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Henry McGrath Dip.Ac Dip.TCM ND MTh

Bristol based – Worldwide web consultations
Acupuncture – Chinese Herbal Medicine – Naturopathy

Pregnancy and Childbirth

26th February 2010

Both acupuncture and herbs have been used for thousands of years in China to help women through the journey of pregnancy and childbirth. Some of the common uses of Chinese medicine include:

Helping the birth go quickly and smoothly

Receiving acupuncture in the weeks leading up to birth helps the body and mind to prepare for the experience. Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the release of “endorphins” and other hormones that are necessary for labour to go smoothly.

Chinese herbs can also help. Research has shown that “Dang Gui” can help uterine contractions become more regular, and that “Huai Niu Xi” can help the dilation of the cervix.

A recent study showed that Chinese herbs can significantly reduce the time of second stage labour, as well as reducing the rate of post – partum haemorage (Source: RCHM Quarterly Literature Search, August 2003, para. 47).


Often women are sent for induction before it is really necessary. Artificial induction, usually by means of oxytocin, can cause problems in some cases, such as an increase in pain; uterine spasm; uterine rupture; and amniotic fluid embolism (Source: Sheila Kitzinger: “Birth Your Way”, pages 23 – 24).

It can therefore be a good idea to try the much more gentle approach of Chinese Medicine first. Acupuncture needles are inserted at certain key points on “meridians”* that flow into the uterus, and this often starts the birth process off. As explained above, acupuncture can stimulate the release of certain hormones which are important to the birth process.

Habitual Miscarriage

If this is a problem it is obviously very important to seek medical advice, to ensure that there is no physical reason for the problem. In most cases, however, Doctors can not find a reason for miscarriage, and in these cases Chinese medicine can be very helpful. It can often detect “energetic” imbalances, such as “Blood stagnation” or “Heat in the uterus”, which are not recognised by Western medicine. Acupuncture and herbs can be used to treat the underlying problem.

Threatened Miscarriage

If you experience contractions well before the due date, a bearing down sensation in the lower abdomen, or blood loss, it is very important to seek immediate medical advice.

There are certain key acupuncture points and Chinese herbs that are used to try and stop a threatened miscarriage. It is obviously very important to seek help as quickly as possible. Of course, some miscarriages are unpreventable, particularly if they are due to a problem with the foetus.


Again, it is important to seek medical advice to rule out physical problems.

Acupuncture ands herbs have a long history of use for promoting healthy conception, although treatment usually takes many months. Certain key herbs have long been known in China to promote fertility. It is particularly important to follow lifestyle advice if you are trying to conceive.

Post natal depression/ fatigue

Giving birth requires an incredible amount of energy. Often women are left feeling drained, and this can contribute to a condition known in Chinese Medicine as “Blood Deficiency”. This is the cause of most post – natal depression and fatigue, and is well treated by Chinese medicine.

Remember: the healthier and happier you are, the healthier and happier your baby will be!

Insufficient Lactation

This can be due to blockages in the ducts in the breast that carry milk, or to a general lack of energy and nutrients. Either way, herbs and acupuncture can be effective in getting the milk flowing.


This is swelling, and often affects women in the latter stages of pregnancy, particularly around the ankles. It is important to treat as fluid retention can raise the blood pressure. Acupuncture and herbs can be effective in regulating water metabolism in a gentle way, draining excess fluids from the body.

* ”Meridians” are the channels of “Qi”, which is the body’s “Life Force”. Modern research has shown that acupuncture points are areas of high electrical conductivity, and they are thought to be entrance points for certain types of ions into the body.