Is It Safe to Use Acupuncture in Pregnancy?

Jillian O Keeffe

Pregnant women are typically unsuitable candidates for many medicinal treatments due to the potential risk to the baby, but some procedures are regarded as safe during this time. Acupuncture in pregnancy, as of 2011, appears to be relatively safe, but certain needle positions should not be used. In addition, pregnant women considering acupuncture should check the acupuncturist is qualified and reputable, as some countries do not require licensing for this type of procedure.

Acupuncture appears to be safe during pregnancy, and it can be combined with massage therapy as well.
Acupuncture appears to be safe during pregnancy, and it can be combined with massage therapy as well.

Contractions of the muscles of the uterus and the abdomen are the basis of labor, and as early labor is dangerous to both mother and child, all precautions should be taken to avoid triggering premature contractions. If an acupuncturist inserts needles in the skin of the lower back, or places them too deep into the skin, the woman's muscles may be at risk of contraction.

Some acupuncturists may recommend that women who are less than three months pregnant avoid acupuncture treatment altogether. In the later weeks of pregnancy, the practitioner typically inserts the needles less deeply than usual, and chooses insertion sites that are further away from the abdomen and lower back than would otherwise be the case. Acupressure, which is a technique that uses pressure on certain points instead of needles, may be used in addition to the needles, and massage may be incorporated as well.

Although acupuncture in pregnancy is generally considered safe as of 2011, pregnant women should check the most up to date information on this subject, in case new evidence for or against the treatment has come to light. In addition to the immediate risks to pregnancy of premature labor, acupuncture in pregnancy does carry other risks, although these are uncommon in reputable acupuncture clinics. These risks include infection at the site of needle insertion, allergic reaction to the metal of the needles, or temporary localized pain. In some cases, the condition treated may even become worse for a time.

Certain medications, like blood thinners, may cause abnormal bleeding from the insertion sites; this may also occur in people with hemophilia. If an acupuncturist recommends taking a herbal treatment as well as the acupuncture in pregnancy, women should be aware that herbs may be unsafe during pregnancy. Women should also be check that their acupuncturists have official qualifications, and are regulated by a reputable organization, as acupuncture may not require stringent checks and licensing in all areas of the world.

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