For some women, pregnancy feels great: they have great energy, thicker hair and a certain glow about them. For other women, pregnancy can be less glamorous: constipation, hemorrhoids, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatic pain, fatigue, insomnia, swollen hands and feet, and varicose veins just to name a few symptoms. It takes a lot of energy to create a human being and the process can really take its toll on the mother. The good news is that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine has been helping women through their pregnancies and beyond for thousands of years.
Ideally women should begin their acupuncture treatments before becoming pregnant in order to create the optimum "growth environment" for the baby. The healthier the mom (and dad) are before conception, the healthier the baby will be. Just like DNA and hereditary tendencies, any imbalances that exist in the parents can be passed on the child, so regulating the parents' Qi will benefit the baby.
Once a woman becomes pregnant, acupuncture can help with common symptoms, like constipation, hemorrhoids, nausea/vomiting, anxiety and fatigue, as well as other odd symptoms, like sciatica, chronic rhinitis, moodiness, bloating, and heartburn. Acupuncturists can also guide the mother-to-be toward blood building foods that will help nourish her body to better support the growing fetus.
Some great blood building foods are (grass-fed) beef, beets, spinach, mushrooms, grapes and oats. To help with constipation, adding dried figs to the diet can nourish the blood and help moisten the stools. Staying hydrated is also important. Urinary frequency typically increases with pregnancy, but since the blood volume also increases, drinking enough water is crucial (about half your body weight in ounces per day). Acupuncture can help support the Kidneys, which according to Chinese medicine regulate the reproductive system and hormones, in addition to controlling urination. Acupuncture can also help with energy levels, improve sleep quality and keep the bowels moving.
For the final weeks in the third trimester, there are acupuncture treatments to turn a baby who is breech (ideally between 35-38 weeks--after that usually there isn't enough room to turn the baby), and to encourage "ripening" of the cervix and uterine contractions which can help move a woman toward labor, when the time comes.
Once the baby is born (the "fourth trimester") the mother is both recovering from childbirth as well as feeding her new baby. The physical and emotional exhaustion of childbirth on top of the physical trauma of either vaginal or cesarean birth requires a significant healing period; add to that the life-sucking additional energy expended by breast feeding, and the emotional ups and downs, many women can feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Mothers need support, especially during this first month. Give her warm, cooked foods like soups and stews that help her regain her Blood and Qi while healing her body. Here is a nice recipe for such a soup (I recommend without the alcohol). Eating simple, nourishing foods will support the health of both the mother and the baby. For women who are having trouble producing enough milk, there are herbal remedies to help increase lactation and milk production.
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