Acupuncture and Later Pregnancy & Birth Preparation

Sacupuncture and pregnancyo you’re counting down the months (or even weeks or days) till you can meet the newest member of your family. This time should be all about nesting and preparing, but that’s hard to do if you are feeling exhausted by some of the conditions that can arise in late pregnancy. When these problems are severe, they can really detract from the experience of being pregnant. Issues that tend to flare up at this stage of the pregnancy include:

  • Swollen ankles, fingers and wrists (can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Iron-deficiency anaemia
  • Indigestion, acid reflux
  • Varicose veins
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Back pain, sciatica, as baby’s head presses on the nerves exiting the spinal column
  • Pubic symphysitis
  • Insomnia


Easing late pregnancy complaints with Acupuncture.

Thankfully, most of these issues tend to respond well to Acupuncture. You’ve probably already heard of the benefits of Acupuncture in back pain and sciatica, as well as aches and pains like carpal tunnel syndrome. I also use specific Acupuncture points to reduce water retention and aid fluid metabolism, improve indigestion, and ease the discomfort associated with swollen veins and haemorrhoids. Other points can help you sleep or to help nourish the blood (to combat anaemia). These are combined with points selected for your individual constitution and any other symptoms you might be experiencing. The overall result is a very relaxing experience that should help settle your discomfort and support you as your pregnancy advances.

I find that with some of these conditions, especially pubic symphysitis, but also back pain and sciatica, the best results are achieved with a combination of Acupuncture and Chiropractic.

Other issues in late pregnancy that are less common include:

  • Breech baby (head-up rather than the normal head-down position), and other positions not ideal for labour, such as posterior.
  • High blood pressure (pregnancy-induced hypertension or pre-eclampsia),
  • High blood sugar levels (gestational diabetes)
  • Complications of pregnancy like a low-lying placenta (placenta praevia).

Let’s look at how Acupuncture can help these complications.


Breech and other positions not ideal for labour.

If your baby is in breech position, its bottom or feet would be delivered first if you went into labour. Some obstetricians are confident in delivering breech babies. But because complications can occur, most will attempt to physically turn the baby (external cephalic version) if this is possible. If it doesn’t work, the usual advice is to have a Caesarean section, but this is not without its risks and complications. Apart from issues with labour, a prolonged period in some types of breech position can also lead to problems with baby’s hips after birth.

Luckily, there is an alternative. At around 33-34 weeks, Acupuncturists use a specific point on the big toe, which is not needled but instead heated with moxa (a processed form of the herb Artemisia or Mugwort). You continue this treatment at home for 1-2 weeks. The moxibustion stimulates fetal movement, encouraging the baby to move itself into the normal head-down position. This form of treatment has been evaluated by research — it led to the baby turning in about 75% of cases (as a comparison, less than 50% of babies turned by themselves in women who did not have moxibustion treatment). No harmful effects were noted. There is another advantage of this approach. Because we are intervening relatively early in the pregnancy (compared with an external cephalic version at 37-38 weeks), if the moxibustion is successful, the baby is in the breech position for a shorter period, so we’d anticipate less chance of damage to the hips.

The best position for the baby to be born in is head-down, with the chin tucked right down into the chest, and in the head in the anterior position. This means that the back of baby’s head is directly under your pubic bone. This makes for a smoother birth. It is also more efficient, meaning you won’t get as tired during labour because the baby is already lined up correctly. Some babies don’t naturally adopt this position, but instead have their heads the other way up so that their forehead is directly below your pubic bone. This can lead to a longer, more tiring labour, with a lot of back pain, as the baby rotates into the anterior position (this does not always happen – the baby can be born in the posterior position, but this is not common).

We use a similar moxibustion technique if the baby is posterior, coupled with exercises to try and get gravity to work in your favour in encouraging baby to turn anterior.

In the following conditions, acupuncturists working with pregnant women have observed improvement in response to Acupuncture. However, little research has been done to back this up.


High blood pressure.

Your midwife or Obstetrician will be keeping a close eye on your blood pressure, because occasionally pregnant women develop a condition where the blood pressure rises out of control (and other problems develop). This is called pre-eclampsia and poses risks to the health of yourself and the baby.

