Kim Tran
December 22, 2023
8 min

Acupuncture During Pregnancy: An Acupuncturist's Journey

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By Kim Tran, an acupuncturist with a modern approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), where she combines eastern ancient knowledge and mindfulness. She has a degree in Psychology and Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.

Imagine this, you've been helping people for the last years with their fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum journeys as an acupuncturist. But all of a sudden it's your turn. 

After being the copilot on pregnancy journeys, I'm now riding the pregnancy rollercoaster myself. 

In this blog post, I'll share my TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) perspective on creating a tiny human and my own experience of how TCM and acupuncture have made my journey (but also my clients') easier.

10 lunar months of pregnancy

In TCM each month of pregnancy is associated with one of the five elements. The elements according to TCM are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. 

They each represent one of the phases of pregnancy and the normal development of the baby as well as the physical and emotional well-being of the mother. The elements create an interesting framework for pregnancy with a perspective coming from ancient East Asian wisdom. 

The five elements

Wood (Liver): This is the first phase characterized by conception and the early development of the mini baby. Wood is associated with growth

And this comes along with all those hormonal changes. In TCM we say it is important to nourish the liver and the blood during this stage. This is to strengthen the early development of the baby and prevent miscarriage.

Fire (Heart): As the pregnancy progresses, we move into the Fire element.  Where the heart, kidneys, and brains of the baby are completed. In TCM it's the time there will be a deeper development of emotional connection with the baby

Our fire element and Heart organ are connected to many emotions, including joy. In this stage, we practice calming the Heart Qi.   

Earth (Spleen): After these phases, the five motor senses of the baby will be completed. And their temperament will be formed

The Earth element represents the nurturing and stabilizing phase, emphasizing the importance of a TCM-approved and balanced diet, rest, and stabilizing your emotions. Feed the Spleen to nourish Spleen Qi during this phase.

Metal (Lung): Next is Metal which is marked by the refinement of baby's development and their perception of the outside world. They express themselves by movement during this period. The Lungs spread the Wei Qi. 

When this is out of balance, we experience shortness of breath, weak immune systems, and skin issues. During this phase, it's even more important to keep away from ice and cold. 

Water (Kidney): The end of the pregnancy journey is associated with the Water element. During this time TCM says baby decides when they are complete and orients themselves to the light. This phase has an emphasis on conserving Qi for labor and birth. 

My personal pregnancy journey

I expected quite some things from my pregnancy. From spiritually moving through all the five elements phases to a beautiful time bonding with the baby while having a pregnancy glow and a cute belly. 

Instead, it was a real rollercoaster, where those things did happen, but instead of pregnancy glow, I got a bad case of pregnancy acne, along with anxiety, nausea, SI joint drama, the never-ending fatigue, a small accident, worrying scan results at week 20 and more. 

What treating my awesome clients has taught me

Being involved in a very different and interesting pregnancy journey I knew I wasn't totally going crazy. I could see in clinical settings what could be done to relieve the pregnancy symptoms with acupuncture not only in the first but also second and third trimesters. 

In the last few years I've been involved in treating horrible sciatic pain cases, pelvic instability, mood swings, insomnia, and many more discomforts. Even in the third trimester, I was able to help with breech baby positions to turn them. 

Acupuncture can be the therapy during the whole pregnancy. And for me, it's my go-to for keeping myself sane during my own and even turning my breech baby. 

Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?

Hopefully, you now are wondering if acupuncture is your pregnancy go-to. Well, in my opinion, it totally is. 

Many studies show that this ancient technique is safe to do during pregnancy and can offer good holistic support for both the physical and emotional aspects of pregnancy. 

Are there any acupuncture points to avoid during pregnancy?

There are acupuncture points to avoid during pregnancy, but a licensed practitioner is always well-informed about that. 

How often to do acupuncture during pregnancy? 

I recommend it to be done at least 3 times during an uncomplicated pregnancy and more when needed. 

In the first trimester (when there's a lot of nausea), a couple of bi-weekly sessions are recommended. Towards the end of pregnancy, weekly sessions to get the baby into the right position, but also to support and induce labor. If you want to know more about that, follow me on Instagram or read more in my next blog.

Kim is an acupuncturist with a modern approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), where she combines eastern ancient knowledge and West. She has a degree in Psychology and Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. She is excited to share her knowledge and experience with the Mamamoon community. With a passion for women's health and well-being, she provides personalized acupuncture treatments and gives you modern tools and tips to address a wide range of concerns, from pregnancy symptoms and discomforts during the first, second, and third trimester to pain, insomnia, postpartum recovery and also menstrual issues and (peri)menopause symptoms.

Besides running her practice since 2020, she has always been connected to the ancient East Asian healing practices through her family. Both her dad and mom's family were active in Chinese Medicine in Vietnam and the Netherlands. At a young age, she could already witness stories of her family helping patients with acupuncture and the modalities of TCM.

