When faced with pregnancy-related back pain and morning sickness, our February/March cover star Molly Sims turned to acupuncture to find relief.
As Sims explains in her book The Everyday Supermodel, she turned to acupuncture both before and during her pregnancies. "I used it to prep my body for pregnancy, and once I was pregnant, I went weekly—the sessions definitely reduced my back pain, big time," she says. (Sims points out that many pain medications are off-limits when you're pregnant.) She believes the treatment also helped ease her bouts with morning sickness, and research suggests that acupuncture may relieve symptoms in those struggling with depression or fertility issues. Best of all, Sims' sessions allowed her to unplug for 60 uninterrupted minutes every week. "There's no phone or email for an hour," she says. "That's my meditation."
Acupuncture is an alternative treatment that involves a practitioner inserting thin needles along energy pathways in your system, removing energy roadblocks and redirecting the flow to cure what ails you. It's considered safe during pregnancy. "There are points that are contraindicated in pregnant women because they can cause uterine spasm, but a licensed and board certified acupuncturist is trained to know which points are appropriate," says Jill Blakeway, L.Ac., founder of the YinOva Center in New York City and author of Making Babies and Sex Again, who draws the same comparison as Sims: "It's a great way to treat common pregnancy ailments in comparison to pharmaceutical drugs because it is so safe for the baby." In fact, research has shown that acupuncture helps reduce pain and morning sickness. There's also evidence it can help turn a breech baby and ripen the cervix for a healthy labor, but talk to your OB-GYN before seeking treatment.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to go under the needle during pregnancy:
Your provider should be licensed.
Sure, the expert you found online has "L.Ac" (license in acupuncture) or "DAOM" (doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine) after her name, but some certifications expire after two to four years. Google your state's licensing board to ensure that she's stayed current, Blakeway suggests.
You shouldn't be on your back as your belly grows.
You've heard about the vena cava—an important vessel that carries blood to the placenta and is oh-so-easily compressed when you lie supine. A good acupuncturist will bear this in mind and set you up on your side instead of your back. "We treat our pregnant patients on their sides once they pass the 16th week of pregnancy," Blakeway says. "We use pillows to support their bump and make sure they're comfortable."
Acupuncture isn't a shortcut to labor.
"We often get asked if we can induce labor with acupuncture," Blakeway says. "I'm a firm believer that babies come when they're ready, so I don't think we can." Think of acupuncture as preparation for a healthy delivery—not labor induction!