While it may have been seen as extreme and radically alternative in America 15 or 20 years ago, acupuncture is moving further into the mainstream. Its benefits are undeniable, so much so many insurance companies now cover treatments. Find out how acupuncture can help you during pregnancy.

I knew acupuncture had moved into the mainstream when my 83-year-old grandmother agreed to go for her chronic pain. Admittedly, she's always been on the progressive side, but when she didn't altogether reject my suggestion to see my acupuncturist, I knew the idea had become more common to her.apple acupuncture needles

My acupuncturist has helped me with chronic neck and lower back pain, and since seeing him for the past two years, I have not had a migraine headache. I've gotten at least two migraines a year since I was 18 years old.

But now I'm pregnant with my fourth child, and I was wondering if he can help me with the beloved pregnancy ailments. First of all, studies have found acupuncture to be safe during pregnancy, but some practitioners recommend it only during the second and third trimesters (though the studies I read said it was safe at all stages of pregnancy). At any rate, always talk to your doctor/healthcare provider before seeking acupuncture while pregnant.

Here are five ways I've learned acupuncture can help pregnant women.

  1. Relaxation

    "Research has shown that acupuncture causes the body to release neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin. Endorphins are the body's natural opiates which relieve pain and increase the patient's relaxation response" (source). Yes, please. I need more relaxation during pregnancy. My personal experience with acupuncture is that I feel remarkably calm and relaxed after treatments.

  2. Lower-back pain

    A 2004 study found that "acupuncture seems to alleviate low back and pelvic pain during pregnancy, as well as to increase the capacity for some physical activities and to diminish the need for drugs, which is a great advantage during this period" (source). Since we're stuck with mere Tylenol during pregnancy, relief from aching backs through more lasting techniques is a compelling prospect.

  3. Nausea/morning sickness

    Studies have also shown significant improvements in "nausea" and "dry retching" among pregnant women who used acupuncture during their first trimesters. Though I have never suffered much with morning sickness (actually I don't think I've ever vomited once during pregnancy), I have watched friends and family struggle with debilitating nausea, and I can't imagine. Since it's safe and covered by many insurances, acupuncture is a viable option, and seems way better than just suffering through.

  4. Preparation for labor

    A large study "shows that cervical maturation was significantly improved and that length of labor was reduced by 20 percent in the acupuncture group versus the non-acupuncture group. Acupuncture can also be beneficial in the turning of breech babies and in the non-drug induction of labor" (source).

  5. Tons of other ailments

    Call a licensed acupuncturist. There are many more ailments acupuncture can treat, such as: hip pain, carpal tunnel, insomnia, headaches, heartburn, constipation and swelling. It can also help with depression and anxiety.

Though many insurance companies now cover acupuncture (mine covers 20 treatments a year), many acupuncturists are also willing to work with you on payment. Some have sliding scale payments, and many ensure reasonable fees so they can help a wide range of people.

So give it a try. I know I will. And I promise, it doesn't hurt. Really. It doesn't! Labor hurts. Acupuncture does not. Ha.

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