• Mona Eldahry, LAc, DACM

Why get Acupuncture during Pregnancy?

Anyone who has ever been pregnant has asked the question:

“How can I have a relatively safe and short labor and delivery with minimal pain?” Research says the answer is acupuncture.

Studies and clinical data suggest that acupuncture can :

  • Shorten the length of labor and reduce the need for medical interventions like epidural pain relief [2][3], artificial labor induction [3][4] and cesarian section [3][4][7].

  • Reduce inflammation when interventions like c-section and episiotomy are used.

  • Reduce likelihood of threatened miscarriage[5].

  • Prevent premature labor[5], increasing your likelihood of having a healthy full term baby.

  • Help your body to allow a breech baby to turn[6].

  • Alleviate problems common in pregnancy as well as preexisting conditions. This is important because so many drugs are contraindicated during pregnancy.

For You and Yours:

The Beautiful Baby point is a point on the lower leg. It is traditionally needled (often with a golden needle) at the end of each trimester to get rid of what East Asian medicine calls fetal toxins. The term refers to inflammation, disharmony and, in some cases, actual toxins absorbed by the fetus from the mother during pregnancy or conception. This can be the result of the mother's diet, emotional experience or environmental toxins. Post-partum, fetal toxins may manifest in children in the form of fever, colic, eczema, cradle cap, respiratory conditions or allergies. The Beautiful Baby point helps the child to vent these toxins before birth.

Getting ready for labor:

For most patients, 37 weeks is a good time to start getting your body ready for labor. In addition to helping you deal with problems common during this stage, such as hemorrhoids and back pain, acupuncture can help to prepare your pelvis and cervix for labor. This means helping muscles and joints intrinsic to delivery to soften and supporting a series of events called cervical ripening.

Turning a Breech Baby:

Studies show that moxibustion—the burning of an incense-like herbal mixture—at a point at the tip of the mother's pinky toe can help the mother’s body to allow baby to turn from a breech (feet down) presentation to a cephalic (head down) presentation [6]. Research suggests that moxa works by stimulating fetal movement [8]. The treatment is most effective if initiated during week 33 or 34 of the pregnancy. At this stage, there's plenty of elbowroom in the womb. It can be performed at home without an acupuncturist. Ask your acupuncturist if moxa would be an appropriate way to allow your breech baby to turn.

Post-Term Labor Introduction:

Biomedicine usually uses synthetic prostaglandin and often pitocin to induce labor. The drawback to this approach is that it can cause the uterus to contract before the rest of the body is ready. This usually means more painful contractions and a greater need for epidural pain relief. Although the relief is great, the epidural is likely to stop the contractions. This means more pitocin might be needed in order for contractions to resume. This cycle can put both baby and laboring mother-to-be through some unnecessary distress, increasing the likelihood that forceps or caesarian section will be necessary.

Acupuncture, on the other hand, can promote labor while decreasing labor pain. It may take one or several treatments to promote labor. When labor begins, it's more likely to be because the whole body is ready. Labors prompted by acupuncture are less likely to require interventions like c-section and epidural pain relief when compared to labors induced artificially. In cases where acupuncture does not result in labor, subsequent artificially-induced labor tends to be more productive [3].

Has your Doctor Set an Induction Date?

If your doctor wants you to go through labor induction based solely on your due date, ask your doctor whether s/he is calculating your due date based on the date of your last menses or on your conception date. Calculating your due date based on the date when you conceived the baby (if you know that date) is more accurate and can give you another couple of days or weeks until your due date.

Induction Homework:

After your treatment, ask your acupuncturist for acupressure techniques that you can use at home to increase the efficacy of the treatment.

Postpartum Recovery:

In ancient China, new mothers were not to leave the home or wash their hair for three months post-partum. This was because doctors back then knew that labor caused women to lose a great deal of blood, fluids and qi (or energy). This leaves the metabolism and immune system vulnerable. These vulnerabilities commonly manifest as:

  • Insufficient Breast Milk

  • Depression

  • Constipation

  • Fatigue

  • Musculoskeletal Pain

  • Infection

  • Excessive uterine bleeding

  • Exacerbation of conditions present before birth

The best way to rebuild after labor is to REST and KEEP WARM. And while three months at home might be a stretch in New York City, your body deserves all the rest it can get. Do everything you can to make sure that postpartum, you have a great deal of down time. When you do go outside, bundle up. Whether in or outside, avoid sitting or standing on cold surfaces. Ask your acupuncturist for moxibustion supplies that you can use for a self-warming treatment.

Getting Back in Shape

Nourish your body after birth. Once that is taken care of, your metabolism can regulate itself, and it will be much easier to get back to your normal weight and muscle tone. Ask your acupuncturist for a post-partum formula or porridge that you can cook at home.


Use acupuncture to help:

  • Have a safer, quicker and less painful labor and delivery.

  • Avoid c-section, episiotomy, epidural and other medical interventions.

  • Give birth at term, not prematurely, and not too late.

  • Relieve painful or annoying conditions pre and post-partum.

  • Heal from labor or surgery.

  • Have a beautiful healthy baby.


The Business of Being Born, a must-see documentary about birthing options.

Choices in Childbirth, education and resources to help you to plan your labor and delivery. See their NYC Metro Guide to a Healthy Birth, complete with c-section rates per NYC area hospital.

Acupressure for Birthing, a do-it-yourself guide for pregnant women

Ask Dr. Sears, medical information for children, mothers and mothers-to-be.

Fertility and Acupuncture


1 Skilnand, E., Fossen, D., & Heiberg, E. (2002). Acupuncture in the management of pain in labor. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 81, 943–948. DURING LABOR

2 Ramnero, A., Hanson, U., & Kihlgren, M. (2002). Acupuncture treatment during labour—a randomised controlled trial. BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 109(June), 637-644. DURING LABOR

3 Betts, D., & Lennox, S. (2006, May). Acupuncture For Prebirth Treatment: An Observational Study Of Its Use In Midwifery Practice. Retrieved January 11, 2013, from

4 Harper, T., Coeytaux, R., Chen, W., Campbell, K., Kaufman, J., Moise Jr, K., & Thorp Jr, J. (2006). A randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for initiation of labor in nulliparous women. The Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, 19(8), 465-470.

5 Betts, D., Smith, C., & Hannah, D. (2012). Acupuncture as a therapeutic treatment option for threatened miscarriage. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 12(20), doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-12-20

6 Li, X., Hu, J., Wang, X., Zhang, H., & Liu, J. (2009). Moxibustion and other acupuncture point stimulation methods to treat breech presentation: a systematic review of clinical trials. Chinese Medicine, 4, 4. doi:10.1186/1749-8546-4-4

7 Citkovitz, C., Kilimenko, E., Bolyai, M., Aplewhite, L., julliard, K., & Weiner, Z. (2009). Effects of acupuncture during laor and delivery in a US hospital setting: a case-control pilot study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(5), 501-505. doi: 10.1089=acm.2008.0422 DURING

8 Cardini, F., & weixin, H. (n.d.). JAMA Network | JAMA | Moxibustion for Correction of Breech Presentation: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Retrieved January 9, 2013, from birth partners.

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© 2017 by Mona Eldahry