Pregnancy and birth

Why pregnant women rely on acupuncture

Pregnancy-related problems can be treated with acupuncture. Source: iStock

Acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular as a means of preparing for childbirth and even of easing the birth itself. According to midwives and gynaecologists, the tiny needles have a big impact – and no side effects in normal pregnancies.

Gynaecologists and midwives with an additional qualification are allowed to perform acupuncture. Many people have written about so-called “forbidden points” during pregnancy, which supposedly could even lead to premature birth if needles are inserted there. These fears are unfounded, however. “No, these points do not exist, and this was proven in a study of 5,000 patients at the University Medical Centre Mannheim,” Dr Ansgar Römer tells Comparis. He has been devoting considerable attention to acupuncture and Chinese medicine since 1985 in his job as a gynaecologist and obstetrician.

Römer is one of the most respected specialists in this field in Europe. “Women have had acupuncture needles inserted into all points in all phases of pregnancy and this has never resulted in any danger to the mother or the unborn child. A pregnant woman’s general state of health has never deteriorated, regardless of which points the needles were inserted into,” he says. It should be borne in mind, however, that acupuncture can worsen symptoms in pregnancies that are already at risk, he adds. In high-risk pregnancies, therefore, this form of treatment should be performed by experienced specialists. Römer: “In normal pregnancies, acupuncture is helpful and causes no side effects.” Treatment has no influence on the date of delivery and does not lead to premature contractions, either.

Acupuncture can shorten labour

Various studies have demonstrated acupuncture’s positive impact both during general preparations for the birth but also on problems during pregnancy and childbirth. The study from the University Women’s Clinic in Mannheim cited by Ansgar Römer also showed that acupuncture shortened labour from 10 to 8 hours on average in women having their first child. This positive effect is based on better ripening of the cervix and more focused contractions during the dilation phase – in other words, the period before the cervix becomes fully opened. Acupuncture is only able to shorten this phase; it has no effect on the expulsion phase.

At the end of the day, however, the effects of acupuncture during childbirth cannot be compared with painkillers such as epidural anaesthesia. It cannot completely eliminate the pain of birth. Acupuncture has a relaxing effect, loosening up cramped muscles and thus alleviating pain.

The following typical pregnancy-related problems can be treated with acupuncture:

  • Pregnancy-related nausea
  • Anxiety, restlessness, sleep disorders
  • Many different kinds of pain (especially back pain)
  • Abnormal positions of the fetus
  • Premature contractions
  • During the postnatal period: problems with recovery and pain, mastitis and blocked milk ducts

The costs of treatment with acupuncture and Chinese medicine are assumed partly by the mother’s basic insurance and partly by her supplemental insurance. Before treatment, however, it’s advisable to clarify whether the mother has supplemental insurance and which services it covers.