Ideal times for acupuncture in pregnancy
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Ideal times for acupuncture in pregnancy

Pregnant woman sitting on her bed holding and looking at her pregnant belly smiling.

Ideal times for acupuncture in pregnancy

“Acupuncture is the hidden gem of pregnancy self care” a client recently told me at a postpartum session. Acupuncture is awesome in pregnancy but many folks often wonder when is the right time to get acupuncture in pregnancy. 

Here are some loose guidelines for the best times to get acupuncture in pregnancy:

Labor preparation: weekly sessions beginning at 35 weeks

In late pregnancy acupuncture is wonderful to prepare the body for birth. Research supports that people that have received regular acupuncture at the end of pregnancy have shorter “more timely” labors. Beginning at roughly 35 weeks into pregnancy, acupuncture helps to reduce stress and anxiety, prepare the cervix, and encourage optimal fetal positioning. Many folks enjoy acupuncture more than once a week in the last weeks of pregnancy as it helps them feel great. Others will choose to begin regular acupuncture closer to 30 weeks for the same reason. 

A note about induction acupuncture: Acupuncture works with your body to help prepare for birth. Acupuncture also works on a cumulative level with each additional session becoming more effective. Because many people have heard that acupuncture is helpful to start labor, it is not uncommon for folks to show up to their first acupuncture visit at 41 weeks with a medical induction on calendar only a few days later. Acupuncture may work for these folks but regular acupuncture beginning several weeks earlier is recommended to avoid being in this position. 

Breech presentation: 34-36 weeks, or at discovery of position

Roughly 3% of babies do not settle into the head down position at the end of pregnancy. These families are presented with the option of a scheduled cesarean birth or a manual version, a physical attempt by providers to push the baby into position from outside the mother’s abdomen. If breech position is discovered between 34 – 37 weeks, there is a good chance your baby would flip with acupuncture and moxibustion. If you are further along in your pregnancy, it may still be worth a try. Avoid a surprise breech discovery in the last few weeks of pregnancy by asking your midwife or doctor to palpate your belly for baby’s position at every appointment after 30 weeks. 

Postpartum: 4-6 weeks postpartum

We do a great job taking care of ourselves in pregnancy but as soon as baby is born, self care is out the window. There are actually more physical and emotional demands postpartum considering the interrupted sleep, caloric breastfeeding demands and hormonal shifts. As one of my favorite midwives says, we can’t nourish our families without being nourished ourselves. Seeking the care of an experienced acupuncturist postpartum can help speed recovery, balance hormones, encourage healthy milk supply, and later regulate the menstrual cycle. 4-6 weeks postpartum is a great window for your initial postpartum visit to perform traditional postpartum healing techniques and create a custom treatment plan moving forward. 

Stress: anytime

Stress is omnipresent these days and pregnancy is no exception. In fact, many folks spend a lot of time in the “fight or flight” nervous state. Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to reduce stress and get folks into a more relaxed state. Many people have also found acupuncture to be effective for reducing anxiety and depression in pregnancy. If stress, anxiety, depression or other emotional challenges in pregnancy, seek out the care of an acupuncturist anytime in your pregnancy. 

Wellness: anytime

Many people like to get acupuncture in pregnancy simply because if feels great. As my client recently said “acupuncture is the hidden gem of pregnancy self care, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t do it!” Regular acupuncture in pregnancy also offers a rare quiet moment to connect to your body and your baby. This can help build trust and confidence in your body benefiting you in birth. Your treatment plan will be customized to your stage in pregnancy, your body’s needs, and your own wishes. 

Pain: at onset

Most folks will deal with some type of pain in pregnancy. Low back pain, pubic pain, carpal tunnel, headaches, and heartburn are all very common. Pain is most effectively treated at the onset in pregnancy as the hormones your body produces in preparation for birth often exacerbate pain conditions. If you are suffering from pain in pregnancy, seek out acupuncture anytime.

In short, feel free to seek out acupuncture anytime in pregnancy but do be sure to visit an acupuncturist with expertise in pregnancy. Depending on your health history and stage in pregnancy, an experienced acupuncturist may suggest alternatives to acupuncture. I recommend finding someone with appropriate clinical experience as well as additional training in supporting the emotional needs of pregnant folks such as doula training.