Written by Evan Howlett of Howlett Acupuncture:
Traditional Chinese medical theory, which includes acupuncture, is thousands of years old and an amazing lens with which to diagnose and treat a spectrum of issues during the childbearing year from easing painful menstrual cycles to helping breech babies turn themselves to facilitating the onset of labor to recovery postpartum. Supporting the hopes and soothing the physical and emotional stresses that come with welcoming a new person into this world is definitely the most exciting and joyful part of my practice.
Acupuncture is slowly becoming more well known as a powerful tool for fertility support and during the childbearing year. From my extensive studies and conversations with fertility, pregnancy and postpartum care specialists in my field, I put together a brief outline to help families understand when, where and how acupuncture is most effective, what to expect during treatment, and an “ideal” time frame for treatment during a healthy pregnancy.
What Acupuncture Can Treat:
- maternal and paternal
- IVF support
- aiding conception and implantation
- heart burn
- sciatica and back pain
- other pain
- breast discomfort
- leg cramps
- constipation and hemorrhoids
- hypertension and preeclampsia support
- premature labor
- preparing for labor
- breech presentation
- beginning labor
- scar healing (tears and Cesarean incisions)
- diastasis recti support
- postpartum mood adjustment
- breastfeeding support and mastitis
- urinary problems
- future reproductive health
Through the childbearing year acupuncture is a wonderful tool
for supporting mental and emotional health, too.
What an Acupuncture Appointment Involves
At your first appointment:
- identifying and diagnosing issues in a visit of about 1.5-2 hours
- conversation and history taking
- pulse taking
- a look at your tongue
- a closer look at any areas with pain which may include your abdomen, arms or legs
- assessment of any joint pain or pain with moving
Treatment in subsequent visits of 45-60 minutes-may include:
- acupuncture with needles
- tuia (like acupressure or massage)
- traditional Chinese herbs
- conversation about diet and lifestyle changes to support whole health
Schedule for Treatment in the Childbearing Year
Below are turning points in pregnancy and times when your acupuncturist can support a healthy mother and child and check on you and your little one to see if any issues need more attention.
Treatment starting three months or more prior to planned pregnancy will set the stage for a smooth and healthy pregnancy. Especially for those who have had a history of miscarriage or trouble conceiving, this is the time to build qi and blood and save up jing (your fundamental essence). Acupuncture is shown to help those with irregular or painful cycles for up to a year after a cycle of treatment.
- At 4 weeks, if you know or suspect you are pregnant to support the first large jing transfer
- At 6 weeks to support transfer of jing
- At 8 weeks to support the third initial transfer of jing
- Between 12 and 13 weeks to check up and support mom where needed
- Between 26 and 28 weeks
- At 36 weeks to begin preparing for labor, treatment may be more or less frequent in the last few weeks
BREECH PRESENTATION – Ideally treated at 34-36 weeks. Bring your partner so they can be shown how to do moxibustion at home. Treatment should be for three consecutive days and then continued at home with moxa for the next 7 days or until the baby turns.
FACILITATING THE START OF LABOR – After consulting with midwife or primary care provider, acupuncture can help to start the labor process, usually this treatment is done around 40 weeks and may be done for a few days in a row. Acupuncture is shown to facilitate the start of labor within 3-60 hours.
DURING LABOR – while few acupuncturists will attend labor, acupuncture and acupressure can help labor be smoother, less traumatic, and give the birthing person more stamina. Some of these points are easy to access, can be stimulated with fingers or a pencil and can be used during labor if recommended by your acupuncturist.
ST36 for endurance and strength – on the outside of the knee, about three or four fingers down
LI4 to smooth out contractions – on the top of the foot
GB21 to help move baby down – in the middle of the trapezius muscle
KI3 for power especially if afraid – on the back of the ankle
PC6 for nausea – three or four fingers up the arm from the wrist
POSTPARTUM HEALTH – Pregnancy and birth draw on fundamental resources and it is vitally important to health the guard and build qi and blood postpartum to promote a health, physical, mental, and spiritual. while our busy culture makes carving out time for new moms difficult, acupuncture, and especially moxibustion, are amazing tools to build qi and blood and smooth emotions postpartum.
- See your acupuncturist for mother roasting around day 5-7 (7-12 for cesarean birth) or earlier if they will do a home or hospital visit
- Then once a week for next three months is ideal and takes full advantage of this time to set the stage for vitality and reproductive health through the next life stage.
POSTPARTUM REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH – Because pregnancy and birth open the channels, especially the heart-uterine channel, the postpartum period is an important time to protect and set the stage for reproductive health going forward. A skilled practitioner can help express toxins that have been held deep, clearing the body of pathogens that could bring future fertility difficulties and prepare for a smooth menopause.
You can find Evan Howlett and more information about acupuncture in the childbearing year at HowlettAcupuncture.com