During Pregnancy

Prevention of Miscarriage

Recurrent miscarriage or recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) is defined as two or more consecutive pregnancy losses. Most women who have had a number of miscarriages experience anxiety and depression and may be especially anxious about the prospect of trying to get pregnant again. Miscarriages are actually more common than we think and may occur up to 50% in the first trimester. Many women don’t realize that they are pregnant before miscarrying. The vast majority of women who have experienced a miscarriage go on to have a healthy pregnancy. Even women who have suffered multiple pregnancy losses have an excellent chance of carrying a baby to term.

We do extensive testing and a thorough evaluation of your overall health inorder to identify any underlying reason for your miscarriage. This incudes tests to determine heavy metals, immune disorders, and hormonal imbalances. Stress and emotions may also play a role in miscarriage. Recent studies show that women who receive regular supportive care during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy can dramatically reduce their number of unexplained miscarriages. Such care includes regular medical and emotional check-ins with midwives or doctors and a regular practice of deep relaxation.

 

Studies have shown that a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, and supplements can help balance hormones, correct deficiencies, and reduce the risk of miscarriage.

Acupuncture helps reduce the risk of miscarriage by:

  • Increasing the blood flow to the ovaries to nourish the developing follicles and create better egg quality and embryos.
  • Increasing blood flow to the testicles to improve sperm quality, optimizing the male’s contribution to embryo quality. This is particularly important in couples undergoing ICSI.
  • Nourishing the developing fetus by improving the blood flow to the placenta and preventing uterine contractions.
  • Regulating the body’s natural hormonal production, which in turn improves ovarian function, egg quality, and proper progesterone levels.
  • Relaxing the body and reducing stress levels to prevent early uterine contractions.

Morning Sickness

Research indicates that up to 80% of pregnant women get morning sickness during pregnancy. For most women, nausea (and vomiting) starts after 6-7 weeks pregnant, peaking during weeks 9-10. During morning sickness, you may experience anything from a feeling of queasiness with a loss of appetite to intense vomiting to the point of dehydration and everything in between. Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy usually pass by week 14, after which most women experience a renewed sense of energy and well-being.

There are three main reasons why nausea and vomiting occur during pregnancy:

  1. Your body is responding to the increased hormones levels
  2. Your blood sugars are fluctuating with the pregnancy
  3. Your body is deficient in B vitamins and zinc

The good news is that morning sickness is a sign that you’re producing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is made as the embryo develops. It can be seen as a sign that everything is going as it should be. However, around 1% of women who are pregnant experience hyperemesis gravidarum, which involves severe vomiting, weight loss and dehydration. If you're ever been concerned about your pregnancy or feel more sick than you think is normal, don't hesitate to consult a doctor or your midwife.

  

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, health and illness are described in terms of the relationships between certain substances and functions within the body. Put simply, yin’s cooling, nourishing substances balance yang’s vital energy, movement, and warmth. It is said in TCM that, “men pertain to yang and women pertain to yin”. A woman’s body, due to menstruation and the demands of nourishing a child while pregnant, has an increased reliance on blood and yin.

Reproductive health in women depends primarily on the energetic function of the kidneys, liver, and spleen. The kidneys store prenatal essence, or “jing” and govern growth, development, and reproduction. The liver stores blood, moves blood during menstruation, regulates flow of qi in the body, and keeps a balanced emotional state. The spleen, which is the main digestive organ in Chinese medicine, produces qi and blood from the food we eat and ensures that blood flows within its normal pathways.

Once pregnant, a woman’s physiology shifts. Menstruation stops, causing qi and blood to accumulate in the uterus. As a result, the spleen is under greater demand to produce and supply blood and qi to help secure her pregnancy. The kidney lends its yin and essence to the development of the fetus and the liver blood nourishes the uterus.

Later in pregnancy, “heat” in the body becomes common. “Heat” in the body can be experienced as feeling warmer or having excessive thirst, irritability, flushing, insomnia, anxiety, hypertension, night sweats, heartburn, or constipation. “Qi and blood stagnation” may cause symptoms such as pain, numbness, swelling, varicosities, reflux, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, or mental depression.

