A lot of women experiment with alternative therapies when they decide to start a family, whether it’s to help them get pregnant or to cure some of the side effects of early pregnancy.
Acupuncture is one of the most popular. The treatment is based on the belief that an energy, or life force (or ‘chi’), flows through the body in channels called meridians. It’s thought that when chi cannot flow freely it causes illness, and that inserting needles at points on the body can restore the flow and boost health.
A session costs between £35 to £60, and while it’s safe to use in pregnancy, Naava Carman, a fertility and obstetric acupuncturist, says you should only be treated by a registered practitioner. ‘Acupuncture is a powerful tool,’ she says. ‘Stimulating some points can stimulate uterine contractions, so it is important to see a professional obstetric acupuncturist.’
Acupuncture can help in a number of ways when trying to get pregnant, says Naava. ‘70% of the patients we see have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome, which can cause ovarian cysts and prevent ovulation). Once we establish that a woman is not ovulating, we can then begin weekly treatment sessions.’
Acupuncture may also help increase the chances of getting pregnant in IVF treatment. ‘It can improve chances by up to 10%,’ says Naava. ‘It is thought to improve blood flow to the uterus.’
Stress and anxiety
Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or coping with life with a young baby, stress is common. Naava says. ‘Stress can stop you getting pregnant. It can cause your FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) to rise, which can affect your ability to conceive. Acupuncture can help balance the hormones.’
Many women experience nausea in pregnancy, most commonly in the first trimester. A review of studies involving 5,000 patients concluded that acupuncture was at least as effective as drugs in controlling post-operative nausea, and it’s thought it might help with pregnancy sickness too. Navaa says, ‘Stomach chi energy rises in pregnancy. The stimulation of acupuncture points helps release it and rebalance the body.’
One in every five women has to be induced because they reach 41 weeks with no signs that their baby is about to make an appearance. It may be worth booking a course of acupuncture to see if it can trigger labour. ‘There are certain points on the top of the shoulders, tops of the feet and inside of the lower leg that trigger uterine contractions and cervical stimulation,’ says Naava.
Call the British Acupuncture Council on 020 8735 0400 or visit acupuncture.org.uk for more info.