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Obstetrics & Acupuncture

Pregnancy is a physiological state, but even when a woman has an uncomplicated pregnancy she may suffer with back and pelvic pain, nausea, indigestion or emotional problems such as anxiety and depression.

When the fetus is in the breech position, labour can be complicated. Labour consists of a series of rhythmic, involuntary, progressive contractions of the uterus that cause effacement (thinning and shortening) and dilation of the uterine cervix. In a first pregnancy, labour usually lasts 12 to 18 hours on average; subsequent labors are often shorter, averaging 6 to 8 hours. During labour, most women need some form of analgesia, and some may require local anaesthesia during stitching if they tear during the birth. Normal labour usually begins within 2 weeks (before or after) the estimated delivery date.


In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation (Hui 2010)

In pregnant women, acupuncture may help to

  • relieve pain (e.g. back pain, labour pain), improve mood and reduce anxiety, alleviate dyspepsia, and turn a fetus who is breech by:

  • increasing relaxation and reducing tension (Samuels 2008). Acupuncture can alter the brain’s mood chemistry, reducing serotonin levels (Zhou 2008), and increasing endorphins (Han, 2004) and neuropeptide Y levels (Lee 2009), which can help to combat negative affective states.

  • stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz, 1987; Zhao 2008; Cheng 2009);

  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007);

  • increasing cortico-adrenal secretion, placental estrogens, and changes in prostaglandin levels, which leads to raised basal tone of the uterus and enhanced movement of the fetus, thus making version more likely (Van den Berg 2008).



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