A root cause of both “heat” and stagnation is often “qi and blood deficiency” which can also cause fatigue.

Acupuncture uses points along the body’s channels to regulate and boost the function of these energetic organs, thus bringing relief of these symptoms. Also, by resting more and eating easily digested, nourishing foods, a woman supports her increased need for reserves of qi and blood. By maintaining moderate exercise and lowering her stress level, she helps her body to circulate qi and blood efficiently.

Breech Presentation

Though breech presentation appears to be very common, most babies (96-97%) turn into the head down position between week 28 and week 32 of pregnancy. Once the babies have turned, they usually stay in this position because their head is the heaviest part of their body and space to move gradually becomes limited.

If you check with your primary healthcare provider at your regular monthly appointment and baby appears to have not yet turned head down by 33 weeks, this is a great time to try acupuncture and moxibustion.  Around 36 weeks, if your baby has not turned, you may be offered an ECV (external cephalic version).  This involves manipulating the baby through your abdomen to a head-first position.  Although acupuncture and moxibustion are most effective between 33-36 weeks, increasing turning rates to 75.4% from 47.7%, treatments can also increase the success rate of ECVs.


Moxabustion for breech is ideally performed between 33 and 36 weeks for the highest turn rates.  At your appointment acupuncture is performed and you are taught how to perform daily moxibustion (a heat therapy that stimulates a specific acupuncture point on the pinky toe) at home.  After one week, if the baby has not turned, you repeat one more acupuncture treatment and another week of daily moxibustion. 


Acupuncture and moxibustion have been shown to be effective treatments that gently encourage the baby to turn into the head down position. These treatments change the mother’s hormonal levels, which cause the baby to increase its movements. They are most effective when preformed at 32 weeks because there is then still a lot of room for the baby to move.

Moxibustion is the burning of herbs over acupuncture points, using heat to activate them. A trained practitioner of Chinese Medicine will teach you how to do these treatments at home daily until the baby turns.

Labour Prep & Induction

 Babies tend to be born on their own schedules.   They don’t have any awareness of their “due date” and can come “late” for a variety of reasons.  For many women, as they get closer to their due date, the idea of medical labour induction can often be introduced because many doctors may not allow pregnancies to extend past 42 or even 40 weeks in some cases, even if the pregnancy is otherwise healthy.  This can be a stressful discussion, which can increase muscle tension, tighten the cervix and increase the blood pressure, which can make a medically assisted labour induction even more likely.

Women are becoming aware of natural alternatives to medical interventions during pregnancy and may feel nervous about the idea of a medical induction either with medications or by other means.  A pre-labor acupuncture protocol can be followed to decrease the chance of needing a medical induction.

Beginning at 37 weeks and continuing twice per week until labour starts, this gentle acupuncture protocol gradually eases the body into a state where it is ready for labour.  Acupuncture has been shown in numerous studies to encourage cervical ripening, increase blood flow, facilitate muscle relaxation and calm the mind.

A pre-labour acupuncture protocol can not only help women decrease their chances of needing medical inductions, but can also decrease the chance of a need for pain medication during labour.
You may have heard of acupuncture “labour inductions” and may be wondering if this is the same thing.  It is actually quite different.  There are excellent acupuncture point combinations which can be used to actually stimulate contractions of the uterus – a similar effect to using medications like Pitocin.  Although an acupuncture induction can be useful in a situation where a woman is truly overdue or in need of induction out of medical necessity, we advise a woman to take a preventative approach to her care by using the Labour Prep protocol beginning at week 37 of pregnancy.

The benefit to the Labour Prep protocol is that it gently eases the body toward going into labour on its own, as opposed to simply stimulating uterine contractions.  Studies comparing the two approaches have shown better labour and birth outcomes in women who use the labour prep protocol as opposed to simply inducing.  


If a woman has not begun labor by her due date, acupuncture treatments may be performed that encourage labor to begin. Often, a woman will begin spontaneous labor after just a few daily treatments and can avoid medical induction altogether. Even if medical induction is used, previous acupuncture treatment can facilitate efficient labor, making further medical intervention unnecessary