releasing endorphins (the body's natural pain-killing chemicals) and affecting the area of the brain that governs serotonin, hence improving mood.
As with all Chinese Medicine sessions we also focus on treating the underlying cause of the condition to help reduce pain. Techniques such as gua sha (scraping), moxa and cupping may also be applied.
Question 8. Can acupuncture or chines medicine help improve my constipation?
Constipation commonly occurs during pregnancy and may be due to changes in hormones such as progesterone which can slow down your bowels motility resulting in dry hard stools. Medications or poor quality supplements may also contribute to constipation.
Chinese medicine and Acupuncture work to move and nourish Qi and blood to moisten the stools and of course there are things you can do at home such as:
Question 9. Can acupressure help to reduce labour pain?
From 34 - 36 weeks we start to prepare the cervix, mind and body for labour. It is imperative that the mother feels comfortable, calm, relaxed but also energised to prepare for birth. I teach my patients and their partner's how to apply acupressure to acupuncture points to manage both their stress and pain levels during the labour.
Question 10. Can Chinese Medicine help mothers with postnatal depletion? Any advice?
Pregnancy, childbirth, breast feeding and caring for a new baby around the clock can take a huge toll upon a woman's body. Chinese Medicine practices including Acupuncture and herbal medicinals focus on replenishing the mother during the fourth trimester and beyond with rest, nourishing foods to support recovery and breast feeding, and allowing bonding time.
Some woman may experience fatigue, brain fog, low mood, frustration, a sense of shame or guilt, or loss of libido for many years following the birth of their child, for those patients we can conduct blood tests and a full diagnosis to determine the most beneficial treatment program.