In her clinic close to Amsterdam Central Station, Kim provides personalized acupuncture treatments with a modern and compassionate approach to help you understand TCM and how it can help you on your journey to better health and well-being.

You can learn more about Kim and her work if you visit her website, or follow her on Instagram.

Acupuncture during pregnancy - Additional FAQs

Let’s answer some more questions about acupuncture in pregnancy.

What are the benefits of acupuncture during pregnancy?

Acupuncture offers a range of potential advantages for expectant mothers, providing holistic support throughout the journey of pregnancy. Some key benefits of acupuncture during pregnancy include:

1. Alleviation of pregnancy discomforts

Acupuncture can effectively address common discomforts such as nausea, back pain, fatigue, and headaches. Stimulating specific points helps ease these symptoms, offering relief without the use of medications that might be contraindicated during pregnancy.

2. Stress and anxiety reduction

Pregnancy often comes with heightened stress and anxiety. Acupuncture sessions promote relaxation by triggering the release of endorphins, the body's natural stress relievers. This aids in managing emotional well-being during this transformative period.

3. Preparation for labor and delivery

Regular acupuncture sessions in the later stages of pregnancy may help prepare the body for labor. Certain acupuncture points are believed to encourage optimal positioning of the baby and support the natural progression of labor when the time comes.

4. Hormonal balance

Acupuncture is known to influence hormonal levels in the body. This balance can help regulate menstrual cycles and during pregnancy, support overall hormonal harmony, potentially reducing complications.

5. Improved sleep quality

Many pregnant individuals struggle with sleep disturbances. Acupuncture's calming effects can enhance sleep quality, allowing for more restful nights and better overall health.

6. Complementary therapy

When integrated with conventional prenatal care, acupuncture serves as a complementary therapy. It works in tandem with standard medical treatments to enhance overall well-being during pregnancy.

How can acupuncture help you in your third trimester?

As pregnancy progresses into the third trimester, the body undergoes significant changes in preparation for childbirth. Acupuncture during this crucial phase offers several advantages:

1. Pain relief and comfort

With the increased weight and size of the baby, many mothers experience discomfort, particularly in the back, hips, and pelvis. Acupuncture can effectively alleviate these aches and pains, providing much-needed relief without medications that may pose risks during pregnancy.

2. Preparation for labor

Acupuncture sessions in the third trimester may focus on specific points that encourage the body to prepare for labor. Stimulating these points can help ripen the cervix, promote optimal fetal positioning, and even stimulate contractions in the later stages, though this should always be done under professional guidance.

3. Energy boost and stress reduction

Fatigue tends to intensify in the third trimester. Acupuncture can help boost energy levels by balancing the body's energy flow. Additionally, it aids in reducing stress and anxiety, fostering a more relaxed state of mind as the due date approaches.

4. Addressing swelling and fluid retention

Swelling, especially in the feet, ankles, and hands, is common in late pregnancy due to fluid retention. Acupuncture helps improve circulation and reduces fluid buildup, offering relief from swelling and discomfort.

5. Preparation for postpartum recovery

Preparing the body for postpartum recovery is essential. Acupuncture can assist in strengthening the body, supporting recovery post-delivery, and aiding in the transition into the postpartum phase.

Can acupuncture during pregnancy help prevent miscarriage?

Acupuncture during pregnancy is generally used to support overall well-being and address specific discomforts, but its ability to prevent miscarriage isn't definitively supported by scientific evidence. While some studies suggest that acupuncture might help support a healthy pregnancy by reducing stress and promoting relaxation, there isn't substantial empirical evidence to conclusively prove that acupuncture prevents miscarriage.

Miscarriages can happen due to various reasons, many of which are beyond the scope of what acupuncture can directly influence. Factors such as genetic abnormalities, hormonal imbalances, structural issues, or other medical conditions typically contribute to miscarriages.

Can acupuncture help with pregnancy nausea?

Absolutely! Acupuncture has shown promise in helping with pregnancy-related nausea, commonly known as morning sickness. By targeting specific points in the body, acupuncture can alleviate nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It works by regulating hormones, particularly those related to pregnancy, and by promoting relaxation, which can ease the symptoms of nausea.

Research suggests that acupuncture may effectively reduce the severity and frequency of nausea experienced during pregnancy, offering relief without the need for medications that might carry potential risks for the developing baby.

However, it's important to consult with a qualified acupuncturist and your healthcare provider before starting acupuncture sessions during pregnancy to ensure a safe and tailored approach to manage nausea.

Can acupuncture help with sciatica during pregnancy?

Acupuncture may help alleviate sciatic pain during pregnancy by targeting specific points to reduce inflammation, relax muscles, and improve circulation along the sciatic nerve. 

However, it's essential to consult both an acupuncturist experienced in prenatal care and your healthcare provider for guidance on safety and suitability.