Cara O. Frank L.OM.
Treating women during pregnancy is one of the most joyful aspects of my acupuncture practice. I even have special treatment tables that tilt to insure their comfort. Yesterday I had the privilege of treating four pregnant women. Most were early on: ranging between 8-14 weeks. This morning I will be treating a woman who is past her due date and wishing for a little “assist”.
One area that we specialize is male and female fertility. There are many complex reasons that women have difficulty conceiving and turns out that Chinese Medicine is an outstanding modality for improving rates of conception.
What happens after a woman gets pregnant? Turns out there are many ways that we can support a healthy pregnancy, ranging from supporting the normal development of the fetus to actually helping to manage mild to moderately serious health concerns.
Regarding the women I treated yesterday: One had caught a cold, another has a history of recurrent miscarriage, one was having severe nausea and the last was dealing with reflux. Two days ago, I treated a woman who had given birth and now had concerns that her milk supply was insufficient.
The woman I am going to treat this morning is perfectly healthy, however, because she has advanced maternal age, her physicians have told her that she will be induced next week. I cannot begin to express how frustrating this situation is for me as a practitioner. It pathologies a normal, unfolding process and creates huge anxiety for the parents. Thus, I am willing to help move this process along.
In Chinese theory, there are 5 elements, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. These are natural elements found in nature: they describe cycles of energy, growth, development and change. They are associated with organs and channels of energy in the body. During pregnancy, the fetus is also is a 10-month process of growth and development that mirrors nature.
Our favorite way to treat women during pregnancy is to treat them at least monthly to support these elements using specific points to nurture the baby’s development. Further, in between trimesters, there is a special point that is often referred to as the “ beautiful baby point”, which is thought to really enhance the baby’s development. Finally, there are nice points to use that help prepare a woman’s body for labor and may help to shorten labor. This is a basic template of how we might proceed with a normal, healthy pregnancy. Of course, every woman is an individual and we always assess each person and treat her unique constitution.
What happens if there is a complicating factor?
Here is a short list of some of the issues I have handled in the last year or two. Many women conceive easily, yet have a high rate of miscarriage. There can be many reasons for this, however we have a very high success rate of helping women carry to term. One woman I treated had six miscarriages before I treated her. She now has two beautiful children.
Some women develop a kind of intrauterine bruise, called a sub-chorionic hematoma. This can result in bleeding and increases the rate of miscarriage. Interstingly, this very pattern is discussed in Chinese medical literature that is 2000 years old. We use small, safe doses of an herbal formula to help resolve the hematoma, thus helping to insure a safe pregnancy.
Some women retain too much water. This is uncomfortable and can be unsafe. We mainly try to make changes in the woman’s diet for this, however there are very safe diuretic herbs that help to balance body fluids normally. Some women can develop a dangerous condition where there is excessive amniotic fluid. Again, Chinese dietary therapy can usually handle this nicely. Mild hypertension can often be managed, however we don’t treat eclampsia. We can often turn breech babies using moxibustion on the little toe. My own daughter was breech and we turned her over 25 years ago!
Finally, we love to treat women to help prepare their bodies for labor, but sadly, we don’t treat women in active labor. There’s only one reason for this: insurance. While our professional liability insurance covers us for all routine pregnancy treatments, but stops at labor. We wish that this were different. I recommend that any woman seeking support from an acupuncturist check that the practitioner is insured to treat pregnant women
Meanwhile, look at all that we can do to insure that you have a safe, happy and healthy pregnancy!
About Cara Frank, L.OM.
Cara Frank, L.OM. was raised by in a health food store in Brooklyn NY. When she was 8 she cartwheeled 5 miles from Greenwich Village through Soho and Chinatown and across the Brooklyn Bridge. For over 30 years she has had the same crazy passion for Chinese medicine. At 17 she had her first acupuncture treatment. At 20 she enrolled in acupuncture school. 1n 1998 she went to China to study where she fell deeply in love with herbs and has never recovered.
Cara is the founder of Six Fishes Healing Arts and Six Fishes Neighborhood Acupuncture in Philadelphia where she maintains a busy acupuncture practice and acts as the head fish of the office. She is also the president of China Herb Company. You can read her full bio or schedule an appointment.