Will Acupuncture Help My Pregnancy Symptoms?

Acupuncture in Pregnancy

Pregnancy can sometimes feel like a mix of pleasure and pain. On the one hand, your body is a literal miracle machine. You’re creating new life, and my, don’t you glow! 

But on the other hand… 

Maybe the reason you’re “glowing” is from all the lovely morning sickness sweat. Or now your back is hurting, or here comes another headache

Pregnancy is a lot of work. It also can bring on some uncomfortable symptoms. You may be wondering if these symptoms will ever go away? I promise, they will eventually!

But in the meantime, it would be nice to have some relief. Wouldn’t it?

Luckily, there are many options available for relieving unpleasant pregnancy aches and pains.

One of these options is acupuncture

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy used for a variety of purposes. It is a therapy with a rich history, dating back 3,000 years. “Qi” (pronounced “chee”) is a major component of acupuncture. “Qi” refers to the “vital energy or life force” believed to flow through pathways in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these pathways, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance. 

Acupuncture stimulates your central nervous system, and creates a biochemical reaction. This may cause your body to go into “self-healing” mode. In other words, it can unleash your body’s natural healing abilities.

Many people have success with acupuncture and swear by it as an effective pain relief therapy for a variety of ailments. 

In fact, over 10 million acupuncture treatments happen annually in the U.S.

Here are a few ailments that acupuncture may relieve:

  • Headaches/migraines
  • Nausea
  • Dental pain
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain 
  • Cramping 
  • Allergies 
  • Insomnia

Many pregnant women explore acupuncture therapy. Almost everything on this list is a possible pregnancy symptom or ailment.

#1 – How Acupuncture Works

If you schedule an appointment with an acupuncturist, here’s what you can expect. 

First, it’s important to know that different acupuncturists may have a unique style. Some may blend a variety of techniques coming from both Eastern and Western influences. 

Before the appointment, they will likely ask you about…

  • The pain you are experiencing
  • Your lifestyle
  • Your common behaviors 

They’ll likely examine… 

  • The area where you are experiencing pain or discomfort 
  • The color of your tongue 
  • The coloring of your face 
  • Your pulse 

From this information, they will make a plan to develop your therapy. Sessions can take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. It usually depends on the type of pain you’re having. 

All acupuncture sessions include: 

  • Needle insertion 
  • Need manipulation 
  • Needle removal 

Needles are inserted in different areas and at different depths. They will closely examine your area of concern and place needles at certain pressure points.  

The needles are very thin, so insertion usually causes little discomfort. People often don’t feel them inserted at all. A typical treatment uses 5 to 20 needles. You may feel a mild aching sensation when a needle reaches the correct depth. 

They will gently move or twist needles after placement. Sometimes, there is mild heat, pressure, friction, or suction involved. There should be a discussion about these options beforehand.

Typically, needles need to remain in place for about 10 to 15 minutes. 

#2 – Benefits of Acupuncture 

People from all walks of life have found acupuncture beneficial. This includes pregnant women too!

Here are a few benefits: 

  • Chronic pain management 
  • Relief from nausea 
  • Relief from headaches 
  • Lower back pain relief 
  • Better mood 

Also, a quick, important fact: 

Many believe acupuncture treatment to be highly psychological. People usually find acupuncture most effective when they believe it will work.

If they don’t, results tend to not be as effective. In other words, your mind and body need to work together to increase effectiveness. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t think it will work, chances are it might not.

#3 – Risks of Acupuncture 

As with any medical procedure, there are risks you should know about. Most risks associated with acupuncture are minor. 

Here are a few possible risks:

  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Pain, redness, and bleeding at needle insertion points 
  • Soreness 
  • Needle breakage, causing damage to the skin or internal organs (rare) 

Make sure you make an appointment with a licensed acupuncturist. They will have the proper equipment– sterile, non-toxic needles regulated by the FDA. 

Acupuncture is often used as a complementary therapy. It may not be the “end all be all” therapy for your ailments. Results vary greatly from person to person. Some feel results after one session, while others take more sessions.

In fact, for most people, it is not a “quick fix.” Many acupuncturists recommend 6 to 8 sessions for you to see results. It also greatly depends on your needs, body, and energy. 

#4 – Moxibustion and Acupuncture: Common uses, techniques, and benefits for pregnancy

Moxibustion is also a technique rooted in Chinese medicine, its history going back many centuries. It involves burning mugwort, also called “moxa”, which is a small, spongy herb used to treat many different health conditions. 

During the procedure, your acupuncturist can strategically place and burn mugwort herb on or near certain areas of your body. 

There are two different ways your acupuncturist can perform moxibustion

Direct Moxibustion 

In this type of moxibustion, your acupuncturist places cone-shaped moxa directly on your skin. 

Then, they lightly burn it until you feel the heat on your skin. Before actual burning occurs, it will be removed. 

With this method, you will feel a comfortable heating sensation. This shouldn’t cause any blistering or scarring, as long as the moxa is removed soon enough. 

Indirect Moxibustion 

This type of moxibustion is much more popular because the moxa is not burned directly on your skin. 

Your acupuncturist lights one end of a moxa stick and holds it close to an acupuncture point. They will leave it above your skin for a few minutes until that particular area turns red. In this method there is little danger of being burned. 

Another indirect moxibustion method is placing the moxa onto acupuncture needles, allowing the heat to travel to your body through the needles. 

Moxibustion and Pregnancy 

Moxibustion is recommended by acupuncturists for a variety of reasons during pregnancy: 

  • To aid in flipping breech babies
  • To help induce labor
  • To potentially decrease your chances of a c-section birth 

Many pregnant women have found success with moxibustion paired with acupuncture.

One study of 226 women who received moxibustion and acupuncture together showed a 27% decrease in having a breech baby at birth. The same study also found this treatment decreased c-section rates by 21%. 

So, yes, there have been some successes. However, studies across the board have scattered results. This means there hasn’t been a definitive relationship found.

Does moxibustion directly impact a breech baby? Does it induce labor?

We can’t say it happens the majority of the time.

We need more studies to properly define this relationship.

But, as far as the studies reflect, moxibustion does not put your baby in danger. It is safe. 

So, if you are looking into labor induction methods or ways to flip a breech baby, you could look to this as an option.

Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work. Acupuncture and moxibustion can be excellent methods to try, but they are not the only ones. 

Weigh your options, use the information, and decide what is best for you. 

#5 – Talk To Your Doula About Acupuncture and Pregnancy

Walk through your pregnancy journey with us!

At Buddha Belly Doulas, we want to hear any questions you have about pregnancy, birth, or postpartum. Our doulas are prepared to sit down and walk you through ways they can support you. 

Here are a few services we offer: 

We can’t wait to support you throughout your pregnancy and birth journey. 

Schedule a time to talk to us here

Also check out: 6 Common Pregnancy Ailments and Easy Remedies to Help or Understanding The Hormones of Early Pregnancy


About Christie Collbran

Christie believes in helping women recognize their own inner wisdom, strength and power. Having served as President of the Tampa Bay Birth Network for six years and with ten years serving families as a birth doula, she has a reputation for leadership, dedication and compassion. A childbirth educator, certified lactation counselor as well as a certified doula, she makes a point of ensuring mothers and their partners understand all their birthing options and what to expect on their journey.> keep reading