Pregnancy is, not surprisingly, many things to many people: It can be exciting, magical, scary and even terrifying. It creates an emotional and physical roller coaster.
Ultimately, each pregnancy is unique: some easy, others imbued with physical discomfort.
There are many options for how you experience your pre-, peri- and postnatal care. Complementary-medicine practitioners such as acupuncturists, midwives, massage therapists and chiropractors can help make any discomfort or complications that arise a bit more bearable. You may even learn a great deal about your own body in the process.
Acupuncture and East Asian Medicine
Chinese medicine has long been deeply invested in women’s health, recognizing that the health of the population and culture depends significantly on it. Volumes of information exist, covering topics on women’s cycles, fertility, infertility, pregnancy and postpartum care.
In having a healthy pregnancy, it is important to have a healthy menstrual cycle leading up to conception. If cycles are erratic, painful, scanty or overly heavy, that is a sign some aspects of the body are not in optimal balance.
Certain symptoms that occur during a menstrual cycle considered normal by Western standards can, in Chinese medicine, be a red flag for increased risk of morning sickness, loss of appetite or other issues during pregnancy.
If you are planning to become pregnant and are struggling, there are a number of factors to consider before trying more invasive procedures. Chinese medicine has, roughly, six different primary patterns of infertility.
Both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are very important treatments for each pattern of infertility.
During pregnancy, different acupuncture meridians develop each month in the child. In China (and now the West), mothers will often get regular acupuncture each month to, theoretically, aid in the development of these acupuncture meridians.
There is even an acupuncture point called the “beautiful baby” point that is said to make the child beautiful, intelligent and ready for success.
Aside from attempting to ensure a beautiful baby, acupuncture is very useful during pregnancy to mitigate morning sickness and deal with unpleasant symptoms such as hemorrhoids and back and joint pain as the baby grows.
If you have had frequent miscarriages or are at a high risk for miscarriage, there are a number of protocols and herbal formulas to “hold the baby in.”
There is also a moxibustion technique that has been found to be 75 percent effective in stimulating a baby to move out of a breech presentation, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Postpartum care incorporates Chinese medical nutrition to recover the resources spent during pregnancy. It also sets the tone to generate optimal milk production, and to help your tendons, ligaments and cartilage to firm up properly after relaxing for the birthing process.
Using a midwife can be a safe and educational way to experience your pregnancy.
When working with a midwife, you get continual education about your body and your pregnancy. Generally, 12 to 15 sessions happen through the pregnancy, when working with a midwife. Each visit is used to monitor the health of the mother and baby as the baby develops.
It is also a time to discuss any questions, natural remedies, homeopathy, nutrition and lifestyle changes that can help set the stage for the healthiest pregnancy possible.
Midwifery also cares a great deal about nutrition before, during and after pregnancy.
A local midwife, Kathryn Austin, observes that most morning sickness is related to hypoglycemia. Pregnant women have a revved-up metabolism. Newly pregnant women tend to underestimate the amount, and frequency with which, they need to eat. It is no coincidence that most morning sickness happens in the morning after six to 10 hours of sleeping and not eating.
During our interview with a mother about her home birth experience with a midwife, she said, “I would say that … with midwives, women are made to feel more a part of the process. There is more responsibility, more information, more patience involved in this route, but it is also more fascinating and, I think, ultimately … it was a calmer experience than it may have been in a hospital. I had lots and lots of time to progress through labor without bothering anyone. I was in a place of comfort, I was informed along the whole way.”
Part of this increase in information throughout the process is related to the extensive visits that midwives create for patients. The mother I spoke with also related that she never had to go a day without an answer to any question regarding her pregnancy, symptoms or prep for the birth process. In many ways, this can empower a woman for her pregnancy.
Other medical professionals who can help with the muscle and joint aches of pregnancy are massage therapists and chiropractors. Ask around for who has experience treating pregnant women.
When choosing medical practitioners to help you through your pregnancy and birth, it is important to find people who make you feel safe in and outside of a hospital setting. Don’t hesitate to ask medical professionals about their experience and education. The safer you feel, the better the experience.