While women with severe pre-eclampsia need to be hospitalised for monitoring and treatment, Acupuncture can be useful if there is just a mild increase in blood pressure. It can also help reduce the water retention that can also happen with this condition. Generally, the sooner treatment begins the more likely it is to have results. Of course, ongoing monitoring by your obstetric team is very important.


Gestational diabetes.

It’s normal for blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise slightly in pregnancy, but in some women this happens to the extent that diabetes develops. When severe, this can have complications. The concept of diabetes was recognised by the ancient Chinese, and several Acupuncture points have been proven to promote glucose metabolism and pancreatic function. By using these points, plus others for general wellbeing and the stage of pregnancy, we hope to help normalise glucose levels.


Low-lying placenta.

If your placenta is too low in the uterus, this can cause problems with bleeding later in pregnancy. In severe cases, a vaginal birth is not possible as the placenta obstructs the cervix. This condition often resolves by itself as the uterus enlarges and the placenta naturally rises away from the cervix. But in cases where it does not, we can add in Acupuncture points that have a lifting action according to Chinese Medical theory.


Pre-birth treatment – preparing for labour.

So you’re in the final weeks and no doubt you’ll be thinking about how to ease your passage through labour. Birth preparation Acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular since research has shown its effectiveness. One New Zealand study found that, overall, women who had birth preparation Acupuncture were 35% less likely to need their labour to be medically induced (43% less likely for women having their first baby). Women having these treatments also had a 31% reduction in epidural use.

I prefer to do weekly treatments from about 35 weeks, as the best effects are achieved when you have 4 treatments or more. In these sessions, we gently prepare your body for labour with specific points that act on the cervix and uterus. We also cover acupressure techniques for you or your support person to use during labour that can help you deal with the contractions and help the cervix dilate.


Inducing labour.

There’s no doubt that it’s best for your body to go into labour by itself. We don’t really understand the interplay between the mother and baby that sets off labour, and it’s likely to be complex and involve a cascade of factors. But sometimes, when the pregnancy goes more than a week – 10 days over the due date, then it’s wise to start weighing up the risks and working out a plan of action. In these cases, or when the Obstetrician wants to induce labour for medical reasons, Acupuncture can be very useful in kick-starting the process and potentially avoiding a medical induction. Feedback from midwives in New Zealand who started using Acupuncture in inductions has generally been positive, although the research is certainly not conclusive. In these circumstances, we stimulate points traditionally used to bring on labour, and do several treatments close together, ideally every couple of days.

So enjoy the last months and weeks of your pregnancy, and don’t forget that Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be great after the birth for promoting healing and dealing with breastfeeding issues like mastitis.


Neck and shoulder pain exercises.

computer-neck-painNeck and shoulder pain is a very common ailment in today’s times, and it is almost always due to our posture, especially when our days are spent at a desk usually in front of a computer. Firstly the position we are in is not always the most ergonomic. We are all different heights and sizes and desks and chairs don’t always accommodate for these differences. We may be using 2 monitors and moving left to right to work on both, or twisting to get folders from shelves that are next to us or behind us.

Secondly we may be sitting at your computer for hours at a time without getting up and having a break, and then to compound that we can be so focused on what we are doing we often forget to sit up correctly and often end up with a rounded lower back, a forward head position and rounded shoulders. This will almost always lead to tight muscles and pain in the shoulders, between the shoulder blades, and up into the neck. It can often contribute to headaches also. Then as a consequence of these tight muscles it becomes more difficult to maintain a good posture, so it then becomes a cycle of poor posture leading to muscle spasm, causing poor posture.

Some simple things you can do to stop this cycle from occurring!

