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Acupuncture Can Help Alleviate Pregnancy Aches and Pains

Pregnancy can be filled with all sorts of aches and pains, such as hemorrhoids, morning sickness, back pain and constipation. For some women, these ailments can be debilitating. Acupuncture could bring them some relief.

According to the Mayo Clinic, acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice where small needles are inserted into a patient's skin to alleviate pain or treat various physical, mental and emotional conditions. It's described as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi (CHEE) — believed to flow through pathways in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these pathways, practitioners believe that your energy flow will rebalance.

From the very early stages of pregnancy, moms-to-be can turn to acupuncture to lessen the physical woes associated with pregnancy.

"Acupuncture is very safe in pregnancy, and in fact, very helpful," says Dr. John Zhang, a pioneer of minimally invasive fertility care and founder of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City. "It has been used for centuries to treat threatened miscarriage, bleeding, premature contractions, as well as all of the discomforts women experience throughout the stages of pregnancy, such as nausea, sciatica, acid reflux, constipation and hemorrhoids."

Each maternity patient's treatment will depend on her symptoms and the severity of her aches.

"Often, we might start with two times per week if (the patient) is very uncomfortable and reduce to once per week when some improvement is observed," Zhang says.

Though the practice is safe during pregnancy, pregnant women should take a few precautions during treatment, such as lying in proper positions.

"After the first trimester, the position of the patient is important," Zhang says. "If lying faceup, then the bed should be raised so that she is sitting but reclined or lying on her side to ensure that blood flow is abundant."

Zhang suggests you ask your provider which acupuncture points are not advisable during pregnancy. Most acupuncturists have good training and will know what to avoid.

"If you aren't comfortable with the answer, then don't get the treatment," Zhang says.