Acupuncture in Pregnancy

Acupuncture is safe to have during pregnancy and is an effective treatment option that many women choose at a time when they want to avoid taking medicine for minor ailments.

Acupuncture can be used to support the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy, labour and postpartum recovery.

Research on the use of acupuncture for specific conditions such as nausea, back and pelvic pain, breech presentation and prebirth acupuncture to prepare for labour has shown that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment option for these conditions and that more research is warranted.

Nausea (Morning Sickness)

Nausea is a common complaint in early pregnancy and can be very debilitating and draining. Research has shown that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for women experiencing nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy (Smith et al, 2002).

Morning sickness is generally treated on a weekly basis, with severe cases coming two or occasionally three times for treatment so that they can avoid going to hospital. Improvement can be immediate.

In the following video clip Susan discusses Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), an acute condition causing nausea and vomiting that occurs during pregnancy, with her acupuncturist, BAcC member  Pamela Pilidis:


  • Smith C, Crowther C, Beilby J. Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: a randomized trail. Birth.2002Mar:29 (1):1-9
  • Smith C, Crowther C, Beilby J. Pregnancy outcome following women’s participation in a randomised controlled trial of acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Complement Ther Med. 2002 Jun; 10(2):78-83.

Acupuncture to turn breech babies

Turning a breech baby can be done around weeks 34-36 with acupuncture and moxibustion.  Moxa is used to heat an acupuncture point on the little toe in order to encourage the baby to turn head down.

Research has found promising results for the turning of breech babies with acupuncture and moxa; somewhere in the region of an 80% success rate.

This is a safe, relaxing, non-invasive treatment worth consideration if women wish to attempt to turn their baby naturally; the baby will not turn if there are physical obstructions.

Another great benefit of this treatment is that you can continue the treatment with your partner or friend in the comfort of your own home once we have taught you the technique and frequency of treatment.

  • Cardini F, Weixin H. Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation. JAMA 1998; 280:1580-1584
  • van den Berg I, Kaandorp G, Bosch J, Duvekot J, Arends L, Hununk M. Cost-effectiveness of breech version by acupuncture-type interventions on BL 67, including moxibustion, for women with a breech foetus at 33 weeks gestation: a modelling approach. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2010;18, 67—77.
  • Results of a 2 year study exploring the effects of moxa treatment for breech babies

Acupuncture to treat depression in pregnancy

70% of women responded positively to treatment with acupuncture for depression during pregnancy. (2004, Stanford University)

141 women with similar depression severity and history completed treatment in this study.  The women receiving the individualised acupuncture treatment experienced a significantly greater reduction in the Hamilton Rating Score for Depression and demonstrated a significantly greater response rate than those women assigned to the control acupuncture group alone or the control acupuncture and massage group combined.


Pre-birth Acupuncture

Many women report feeling scared, apprehensive or stressed before their due date, acupuncture can be effective in helping expectant mothers to relax and prepare for the birth.

Pre-birth acupuncture involves a series of four treatments weekly from 36 or 37 weeks to prepare for labour. Acupuncture points are selected according a woman’s constitution, pregnancy history and how they are feeling at the time.

Clinical observation and research suggests that pre-birth acupuncture may assist in:

  • ripening the cervix
  • positioning  the baby in the best presentation for labour
  • promoting optimal energy and stamina for women
  • enabling normal vaginal births with less intervention.


  • Tempfer C, Zeisler H, Mayerhofe Kr, Barrada M Husslein P. Influence of acupuncture on duration of labour Gynecol Obstet Invest 1998; 46:22-5.
  • Betts D, Lennox S. Acupuncture for prebirth treatment: An observational study of its use in midwifery practice. Medical acupuncture 2006 May; 17(3):17-20.



Acupuncture is a popular choice for women who haven’t given birth around their due date and who want to avoid a chemical induction for a variety of reasons. In order to induce women, certain acupuncture points are selected which stimulate the uterus and relax the tendons, it thus increases cervical ripening can help bring on labour.

  • Rabl M, Ahner R, Bitschnau M, Zeisler H, Husslein P. Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term – a randomised controlled trail. Wien Klin Wochenschr 2001; 113 (23-24): 942-6. 

Acupressure for Natural Pain Relief in Labour

Acupressure is great for you and your birthing partner to learn and use in labour, not only does it help relieve pain but it also gives birthing partners the chance to help you. Its easy to learn, non-invasive, safe, requires minimal instruction and doesn’t interfere with a woman’s freedom of movement during labour

Please read Debra Bett’s booklet or download and view the DVD or app to find out more about acupressure; this is suitable for those pregnant and their birthing partner; midwives and doulas.

Buy the DVD from the JCM website

An App (for tablets & phones) and DVD/download featuring Debra Betts and Tom Kennedy is now available which demonstrates acupressure techniques for labour. Perfect for pregnant women and their partners, as well as health professionals working with pregnant women.

You can also download the booklet from Debra’s website:

Click here for feedback from midwives on their experience of using acupressure in labour.