Most often, acupuncture treatments involve stimulating key points in the body (acupuncture points or acupoints) with thin, sterile needles. Applying acupuncture needles enhances the body’s natural ability to self-heal, thereby alleviating pain and other discomforts, boosting immunity, and treating some conditions.
Researchers have found that many acupoints correlate to deep-seated nerves, which trigger the release of endorphins and other brain chemicals when activated by the needles. This process of nerve stimulation helps to explain how acupuncture might block pain signals to help to alleviate a number of common discomforts.
Increased interest in acupuncture during pregnancy, in particular, is due, in part, to some doctors’ claims and research findings that the ancient practice can help improve fertility in couples looking to conceive.1
Other doctors and healthcare providers have been recommending acupuncture as a way to provide pain relief during and after childbirth, and as a strategy for decreasing opioid use.
Many women are also turning to acupuncture to help alleviate common pregnancy ailments such as nausea, vomiting and headaches caused by hormone changes.
Acupuncture during pregnancy can be used to treat a variety of different pregnancy-related ailments or be used to assist with labor or conception. Potential uses include to:
- Alleviate nausea and vomiting
- Alleviate pain after a surgical birth
- Alleviate pain during labor
- Alleviate panic, stress, and depression during pregnancy
- Assist with general pain and discomfort from pregnancy
- Assist win labour induction
- Assist women in conceiving, both naturally and with assisted reproductive technology, such as IVF
- Correct a breech position during pregnancy
- Reduce breast tenderness
- Reduce fatigue
- Reduce headaches
- Reduce heartburn
- Reduce pelvic discomfort
- Treat constipation and hemorrhoids
- Treat sciatica pain
Acupuncture for pain relief during labor and after surgery (c-section) is one of the most commonly cited uses for the therapy in pregnancy, especially because healthcare providers are looking for alternatives to opioids. New mothers are at higher risk for addiction after being prescribed opioid painkillers for pregnancy-related pain.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) 2018 report on labor and birth management cites acupuncture as one of several documented strategies that can help manage pain during labor.
Acupuncture has been associated with relieving symptoms of depression during pregnancy. This may be especially important to note since, unlike antidepressants or other medication commonly used to try to treat depression, acupuncture has no known potential risks to the unborn fetus.