Pregnancy can be a very eventful time in a woman's life. At one stage calm and tranquil, at another, nothing short of a tidal wave of emotional and physical changes. Almost miraculously, at the end of it all, most new moms seem to have a hazy memory of discomfort.
A few of the discomforts and problems of pregnancy include: morning sickness, anxiety, insomnia, constipation and, in some cases, threatened miscarriage. Chinese medicine uses both herbal preparations and acupuncture to help ease some of these discomforts. During acupuncture, extremely thin needles are inserted in selected acupuncture points and gently stimulated in what is usually a comfortable experience.
Morning sickness, one of the more common discomforts of pregnancy, is characterised by nausea and/or vomiting, which usually occurs between week six and 12 of pregnancy. In this case, the main principle of treatment is to subdue what is referred to as 'rebellious qi' , to stop nausea and vomiting and harmonise the stomach. Acupuncture points above the umbilicus/belly button are needled gently to help minimise these symptoms. During pregnancy, acupuncture points on the lower abdomen are avoided.
This involves the treatment of vaginal bleeding and, in some cases, what is referred to as restless foetus. Depending on all the surrounding circumstances, one or more treatment principles are applied, primarily: nourishing essence/jing (the primary qi related to the reproductive system) and nourishing the blood in the uterus.
In many of these cases, warmth is applied to the acupuncture points during their stimulation with acupuncture needles. Threatened miscarriages because of falls and trauma are addressed in a different manner. Women who have experienced a number of miscarriages should seek treatment prior to becoming pregnant again.
Anxiety and insomnia
Anxiety in pregnancy (zi fan, which refers to the mental restlessness of pregnancy) can be caused or exacerbated by overwork, excessive worry, anger and frustration during pregnancy, which can be further compounded by irregular eating habits and greasy foods. In this case, acupuncture points are stimulated, calming the mind and shen/spirit. The point Yin Tang located on the forehead, between the eyebrows, is a popular acupuncture point. Along with a few other points, acupuncture seeks to restore balance, promote restful sleep and reduce anxiety.
Constipation during pregnancy is a common complaint and is often complicated by haemorrhoids. In Chinese medicine, the treatment is to nourish the blood rather than using purgatives. This can be accomplished with either acupuncture or mild herbal preparations. Additionally, ensuring sufficient fibre in the diet is very helpful.
Diet and lifestyle during pregnancy
Pregnant women should avoid long periods of work and physical exertion without rest. While a pregnant woman should ensure that she gets enough exercise, she is cautioned against overtiring herself. She should also avoid jumping and heavy lifting and should endeavour to get enough rest. The emotional well-being of the mother-to-be is also essential, and so she should avoid emotional stress, worry and anxiety, which can be harmful to the baby.
Dr Tracey-Ann Brown is an oriental medicine practitioner, herbalist and doctor of acupuncture. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.