I get a lot of questions about what acupuncture can do to aid pregnancy and a lot of people are completely unaware that it can help at all. In fact, acupuncture works very well for morning sickness, turning a breach baby or even to induce and during labour. I created this fact sheet to help women make informed decisions about treatment and through my work with various Hypnobirthing groups in Bristol and Cornwall, this information is being distributed to women in those groups... I thought i may as well share it here too!
Acupuncture for all your pregnancy needs
Acupuncture is a centuries old, tried and tested medicine used to help women deliver millions upon millions of healthy babies. The difficulty is that during pregnancy, quick decisions often need to be made about which treatment is right & what treatments out there actually do work? It can be a very anxious time for an expectant mother and so this fact sheet is aimed at trying to give mothers some helpful advice so they can decide what is right for themselves and their baby.
Finding out the baby's sex
In China, the ancient diagnostic method of pulse-taking was used as the standard way to determine the sex of a baby with astounding accuracy. In fact, the tradition is still used today and your acupuncturist should be able to tell you the sex of the baby, especially by the third trimester (as long as the mother isn't expecting twins of different sexes).
Acupuncture for pregnancy nausea has long been recognised to help. In fact some NHS services offer acupuncture for just this depending on the area you live in. Travel sickness wristbands, which are often thought to double up as morning anti-sickness bands, work by putting pressure on an acupuncture point. The difficulty is, if you don't know exactly where that point is, the wristband will be useless. An acupuncturist will be able to accurately locate the correct area to apply pressure. They will also use needles to effectively stop nausea and sickness and often only one treatment is required.
Acupuncture to prevent miscarriage
It is important to say that if there is a defect in the foetus then unfortunately acupuncture will not be able to save the baby as miscarriage can be a natural process. However if you are habitually miscarrying then there is clearly a problem. Acupuncture is used to help bring the mother's body back to optimum health so that the foetus has the best possible chance to develop and grow, enabling the mother to carry the baby to full term.
Acupuncture to turn breech babies
It has long been a tradition to turn babies with this age old method. Many studies have been conducted which prove that this method has a very high success rate. An acupuncturist will use moxa, which is a herb made from the mugwort plant. The herb is moulded into a cigar-like stick and is set alight and smoulders near specific acupuncture points. The mother is given homework to do this herself every evening until the baby turns. It has instant effects and the mother will be able to feel the baby moving once the heat is applied.
Acupuncture to induce babies
Again, acupuncture to induce babies has a long tradition and is actually quite simple. All an acupuncturist needs to do is encourage the mother's energy to move downwards. Again, acupuncture treatment will not force nature and so if the baby needs a little more time then treatment will not start the birthing process immediately but it will get the body ready for imminent labour by starting to open and stretch the cervix. Once this begins the baby will too be preparing and birth will be shortly round the corner!
Verity Allen Acupuncture
Not had a chance to blog recently due to pressure of work but I felt motivated to talk about the limitations of treatment for stroke suffererers since I spend a good proportion of my time treating stroke patients long after the initial episode and find it frustrating that I can't get to them sooner.
Acupuncture is now proven to be effective in the treatment of back pain. NICE guidelines support the use of acupuncture for lower back pain - according to this guideline, acupuncture is significantly better than no intervention and also significantly better than standard/best medical care. So why then is it too difficult to believe that it would not work on any other part of the body? In China, they don't only suffer with back pain. Acupuncture is a complete system of medicine so it needed to be robust enough to treat any disorder, be it of mind or body.
The modern advances of Western medicine have been truly phenomenal in the last century, with keyhole surgery, heart bypasses and organ transplants to name a few of the wonders of what man and machine can achieve. However, in this bid to continually modernise and improve procedures, we have left behind some methods of medicine that have been tried and tested for centuries and by not accepting the failings as well as the triumphs of Western medicine we are failing patients.
For example, Western medicine is drastically falling behind the East in treating stroke. According to the 2010 China Connection Global Report, patients received better care in the Tianjin Hospital Program than patients in the U.S.
85 percent are able to walk without assistance (Only 51 percent of U.S. patients completing rehabilitation in the U.S. walk without assistance).
95 percent regain almost complete knee flexion compared with 50 percent in the U.S.
98 percent return to live in their homes instead of long term care facilities while only 68 percent of U.S. stroke patients are able to live in their own homes.
The Tianjin Hospital patients also saw decreases in blood pressure and cholesterol with 46 percent of patients reducing their blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medications.
A stroke for somebody in the Western world often means paralysis or speech difficulty for the rest of that persons life. In China, stroke really isn't an issue. The patient would have intensive acupuncture treatment immediately after the stroke and they'd be able to return home fairly quickly with often barely any remnants of stroke left remaining.
So why then do we not adopt the Chinese approach and have acupuncture provided in specialist stroke units? It's very cheap to do and would save millions of pounds on anti-seizure drugs. I'm sure you don't need me to answer that one. I have several theories, all of which don't have the patients interests at heart, however I think the key thing here is that for acupuncture to be recognised to treat stroke in the UK, sufficient evidence must be gleaned under controlled trials, and who's willing to pay for these trials?
The fact is that acupuncture is successfully used to treat a wide range of ailments. It would take me a long time to list all the illnesses I've treated but I know that I have significantly improved every single one of them and patients will agree. I may not have been able to make them all 100% better but their symptoms have improved. However, because I don't have thousands of pounds to conduct a trial, I can't prove it. I urge everybody suffering with any kind of problem to seek out a qualified acupuncturist. You have absolutely nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.
Shi Xuemin, "Diagnostic and therapeutic system of apoplexy with acupuncture therapy as its focus", Number 1 Teaching Hospital, Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tianjin, China
Verity Allen - BSc, BA, MBAcC, Lic Ac