-Chinese Medicine, pregnancy, labor, and infant care

portada-inglesI have found Oriental medicine to be ideal for use during pregnancy and childbirth as it offers a safe, easy to administer and inexpensive treatment for women. Because of the high potential for side effects from modern Western pharmaceuticals and the importance of quality pregnancy health care, many doulas, midwives and expectant mothers find it to be an effective alternative.

As an acupuncturist I 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. Massage during pregnancy is also used in Chinese medicine to relax the woman and aid balance and flow of Qi in the body. Different types of massage can be administered without harming to the mother or baby, for example, reflexology. Stagnation of a woman’s Qi and blood typically slows the process of labor and can make it more painful during pregnancy. Acupuncture acts to move more Qi and blood through the body, thereby clearing stagnation and allowing for an easier and shorter labor.

Other conditions that I treat with acupuncture during pregnancy include nausea, heartburn, headaches, constipation, hemorrhoids, and backache. Acupuncture is also effective for turning breech presentations, inducing labor, 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 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 and doulas can be easily trained in its application. Benefits of moxibustion in pregnancy health care include a decrease in the number of breech births and their complications, as well as potential reductions in the cesarean section rate. Pain medication and epidurals often make a woman drowsy, limit her mobility, slow down labor, lower blood pressure, and depress normal fetal respiration. Acupuncture can be an effective alternative for relieving pain during labor without these side effects. Ear points are often used, allowing the woman more mobility. The effect usually occurs within 10-20 minutes. As the woman becomes more calm and relaxed, she is better able to cope with contractions, though she can still feel them. Some of the most common postpartum difficulties I have treated with Chinese medicine include insomnia, fainting or dizziness, abdominal pain, depression, fatigue, constipation, incontinence, or insufficient lactation.

Chinese medicine is also useful for infants. In Chinese medicine they are understood as immature both physically and functionally. Most of the common pediatric complaints are due to this immaturity. Chinese medicine holds that because infant’s bodies are immature, and therefore inherently weak, they are susceptible to diseases which affect the Lungs, the Spleen (digestion) and the Liver. This explains why infants often have colds, coughs, colic, vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion, and stomachaches. Generally, needles are not used with infants and small children. Instead, a Japanese style of pediatric acupuncture (shonishin) which involves scrapers, combs, rollers, and brushes is used to stimulate various acupuncture points and channels at the surface of the child’s body. This technique stimulates and balances the child’s Qi without actually piercing the skin. Children typically love this treatment since it is soothing and comfortable, and I use it in combination with Pediatric Tui Na, where areas of the baby´s body are rocked, gently pushed or kneaded.