  • Firstly be mindful of your office/desk setup. Have your computer square in front of you with the monitor at a height so that the centre of the screen is at a 15degree down angle from your eyes. Have the monitor as far away from you as possible while still comfortable for you to read. It should be a minimum of 50cm. Also have your computer at right angles to a lit or window to minimize any glare on the screen. The keyboard should be situated such that your elbow is at 90 degrees, or even slightly lower. This helps your wrist to be straight and reduces the potential for a repetitive strain injury. Have your chair at a height so that your feet are flat on the ground and thighs are perpendicular to the floor.
  • Secondly, be conscious of your body. No matter how ergonomic your desk setup is, it wont help if you dont think abouthow you’re sitting. Most importantly, don’t slouch. try and sit with your back straight and your shoulders back and down. Have your head up and try to elongate your neck. Get up every 20min to have a walk around, and a stretch.
  • Thirdly, stretch…
    • At work
      • Neck – by bending it gently to the left hold it for 10 sec, bring your head back to neutral, then repeat 4 more times. Do the same with the neck bent to the right. Then also forward by tucking your chin in and bending it towards your chest. Then bend your neck backwards by looking up to the ceiling. While doing these stretches keep your shoulders down.
      • Shoulders – loosen up your shoulders by firstly shrugging the shoulders, hold them up for 5 sec then let them drop. Repeat this 4 times.
      • Roll your shoulders slowly backwards bringing them as far up, back, down and forward as possible. Do this 5 times. Then roll them slowly forwards 5 times, again bringing them as far up, forward, down and backwards as possible.
    • At home
      • At the end of the day when you get home get a small rolled towel, about 10-15cm in diameter. While lying on your back place the rolled towel across the back of your neck. Push your head back towards the ground and hold it for 5 sec, then relax for 5 sec. Then repeat 4 more times.
      • Next have a rolled up towel that is about 25-30 cm long and about 8 cm in diameter. Lying on your back and place the towel along the length of your spine between your shoulder blades. You can also place a low pillow under your head to make sure your neck is comfortable. Lying on the towel in this way allows your shoulders to relax back, and they also relax down. It allows your shoulder muscles and those between your shoulder lades to relax and release. This exercise helps release tight muscles but it also helps improve your posture, that why it’s good to get in the habit of doing this exercise even if you’re not feeling sore or tight.




Chiropractic for Headaches

Chiropractic HeadacheChiropractic is an ideal alternative therapy that works not only to relieve headache pain but to also restore normal functioning to the nervous system and spine. Please read on for more information.


What is a Headache?

A headache is when someone feels pain or discomfort in the head and/or face. It is a symptom of many different conditions, and physiologically may be caused by a disruption to pain-sensitivity structures in the head.

Headaches may be classified as either primary or secondary. Primary headaches develop on their own, whereas secondary headaches develop as a symptom of another disease, condition or illness.


What is Chiropractic?

Chiropractic is an alternative form of medicine that aims to diagnose, treat and prevent mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system via manipulation and realignment of the spine and other bodily structures.


How Does Chiropractic Help Alleviate Headaches?

Most good chiropractors employ the use of physical, orthopedic and neurological tests to pinpoint potential causes of the headache. The practitioner will then use spinal manipulation to treat the headache, thus:

  • Improving spinal alignment.
  • Reducing nerve irritation.
  • Reducing muscle tension.
  • Improving blood flow and circulation.

A chiropractor may aim to reduce headache symptoms with massage and Trigger Point Therapy, and may even use x-ray to determine whether abnormal positioning of the shoulder and neck are causing the headaches. They may also recommend a suitable lifestyle plan including relaxation techniques, daily stretches, changes in posture and other exercises.


Chiropractic and Tension Headaches

Tension headaches result from muscular tension in the head, neck and shoulders. This tension ultimately leads to changes in normal posture and movement in order to compensate, which itself results in even more muscular tension, thus creating a vicious cycle that causes an increasingly painful headache.

Chiropractic aims to resolve and break the vicious cycle by releasing any muscular tension, and by realigning skeletal structures. Relief is often experienced from tension headaches minutes after Chiropractic treatment, after which muscle tension has eased and nerve irritation has been reduced.


Chiropractic and Migraine Headaches

Certain triggers cause a sudden dilation of blood vessels in the head to occur, thus producing a painful migraine.

Recent scientific studies have shown chiropractic may play an important role in treating migraines in its subtle manipulation and realignment of the spine. The adjustments also improve blood flow by reducing any irritation to nerves rooted in the spine which themselves are responsible for vascular system tension control.

If you are interested in trying chiropractic to relieve your headaches, please speak to a professional chiropractor for more information.


Can Chiropractic help reduce headaches?