Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine is ideal for use during pregnancy and childbirth as it offers a safe, easy to administer, inexpensive treatment for women. Because of the high potential for side effects from modern Western pharmaceuticals, many midwives and expectant mothers find it to be an effective alternative. With the avoidance of certain points, an acupuncturist can treat a woman during pregnancy without causing harm to the mother or baby. Because acupuncture can be deeply relaxing, the pregnant woman often falls asleep during a treatment and enjoys a much-needed rest.
Stagnation of a woman’s Qi and blood typically slow the process of labour and can make it more painful. Acupuncture acts to create and move more Qi and blood through the body, thereby clearing stagnation and allowing for an easier and shorter labour. Other conditions that acupuncture may help during pregnancy include nausea, heartburn, headaches, constipation, haemorrhoids and backache. Acupuncture is also effective for turning breech presentations, inducing labour, reducing the discomfort of contractions, and helping to expel the placenta.
While acupuncture can only manipulate Qi that is already available in the body, moxibustion, the burning of the dried herb mugwort on or over various acupuncture points of the body, is believed to add Qi to the body. This makes it the treatment of choice for breech presentation when used during the final month of pregnancy. Since moxibustion does not require needles, midwives can be easily trained in its application. Moxibustion decreases the number of breech births and their complications, as well as potentially reducing the frequency of Caesarean sections.
Some of the most common postpartum difficulties treatable by Chinese medicine include insomnia, fainting or dizziness, abdominal pain, depression, fatigue, constipation, incontinence, and insufficient lactation.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbal medicine is one of the most sophisticated herbal medicine systems in the world. Typically, combinations of six to 20 ingredients are used in formulas corresponding to an individual’s pattern of disharmony. The formulas are crafted together to act synergistically, each ingredient designed to accomplish a part of the overall process of restoring balance. The multi-ingredient formulas may be decocted and drunk as a strong tea, or taken as a tincture or pill several times per day. Chinese herbs can include roots, barks, fruits, berries, twigs, stems, leaves and flowers, as well as ingredients from the animal and mineral kingdoms.
There are formulas to treat many of the conditions that might arise during pregnancy, delivery and postpartum. For example, herbal medicine can be used to maintain a woman’s strength and vitality during labour. Chinese medicine also has several herbal formulas for vaginal washes or suppositories to tighten and strengthen the vagina postpartum. Because labour, the production of breast milk, and recovery take vast amounts of Qi, Chinese herbs may be prescribed to boost or supplement the Qi and blood.
Massage is a valuable adjunct to a midwifery or nursing practice. Regular massage promotes stress relief, relaxation and maintenance of optimum health (midwives should avoid administering abdominal and sacral massage during the first trimester as they could risk stimulating specific acupuncture points contraindicated in pregnancy).
Hormonal changes contribute to making pregnancy a very emotional time for women. The physical touch of massage can be reassuring and calming, giving a pregnant woman the chance to relax and be nurtured. Massage is particularly effective in the final trimester, especially for the hypertensive woman or one suffering from insomnia.
Several types of massage are encompassed within Chinese medicine including Tui Na, Shiatsu, Thai, and Jin Shin. Chinese massage can influence the entire body, providing mild stimulation to the skin, organs and tissues. Conditions during pregnancy for which massage may be helpful include nausea, vomiting, haemorrhoids, backache, edema, heartburn, anxiety, insomnia, headaches and tiredness.