Few things are more exciting and transformational for a woman than having a baby. Pregnancy is also the most important time for her to manage her health because she's doing so not only for her benefit, but also for the precious being(s) inside.
Some may be content with the way pregnancy is managed here in U.S. medical centers. But many women are realizing that there are numerous shortcomings of the Western medical approach to prenatal heath. Ultrasounds, developmental tests, and daily prenatal vitamins are not enough to ensure a woman's comfort for 40 weeks or for birthing success, especially if she is aiming for a natural delivery.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), practitioners treat the whole person, placing equal emphasis on a woman's physical, emotional, energetic, and mental health. They realize that a baby's vitality - in utero and after birth - depends largely on that of the mom. And because treatment is so individual to a woman's constitution and any imbalances that arise, TCM is becoming increasingly popular with expecting moms who value a holistic approach to health.
Balance is created with acupuncture, herbs, and massage by dilating the energy channels that link up with vital organs in the body. A woman's Qi (energy) and blood are tonified if weak and regulated if stagnant, creating smooth inner harmony. From a Western perspective, we engage the sympathetic nervous system and improve immune response. Most practitioners also advise on whole food nutrition and lifestyle choices, so treatment is very well-rounded.
Are you intrigued? Let's look at specific ways TCM can help a woman through ALL stages of pregnancy...
Preparing Your Body For Pregnancy
If a women is interested in holistic health and planning a pregnancy, she should start seeing a TCM practitioner at least a three months before conceiving to make sure conditions are just right.
This is the time to resolve any imbalances such as regulating menstrual cycles, getting her diet on track, managing weight if she desires to lose or gain, and relieve stress. This all helps to bolster a woman's health, making sure she is producing quality eggs and becoming as fertile as possible. (To increase your chances conceiving, your partner should be getting treated too!)
Maintaining A Healthy Pregnancy
Once pregnant, TCM can do wonders for making sure expecting moms stay healthy, strong, and comfortable.
TCM has a remarkable reputation for managing:
- Morning sickness
- Abdominal & back pain
- Threatened miscarriage
- Urine retention
Of course practitioners will continue to help a woman with any conditions she had before pregnancy that she does not wish to worsen, like seizures and vertigo. They can also treat colds or any other illnesses that occur during this time, keeping their immune systems strong.
Breech Babies & A Timely Delivery
Many expecting moms seek out acupuncture & TCM when they are nearing the end of pregnancy, in particular when 2 things arise: (1) breech presentation, and (2) an when they're carrying past their due date and want to avoid hospital induction.
Acupuncture and TCM can only help, but success is not guaranteed - especially if a woman has many imbalances that are contributing to the issue. It's best if a woman is proactive and starts seeing a TCM practitionerwell before these two conditions come up (so please help me educate the expecting women in your life!).
Nevertheless, TCM practitioners can perform moxibustion on woman carrying a breech baby at 33-35 weeks. It's known to increase fetal activity and create conditions inside the uterus that make it likely for a baby to turn on it's own. Many studies have been done, and it has been shown to work, but at inconsistent rates. Again, women are individuals who experience pregnancy differently from each other, and then there is the individuality of the baby. So, the technique is hard to predict, but is safe and non-invasive, so definitely worth a try!
Women can start preparing their bodies for delivery with TCM treatments one to two times per week, ideally by week 34. They will help the mom remain relaxed & hopeful, soften the cervix, and make conditions optimum and more inviting for the baby to arrive "on time".
Pain Management For Natural Births
Acupuncture has been scientifically proven to ease pain in many studies, so it's quite natural for laboring women to desire it. If you're having a home birth, your Acupuncturist may be thrilled to help you out, so go ahead and ask! They can attend hospital births as well, but there are usually rules around this (like acupuncturists needing to be contracted with the hospitals), so you and your practitioner may need to look into that some more.
Typically, auricular (ear) acupuncture is used during labor to allow for the woman to move in any position necessary. Sometimes a point on the hand, Large Intestine 4, is used as well. These points can be stimulated at any stage of labor.
Note that while acupuncture can help with pain from abnormal uterine contractions, it can't correct malposition or malpresentation of the baby at this stage. Therefore, it may not help as much with pain if ill-fitting position of the baby is the reason for it.
There is more healing to be done after birth! TCM can address the following changes in a woman's health after having her baby:
- Regulation of milk flow
- Post-partum depression
- Weight loss
- Joint pain
- Spontaneous sweating
Since women are so focused on their baby at this stage, it's important that their partners are aware of these conditions and can encourage the mom to seek help if problems come up.
Even if there are no post-natal concerns, it would be a good idea to see a practitioner for wellness visits. Just relaxing on a table for an hour of acupuncture can do wonders in resetting a new mom's mood and helping her prioritize self-care.
Care comes full circle with the treatment of babies.
You can read more on TCM Pediatrics here:
Chinese Medicine Is Great For Kids! Here's 7 Reasons Why...
(Note that TCM practitioners can be primary care providers and track development of children if choosing not to see a pediatrician for wellness visits.)
Families raised with acupuncture, herbs, and whole food nutrition take responsibility for their health, have a greater appreciation for the healing capacity of their bodies, and learn to live in harmony with nature.
So, it's up to you moms! You are the core of your family; the choices you make impact everyone. And I'm positive that choosing TCM to care for your health is a wonderful first step in creating the family of your dreams.
Do you know a woman who is planning a pregnancy or who is currently pregnant and interested in holistic care? Please forward this post to them! And let me know if you have any questions in the comments.
If you enjoyed this article and want more holistic self-care advice, please see Brandy's website at www.falconhealingarts.com.
Well wishes to you all...
Cardini F. & Weixin H. (1998). Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 280(18), 1580-1584.
Coyle ME, Smith CA, & Peat B. (2012) Cephalic version by moxibustion for breech presentation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 5. Art. No: CD003928.
Maciocia, G. (1998) Obstetrics & Gynecology in Chinese Medicine. Churchill Livingstone Publishing, United Kingdom
Vas J, Aranda-Regules JM, Modesto M, et al. (2013). Acupuncture Medicine 31: 31-38.