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Pregnancy and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

TCM provides a highly effective healthcare system, to be used in conjunction with allopathic gynecological and obstetric care. TCM can be used to address many conditions, such as preparation to conceive naturally or with assisted reproductive therapy, maintaining health during pregnancy and post-partum, and assisting conventional medicine in addressing high-risk conditions. TCM is especially helpful at alleviating symptoms that can no longer be treated with over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Listed below are common symptoms and conditions that can be effectively treated with TCM during pregnancy.

  • Fatigue
  • Miscarriage/Spotting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Pelvic pain
  • Varicose veins
  • Anemia
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Thrush and abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Sinusitis
  • Insomnia
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Musculoskeletal discomfort
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Small for date babies
  • Breech and posterior positioned babies
  • Induction
  • Birth preparation for an efficient labor (please see Labor section for complete details)

Labor and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Prebirth Treatments

Prebirth treatments are highly recommended in order to prepare your body and your baby for labor.

Prebirth treatments involve a series of four treatments, starting weekly from 36 weeks gestation. Points are selected according to the woman's constitution and pregnancy history. These include points to ripen the cervix, to help position the baby in the best presentation for labor, and to promote optimal energy and stamina for women to enter into labor.

Prebirth Research

Data on 169 women was gathered by 14 midwives as part of their midwifery practice in Wellington, New Zealand. It found that when comparing all caregivers (Midwives GP's and Specialists) to those women who had received prebirth acupuncture there was:

  • An overall 35% reduction in the number of inductions (for women having their first baby this was a 43% reduction)
  • A 31% reduction in the epidural rate.

When comparing midwifery only care to women receiving prebirth acupuncture there was a:

  • 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery
  • A 9 % increase in normal vaginal births.
  • There was no difference in the onset of early labor in those women receiving prebirth acupuncture.

Breech Babies

Breech babies are ideally treated between 34 - 36 weeks gestation . This is often a one off treatment with women being shown how to continue treatment at home with a moxa stick (an herb that has been shaped into a cigar like stick). The moxa stick is lit and held over specific places in the body to stimulate the acupuncture points.

Moxibustion use for Breech Presentation

130 women having their first baby (primigravidas) at 33 gestation received moxibustion to Zhiyin Bl 67 while 130 women, also primigravidas, received no intervention. Outcomes were measured in terms of fetal movements, as counted by the mother for one hour each day for one week and the number of cephalic presentations both at 35 weeks gestation and at delivery.

  • At 35 weeks gestation 75.4% in the intervention group were cephalic (47.7% in the control).
  • At delivery the presentation of 75.4% of the intervention group were cephalic compared to 62.3% in the control group.
  • In terms of fetal movement the moxibustion group experienced a greater number of movements (a mean of 48.45 compared to the control group with a mean of 35.35).
  • The number of premature births was lower in the intervention group and the use of oxytocin, before or during labor, was also reduced in the moxibustion group (8.6% compared to 31.3%).

Cervical ripening


The objective was to evaluate whether acupuncture at term can influence cervical ripening and thus reduce the need for postdates induction. On their due dates 45 women were randomized into either an acupuncture group (25) or control group (20). The women were then examined at two daily intervals for cervical length (measured with vaginal trasonography, cervical mucus and cervical stasis according to Bishops score). The acupuncture group also received acupuncture every two days. 

  • The time period from the woman’s due date to delivery was on average 5 days in the acupuncture group compared to 7.9 days in the control group
  • Labor was induced in 20 % of women in the acupuncture group compared to 35% in the control group
  • Four women were delivered within 24 hours of having their first acupuncture treatment while no women in the control group delivered within 24 hours of their first examination
  • None of the women from the acupuncture group went into labour during treatment or within one hour following treatment, reflecting that it is a practical option for women to receive acupuncture in a private clinical setting
  • From a safety perspective there was no difference in the number of women experiencing difficulties during delivery

Post-Partum Care

There is a long documented history in traditional Chinese medicine of women taking dietary and herbal remedies to encourage lactation and to promote their recovery from childbirth. Ideally acupuncture treatment is also given once a week from 2 weeks post-partum. Below are a few of the benefits of postpartum care.

  • Decreases excessive bleeding/cramping
  • Decreases post-partum depression/baby blues
  • Balances hormones
  • Aids with lactation issues: mastitis (prevention & treatment), milk supply, blocked ducts, thrush, pain associated with breastfeeding
  • Aids in physical recovery/musculoskeletal pain associated with breastfeeding and holding baby
  • Increases energy
  • Aids in weight loss (3 months after giving birth)
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