Should I Use Acupressure for My Headaches If I Am Pregnant?
Firstly, I do not use acupressure at all if one of my headache clients is pregnant. It is best to be overly safe than not safe enough. Refer to acupuncture man. Only two of the points I use to help headaches are to be avoided, Large Intestine 4 and Gall Bladder 21. For more information about acupressure, refer to previous blogs or my e-book chapter.
Secondly, acupuncturists I know are cautious when it comes to the use of acupuncture during pregnancy. However, one of my acupuncturist friends told me of using the acupoints to turn a baby during a difficult delivery.
Thirdly, the American Physical Therapy Association’s 2013 Description of Dry Needling in Clinical Practice cautions about the use of dry needling. Finally, the Dry Needling Institute of the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy advises against aggressive dry needling to pregnant women.
Why Are There Concerns About Using Acupressure/Acupuncture During Pregnancy?
Acupuncture/acupressure theoretically causes uterine muscles to relax. If you want a faster delivery, this effect would be good. However, if you are too early in your pregnancy, you do not want to risk a miscarriage.
Practitioners are hesitant in the face of the unknown to use certain techniques. They fear speeding up a birthing process which may be best left to proceed naturally.
What are the Main Points to be Avoided?
Spleen 6 in the outer heel causes the most apprehension. It’s potential effects to induce labor have been studied more than the other points.
Another point to be aware of is Large Intestine 4, which lies in the web space of the thumb and forefinger. This point relieves headaches very effectively, so it is unfortunate that it is also one of the cautionary points. LI-4 also has been studied for its labor-inducing effects.
Use caution with the Bladder 67 point which is on the outer side of the pinky toe. Bladder 60 is between the Achilles tendon and the outer bone of the foot. Watch out for points Bladder 27-34 along the lower back and tailbone.
Treat points near the lower abdomen along Conception Vessel 3-7 with care.
Are There Other Secondary Points to Look Out For?
Gall Bladder 21 appears in some of my references. It is located at the muscle straddling the neck and shoulder, where we carry much of our tension. A relaxing massage feels good here. Fortunately, it is one of the lesser points of concern.
Locate Lung 7 just above your wrist on the thumb side of your hand. Pericardium 8 is in the center of your hand, between the second and third fingers.
The Governing Vessel 20 point on the top of your head is another point of caution as it supposedly can speed labor.
What Does Research Show?
Check out David Carr’s discussion in a 2015 article in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine. The safety of obstetric acupuncture; forbidden points revisited states that there is no evidence that acupuncture causes miscarriages. However, the article mentions that safety of these techniques is not proven.
There is an overall sense that acupuncture/acupressure may generally be safe during pregnancy. However, given the unknowns, discretion is the safer course.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the complexity of the issues we are looking at, research conclusions are not all in agreement. Compare the several research summaries in the next section.
Acupuncture May or May Not Speed Labor Deliveries
Asadi and colleagues reported in the Journal of Acupuncture Meridian Studies in 2015. Their article was The Effects of LI-4 and SP-6 Acupuncture on Labor Pain, Cortisol Level and Duration of Labor. They found labor delivery time was less in the acupoint group at 162 minutes versus 280 minutes.
However, Modlock, Nielsen and Uldberg contradict this finding in BJOG, An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Their 2015 article Acupuncture in the induction of labour: a double-blind randomized controlled study found no effect of these same acupoints. They even added GV-20 and BL-67 to the regimen.
Look at Mollart, Adam and Foureur’s 2015 article in the journal Women Birth. They reported on the Impact of acupressure on onset of labour and labour duration: A systematic review. They reviewed seven studies involving a total of 748 women and concluded that acupressure may reduce the length of labor.
Where Does the Uncertainty Leave Us?
Most importantly, consult with your doctors about acupressure/acupuncture! If you are pregnant, you need to have some comfort level about your treatments. The good news is that headaches tend to diminish later in the pregnancy.
If you are pregnant, there are other natural options for your headaches besides acupuncture. Gentle, soothing massage, avoiding questionable areas mentioned above, may well be an answer for you. Be gentle and treat yourself well during this time!
-You understand that if not done properly, some techniques and exercises described in this blog could harm you. Any activities you perform are at your own risk, and you expressly agree to waive any claims against the author for any harm that may arise from your own actions. By reading this blog and conducting these exercises, you accept this risk. This blog provides content related to physical and/or mental health issues. As such, your use of techniques described acts as your acceptance of this disclaimer. Consult Chapter 2 in my book, “Calming the Headache Storm” to make sure the headache is not the sign of a more serious problem. The techniques, advice and strategies contained in this blog may not be suitable for every individual and should be abandoned if your headache increases. Seek the advice of your physician.