Meet acupuncture, your pregnancy ally
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Meet acupuncture, your pregnancy ally

Black and white photo of a standing pregnant woman standing near a window holding her belly.

Meet acupuncture, your pregnancy ally

Growing a human is no small feat. If you are like most of us, you will experience at least a few discomforts in your pregnancy. Nausea and fatigue in the first trimester, some random pain in the second, heartburn and difficulty sleeping in the third… Guess what, you don’t have to just suffer through all of that! Prenatal acupuncture can help!

Here are five common pregnancy conditions you may not know acupuncture can help alleviate:


Many folks accept constipation as a normal part of pregnancy. It doesn’t have to be! Constipation tends to affect people in pregnancy for a number of reasons. The increased hormones are thought to relax the smooth muscles of the digestive tract which can slow down bowel movements. Water, a good go-to for constipation, is often less appealing due to already quite frequent urination. Nausea can make it difficult to get enough fiber as food just doesn’t sound good. As the pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus can place pressure on the intestines preventing a thorough and satisfying bowel movement. Many women supplement with iron in pregnancy which can sometimes cause constipation as well. 

how does acupuncture relieve constipation?

Acupuncture itself is a safe way to encourage complete and regular bowel movements. Depending on your specific constitution and overall health, your acupuncturist will come up with a customized acupuncture treatment plan for you. Because acupuncture tends to address the root of the problem, the treatments will likely improve other seemingly unrelated symptoms you may be dealing with. Typically, your practitioner will also offer nutritional advice from a Chinese medicine perspective.


Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms experienced in pregnancy. Heartburn describes the burning pain that is felt when digestive juices flow back up the sphincter at the top the stomach and into the esophagus. This is particularly common towards the end of pregnancy as internal organs are squished by the growing baby. Heartburn can range from mild to severe and may result in inadequate food intake and difficultly sleeping. Just like constipation, the increased hormones in pregnancy relax the smooth muscle of the digestive tract leading to heartburn. 

How can acupuncture help heartburn?

Rarely does anyone come into the office with heartburn as their primary complaint. Just like so many other pregnancy related symptoms, people think they just have to live with it. When they find out that we can easily address it while working on the issue that brought them in, they are thrilled. Often times, even just one needle placed on each foot is enough to offer relief. Dietary advice may be offered in addition to acupuncture.

Pubic Pain

Hormonal changes in pregnancy can cause various types of musculoskeletal pain beginning as early as the first trimester. As the fetus grows the mother’s muscles and joints compensate placing even more stress on loosening ligaments. One common area people experience pain is at the pubic bone. At the end of the second trimester, the pubic symphysis joint can begin to separate slightly in preparation for the birth. This can result in a grating or burning pain especially noticeable after getting up or prolonged walking. Often this will resolve after a few weeks though for some folks it can continue through the third trimester. 

What can acupuncture do about pubic pain?

Acupuncture is probably best known for treating musculoskeletal pain and pain in pregnancy is no exception. Acupuncture excels in the treatment of pain by regulating the energy flow in the channels that run through the painful area. For pubic pain, this may mean using acupuncture points along channels that run along the inside and outside of the legs and feet. It is helpful to begin treatments as close to the onset of pain as possible. Other common pregnancy related musculoskeletal pains that respond well to acupuncture include neck pain, back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel, rib pain, and leg cramps. 


Many folks present with sinus pain and congestion in pregnancy. Hormone changes in pregnancy may lead to drying out of the membranes lining the nasal passages which can predispose a person to congestion and sinusitis. 

How does acupuncture improve sinusitis?

Acupuncture itself offers temporary relief of sinus pressure and congestion in pregnancy. For more long term relief, acupuncture combined with dietary changes can be helpful. After a thorough evaluation of your health history and presentation, your practitioner will present you a treatment plan for acupuncture as well as dietary suggestions. 

Anxiety and depression in pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a physically and emotionally intense experience in a person’s life. Change is abound both physically and hormonally, as well as in terms of lifestyle. Given all of this, common emotional responses can range from joy and elation to weepiness and irritability. However, you should seek out help if you experience exaggerated mood swings, significant sleep disturbance, prolonged periods of low appetite unrelated to morning sickness, unusual levels of high or low energy, or loss of interest in activities that normally bring you joy. Your midwife, doctor, therapist, or counselor are all good resources. Acupuncture in tandem with other professional help is a great way to get the emotional support you need. 

how can acupuncture support someone with anxiety and depression?

In Chinese medicine, emotions are related to different organ systems in the body. For example, the liver is related to anger, the lungs to sadness, and the heart to joy. When an emotion becomes prolonged or excessive, there is a disharmony within that organ system. Acupuncture addresses those disharmonies seeking to re-establish balance within all the systems. Just a few acupuncture needles can sooth the “fight or flight” nervous response and get you into a more relaxed state. Just like with any other symptom a person presents with, your treatment will depend on your overall health and constitution. In addition to acupuncture, your practitioner may also make diet and lifestyle recommendations. 

Acupuncture is a wonderful ally in pregnancy!

Not only can it help to alleviate common pregnancy related symptoms and help prepare the body for labor, it also offers a quiet moment to connect with your body and your baby. This time helps you to build the trust in your body necessary for labor and birth. If you have other children at home, acupuncture offers a much needed quiet moment to focus on yourself and your new baby while addressing any discomforts you may have.

It is important to note that acupuncture is rarely a one-time fix for any symptom and that generally a series of treatments is suggested. After the relaxing affects of acupuncture are felt at the first visit, most folks look forward to their next session. In pregnancy, acupuncture is wonderful as weekly self-care. As you near the end of pregnancy, the focus of treatments can shift to include preparation for a smooth and timely labor. If you discover that your baby is in a poor position for labor such as breech (head up) or posterior (facing your front rather than your back), your acupuncturist can add points to help encourage fetal movement. Check out this blog post to learn about the ideal times for acupuncture in pregnancy.

If you have found acupuncture to be helpful in pregnancy, please help spread the word! Most folks don’t know the extent to which acupuncture can help. If you are currently looking for an acupuncturist to see in pregnancy, be sure to seek out a practitioner with expertise in pregnancy. If you are in the Portland metro area, book a free consult on schedule an initial intake to get started!