3 ways Acupuncture during Pregnancy can be beneficial
Acupuncture during pregnancy is a natural way to address pregnancy side effects that occur throughout the three trimesters. In the first trimester, nausea, dry retching and vomiting and extreme exhaustion are commonly experienced. Lower back pain and pelvic pain often occur as a pregnancy progresses into the second trimester and beyond. In the third trimester one may experience heartburn, and find the fetus is not in the ideal position for natural childbirth. Acupuncture during pregnancy can help to address all of these issues. Let’s have a look at just 3 ways acupuncture during pregnancy can be beneficial.
Is acupuncture during pregnancy safe?
This is an important question and starting point. The short answer is yes. There are some acupuncture points that are contraindicated during pregnancy. AHPRA registered acupuncturists are aware of these contraindicated points and when it is unsafe to use them.
Park, Sohn, White and Lee (2014) undertook a systematic review of 105 studies to examine the safety of acupuncture during pregnancy. Studies were sourced from Sweden, Brazil, the UK, USA, China, Australia, Spain and Korea with acupuncture treatment given for nausea and vomiting, back and pelvic pain, fetal position, insomnia and emotional issues. The systematic review concluded that adverse effects associated with acupuncture during pregnancy were mild and transient. The adverse effects reported included needling pain and bleeding on needle removal. The incidence of adverse effects related to acupuncture in pregnancy was 1.9%
1. Nausea and vomiting
Nausea, dry retching and vomiting is present in approximately 70-80% of pregnancies. This is usually limited to the first trimester however in some cases it can continue until delivery. The severity of it varies. The exact pathogenesis of this is unknown however it is widely accepted that the nausea and vomiting results from endocrine and metabolic factors in the placenta (Lee & Saha, 2011).
A randomised control trial of 593 women who were less than 14 weeks pregnant and had nausea and vomiting symptoms was undertaken by a maternity hospital in Adelaide in 2002. 4 control groups were created and participants received either, 1. Traditional acupuncture, 2. Acupuncture to the point Pericardium 6 (PC6), 3. Sham acupuncture or 4., no acupuncture, once a week for 4 weeks. The group who received traditional acupuncture reported less nausea and dry retching from week 2. The group who had acupuncture to PC6 had less nausea from week 2 and less dry retching from week 3. There was no overall difference in vomiting for any of the groups (Smith, Crowther & Beilby, 2002).
In 2014 a Cochrane database review was undertaken by Matthews, Hass, O’Mathuna et al, to assess the safety and efficacy of varying interventions for nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Some of the interventions reviewed included, acupuncture and acupressure to PC6, vitamin B6 , ginger and antiemetic drugs. The review concluded that there is a lack of high quality evidence with large numbers of participants to support the use of acupuncture during pregnancy to point PC6 to treat nausea and vomiting. This does not mean that the treatment is ineffective just that stronger evidence is required in order to make specific recommendations.
2. Back and pelvic pain
Lower back pain and pelvic girdle pain are different but common complaints experienced during pregnancy which may result from mechanical or hormonal factors. The pain impacts negatively upon quality of life affecting sleep, ability to attend to basic tasks, sexual activity and paid work.
The British Medical Journal recently published the findings of a systematic review and meta-analysis on acupuncture during pregnancy for lower back and pelvic pain. The study consisted of 10 randomised controlled studies (1040 participants) undertaken between 2000 and 2020 in Sweden, the UK, USA, Spain and Brazil. The findings stated that acupuncture given during pregnancy relieved lower back pain and pelvic pain and improved quality of life with no observable adverse impacts to newborns (Yang, Wang, Xu et al, 2022).
3. Fetal positioning
During pregnancy it is common for the fetus to change position many times, however around 32-36 gestation as the end of the pregnancy approaches the fetus moves down towards the birth canal to prepare for delivery. The ideal position is one of head down, facing the mothers back (cephalic position). Babies can present in a breech position with feet down or in an occiput position facing up. If a baby presents as breech a vaginal delivery can be complicated and a surgical caesarean section may be necessary for safety.
Liao et al, 2021, undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis on the use of acupuncture and moxibustion (a modality of acupuncture) at point BL67 on breech presentation in pregnancy. 16 studies (2555 participants) from China, Italy, France, Australia, Switzerland, Croatia and Denmark were identified. There was inconsistent evidence to say that acupuncture alone at BL67 was able to change breech positioning to cephalic position. Moxibustion however was found to have a positive impact on correcting breech presentation. One of the studies reviewed found that moxibustion reduced the number of caesarean sections required due to breech presentation and was therefore a cost effective management of breech presentation. Another study found that a combination of acupuncture and moxibustion was successful in correcting breech position however this was a small study and further larger studies are required to gather more information.
If you have any questions or would like further information on how acupuncture during pregnancy might work for your individual signs and symptoms please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Lee, N.M., & Saha, S (2011). Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America 40(2); 309-334
Liao, J., Shao, S., Chang, C., Chai, P.Y., Owang, K., Huang, T., Yang, C., Lee, T., & Chen, Y (2021). Correction of Breech Presentation with Moxabustion and Acupuncture: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Healthcare 9(6); 619. Retrieved from:
Matthews, A., Haas, D.M., O’Mathuna, D.P., Dowswell, T., & Doyle, M (2014). Interventions for nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Cochrane Database System Review 21(3)
Park, J., Sohn, Y., White, A.R., & Lee, H (2014). The safety of acupuncture during pregnancy: a systematic review. Acupuncture in Medicine 32(3); 257-266. Retrieved from:
Smith, C., Crowther, C., & Beilby, J (2002). Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Birth 29(1); 1-9
Yang, J., Wang, Y., Xu, J., Ou, Z., Yue, T., Mao, Z., Lin, Y., Wang, T., Shen, Z., & Dong, W(2022). Acupuncture for low back and/or pelvic pain during pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ 12(12). Retrieved from: